Largemouth Bass

Largemouth Bass Fishing 101 – (BasSmart – Part 1)

BasSmart: Part 1

The Keys to Successful Bass Fishing

(For the purposes of this blog, when I refer to bass, I am referring to Largemouth Bass only.)

If you listen to some of the so-called experts, you might think you’ll need a bachelor’s degree in biology if you ever hope to hook up with a trophy bass. Although it wouldn’t hurt, nothing could be further from the truth. 

Fortunately for you and me, bass fishing is not really as complicated as some make it sound. The key is understanding that bass are creatures of habit driven by instinct implanted in them by nature. They lack the ability to reason; everything they do is preprogrammed in their DNA. What they lack in reasoning, however, they make up for with extraordinarily strong habit patterns which enable them to survive in their difficult environment but also make them very predictable and thus vulnerable to the savvy bass angler.

Fishing Seminar
In addition to imparting tricks of the trade every Saturday morning as host of the Fish’n Canada Show, I’ve hosted many seminars to educate novice and enthusiastic anglers over the years.

Bass are amazingly simple animals. They eat, they rest, they perpetuate their kind, and they repeat—none of this is optional. They have very strict protocols; understanding what these are is the key to successful bass fishing.

So, if it’s that simple, why isn’t everyone a professional bass angler? Because not all of us are willing and able to dedicate the time and effort it takes to fully grasp the concept. As the saying goes, In order to catch a bass, you need to think like a bass.” And that, my friends, is easier said than done. 

So, shall we get started?

Largemouth Bass in the Weeds
A Largemouth Bass travels along a weed-line.

Largemouth Bass Movement

First things first: To catch them, you need to know where they are at any given time. So let’s look at bass movement as step one. Although they will normally stay in their home territory from late spring to early fall, there are a few variables that will cause Largemouth Bass to leave an area. These include the sudden absence of forage, drastic temperature changes, lack of oxygen, and seasonal changes. However, several studies have shown that even during dangerously high temperatures and abnormal P.H. levels, as many as 75% of the largemouth remain in their home range and tough it out until things get back to normal (although they may stop almost all activity). 

The takeaway here is that if you catch a limit of bass one day in a certain area, but the next day you get skunked, it does not necessarily mean the fish have moved.

Sometimes Largemouth Bass are affected by angling pressure, or they simply are not feeding. They will, however, move up and down vertically. They will suspend over drop-offs during cold fronts or bury themselves deeply into weeds or other cover. Rarely will they move far from the comforts of home. 

Spawning time, of course, will trigger the greatest migration of the year for most bass—as will seasonal changes. Although these factors are not too important in Canada where fishing season (for the most part) is closed during winter movements and spawning times, it’s important to know how bass move, since that knowledge will help you locate them more easily.

When largemouth move, they use shorelines, weed-lines or break-lines as highways—these are called contact points. We travel roads and highways to find our homes; bass do the same. When the spawning urge hits them in the spring, Largemouth Bass begin to move into their spawning grounds using these contact points. In the fall, they will use them again to move to their wintering homes. Obviously, knowing where these highways or contact points are will play a major roll in finding bass on your favourite lake.

Spawning Areas

The above diagram shows three major spawning areas on the lake. Largemouth will spawn in other suitable areas as well, but these three have been chosen as examples. The northern sector receives more sunlight than any other portion of this lake in the spring, and shallow back bays in the northeast warm up the quickest. The first bass to spawn or even to move to a spawning area in this lake will be in this northeast sector. If there are several that fit this description, choose the ones that have incoming water such as creeks and rivers. If you still have too many to possibly fish in your allotted time, the next determining factor is deep water access.

By studying maps and looking at shorelines and weed lines, you can see how bass find their way to and from spawning grounds. Remember, when bass travel from deep to shallow, they generally need weed cover, break-lines and underwater points that connect to the deepest parts of the lake.

Ang with a Largemouth Bass

After they’ve finished spawning, the females will begin to follow these same routes back out of the spawning areas and will disperse into suitable living areas until autumn. The males will remain to protect the nests, but soon vacate, using the same routes as the females took earlier. Some Largemouth remain in spawning areas all summer; this is characteristic of late spawners who find adequate cover and food.

