what does largemouth bass eat

What Do Largemouth Bass Eat

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Last Updated on October 14, 2021

Not for nothing, it was called the largemouth bass. This is one fish with a big appetite and an even bigger diet. Whether it’s a small fish, an amphibian, or an insect skimming the surface of the water, there’s nothing big or small that this bass doesn’t make a quick meal out of. And knowing the largemouth bass’s favorite food can help you lure them with the right bait.

In general, the largemouth bass diet consists of fish such as baitfish, bluegills, minnows, shiners, shad, and yellow perch. They also feed on frogs, leeches, small turtles, mice, snakes, or flying insects that come close enough to the water.  

If it moves and has a girth no larger than a tennis ball, then it will fit nicely into the mouth of the largemouth bass and slide smoothly to its overworked stomach. If you’re an avid angler and your next fishing trip has the largemouth bass in its crosshairs, then you need to know what they like to eat to be able to know where to find them. Moreover, the bass’s favorite food varies depending on their age and the season of the year. Read on to get an intimate knowledge of the diet and eating habits of the largemouth bass.

The Diet of Largemouth Bass

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As a predatory freshwater fish, the largemouth bass will eat just about anything that moves. Its hunting strategy is simple. It lies in wait and when a prey of the right size comes within reach, it bounces on it. It’s a simple strategy with a high success rate. And the operative word here is “right size”. Because as the bass grows and develops into an adult fish, its mouth gets larger and allows it to add more items to its menu.

In addition, like most freshwater predators, the largemouth bass changes its diet depending on the season of the year. It applies the same open-mindedness as The Catch of the Day in a seafood restaurant. Whatever is available is good enough for dinner. So it’s important for you as an angler to know what food the fish likes in what season.  

What does Young Largemouth Bass Eat?

Baby largemouth bass has a relatively big mouth compared to its body. Still, that big mouth will only feed on small prey such as leeches, zooplankton, minnows, tadpoles, small shiners, and insects. They’d also feed on the small varieties of fish that adult largemouth bass hunt. 

At this young age, the baby bass doesn’t have the agility to go after large prey. So its diet is mostly insect-based. But that soon changes as the fish grows and becomes faster and more skilled at hunting other smaller to medium-size fish.

What does Adult Largemouth Bass Eat?

An adult largemouth bass can weigh anything from 4 pounds to 25 pounds. Once they enter the second year of their 10 to 16 years lifespan, the bass gets serious about its food. It no longer is satisfied with the insects and minnows it subsisted on previously.

The diet of the adult largemouth grows more varied as the fish reaches its full length of 30 inches long. At this stage in its life, the bass will develop a taste for frogs, mice, bluegills, and golden shiners. This meat-based diet puts the bass in the league of trophy freshwater game fish such as blue catfish, muskellunge, walleye, and white bass among others. 

That said, the main diet of the adult bass is undoubtedly the bluegill. Without these fish species, the largemouth bass will not reach the monstrous sizes we see in bodies of fresh water today. So if you know where bluegill gathers in the water, you’ll know that the largemouth bass is close by.

What does Largemouth Bass Eat in the Summer?

To say that the largemouth bass navigates a complex food chain territory is putting it mildly. Despite being a successful predator with a voracious appetite for different types of prey that live both under and above water, this bass doesn’t always get its fill of food. 

Not that it’s picky, because it’s not. It’s just that the food tends to migrate according to the season. Also, the largemouth bass sometimes gets distracted from feeding with other missions such as spawning. As the water temperature warms up in the spring, the adult bass gets busy finding a mate. But by the time spring winds up, the hungry predator goes back on the hunt.

This is also the time when bluegills, frogs, shiners, and shad become abundant in the water. And the bass doesn’t waste time gorging on the easy pickings that swim by. When the summer heat finally warms up the deep water, the bass will expand its territory in search of schools of shad.

What does Largemouth Bass Eat in the Winter?

In the winter, food becomes scarce. The frogs go into hibernation in the fall and the deepwater becomes too cold. So the bass limits itself to shallow waters near the surface where it keeps chasing yellow perch, shiners, and bluegills. 

Even though the bass doesn’t hibernate per se, its metabolism does slow down. This means it won’t need much food as one meal can keep it going for a couple of days. This is why expert anglers don’t recommend going after largemouth bass in the winter unless it’s a warm and sunny day. 

What Live Bait Attracts Largemouth Bass the Most

Knowing the eating habits and the largemouth bass’s favorite food is key to catching this gamefish. If you’re like me and prefer live bait, the chances of landing a trophy bass increase with the right live bait. The four main baits you can use are bluegill, baitfish, crayfish, and frogs. It’s not a coincidence that these are the bass’s favorite foods as well.

Bait with Bluegill 

It goes without saying that bluegill is the all-time favorite food of largemouth bass. Even at a young age, the baby bass will go after the small torpedo-shaped bluegill. As the bass matures, it hunts for larger bluegill. 

So if you had to choose one bait to catch the bass, it should be the bluegill. The bass will feed on it all year round. The delicious bluegill is packed with nutrients and fish fat that propels the bass to the large sizes we see anglers catching every day. Of course, the larger the bluegill bait, the larger bass you’ll likely to catch. The best time to use bluegill to catch bass is in the late spring and early summer.

Related article: How to fish with a rooster tail for bass

Bait with Golden Shiners

If you can’t get your hands on bluegills, then the second-best bait on the list is golden shiners. Many anglers have brought home trophy largemouth bass using golden shiners. These fish which average between 3 to 4.5 inches long are found mainly in the Eastern parts of the US. 

As freshwater fish, they swim in large schools in the Great Lakes, Lake Winnipeg, and St Lawrence River. To catch them, you’ll need to go to the quietest and reedy parts of the river. But they also grow abundantly in ponds and lakes where the water is calm. When you have enough golden shiners, keep them in a box full of water then head out to catch bass.

Bait with Crayfish

Crayfish are the favorite food for baby largemouth bass. But even adult bass like them too. So when you use crayfish as bait, there’s a good chance you would bring on board a medium-size bass between 4 to 6 pounds. Of course, you could also catch a young bass. 

Since they don’t grow an inch over 7 inches and are not fast swimmers, crayfish are easy to catch with a net. You can buy them at the fish market and use them as bait for bass throughout the summer months. Opt for a spot in the water near ledges and boulders because that’s where bass go hunting for crayfish.

Bait with Frogs

In the summer, frogs offer a delicious meal for the hungry largemouth bass. Frogs are not good swimmers, tend to slip a lot and when they fall into the water they’re no match for the predator bass. You can use frogs of all sizes as bait and if you live in the southern parts of the country, frogs remain active well into the fall. 

That said, some anglers find using frogs as bait a little inhumane and prefer to use artificial frog bait instead.

As a skilled predator, the largemouth bass feeds on a wide variety of water, land, and air critters. It feeds on fat frogs and delicious minnows with the same appetite as it goes after bluegill, golden shiners, and the elusive deepwater shad. It’s no wonder the largemouth bass is one of the fastest-growing of all base species. Its big appetite and varied diet allow it to gain on average a half-pound every year. It also remains active all year round as it doesn’t hibernate. But the best times to catch this game fish are in the spring and summer.

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