Overcrowding

Too many bass in one area will cause some of them to move, but not for great distances. Aggressive females will remain in favoured feeding areas, while smaller males and immature females roam about much more. Females are usually bigger than males, and hence males tend to roam in search of forage. If you catch a largemouth over three-and-a-half pounds in most Canadian waters, it is probably a female. 

Seasonal or extreme weather changes or prolonged cold weather will cause Largemouth Bass to move to deeper water. Or, if there is no deeper water available, bass will follow highways until they locate a point or steep break-line. This occurs during the fall turnover when layers of water densities mix. However, cold fronts occurring in the summer months usually don’t initiate a lot of movement. They merely slow the bass’s feeding patterns. (For more information, see my previous blog entitled “5 Tips For Fishing The Dreaded Cold Front.”)

CONTINUE TO PAGE 2: THE WHERE, WHEN AND HOW OF BASS FEEDING HABITS.

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17 Replies to “Largemouth Bass Fishing 101 – (BasSmart – Part 1)”

  1. Keys come in all variants and sizes. Car keys, house keys, locker keys and maple keys are among many others. Angelo’s “Key Ring Aspect” however, hits the nail right on the head. In psychology, “keying” in on the relatively similar life styles between humans and animals is “key” in understanding the natural processes of creatures that roam the earth.

    Fish Behavior in a scientific sense is exactly what Angelo is speaking about, although in simpler layman’s terms. Take a look.

    Fish behavior is a complicated and varied subject. As in almost all animals with a central nervous system, the nature of a response of an individual fish to stimuli from its environment depends upon the inherited characteristics of its nervous system, on what it has learned from past experience, and on the nature of the stimuli. Compared with the variety of human responses, however, that of a fish is stereotyped, not subject to much modification by “thought” or learning, and investigators must guard against anthropomorphic interpretations of fish behavior.

    Specialized behavior is primarily concerned with the three most important activities in the fish’s life: feeding, reproduction, and escape from enemies. Schooling behavior of sardines on the high seas, for instance, is largely a protective device to avoid enemies, but it is also associated with and modified by their breeding and feeding requirements. Predatory fishes are often solitary, lying in wait to dart suddenly after their prey, a kind of locomotion impossible for beaked parrot fishes, which feed on coral, swimming in small groups from one coral head to the next. In addition, some predatory fishes that inhabit pelagic environments, such as tunas, often school.

    Sleep in fishes, all of which lack true eyelids, consists of a seemingly listless state in which the fish maintains its balance but moves slowly. If attacked or disturbed, most can dart away. A few kinds of fishes lie on the bottom to sleep. Most catfishes, some loach, and some eels and electric fishes are strictly nocturnal, being active and hunting for food during the night and retiring during the day to holes, thick vegetation, or other protective parts of the environment.

    Communication between members of a species or between members of two or more species often is extremely important, especially in breeding behavior. The mode of communication may be visual, as between the small so-called cleaner fish and a large fish of a very different species. The larger fish often allows the cleaner to enter its mouth to remove gill parasites. The cleaner is recognized by its distinctive color and actions and therefore is not eaten, even if the larger fish is normally a predator. Communication is often chemical, signals being sent by specific chemicals called pheromones.

    So-called mid-water swimmers, the most common type of fish, are of many kinds and live in many habitats. The powerful fusiform tunas and the trouts, for example, are adapted for strong, fast swimming, the tunas to capture prey speedily in the open ocean and the trouts to cope with the swift currents of streams and rivers. The trout body form is well adapted to many habitats. Fishes that live in relatively quiet waters such as bays or lake shores or slow rivers usually are not strong, fast swimmers but are capable of short, quick bursts of speed to escape a predator. Many of these fishes have their sides flattened, examples being the sunfish and the freshwater angelfish of aquarists. Fish associated with the bottom or substrate usually are slow swimmers. Open-water plankton-feeding fishes almost always remain fusiform and are capable of rapid, strong movement (for example, sardines and herrings of the open ocean and also many small minnows of streams and lakes).

  2. I THINK I CAUGHT BASS IN A LAKE IN BC BUT I DID NOT KNOW THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN LARGE AND SMALLMOUTH THEN BUT AFTER WATCHING YOU AND PETE CATCH THEM I DO NOW

  3. Wow! What a fascinating article to read about largemouth bass and fish habits in general. I have caught large mouthed bass in Eastern Ontario too.

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