Largemouth Bass Basics
Largemouth bass (Micropterus salmoides)
The average weight of an adult largemouth bass fish is between 4-6 lb. However, various factors can influence their weight; latitude, water temperature, sunlight, and food availability all impact the maximum weight that can be reached. Largemouth bass in the southern United States and northern Mexico produce the largest largemouth bass fish, as the climate and environment boast the best of these elements.
George Perry caught the largest largemouth bass on record in 1932. Weighing in at 22.5 lb, it was reeled in from shallow waters during unusually high water levels, coinciding with the spawning season.
LC – Least Concern
Also Known As
In the United States, Largemouth bass are often referred to simply as ‘largemouth’ or even just ‘bass’. It may seem logical, but nobody refers to them as ‘bigmouth bass fish’. Some fishermen refer to them as ‘black bass’, but this is a misnomer, as black bass are a much greater family of bass encompassing several subspecies (including largemouth bass).
What does a largemouth bass fish look like? Largemouth bass are recognizable by their dark green bodies that gently dissolve into a soft white on their underbellies. Their sides are patterned by several dark marks and a distinctive lateral line. The color intensity of a largemouth bass changes with the water it lives in. In murkier waters, they look less colorful and more silver.
They have a slight overbite, where the top jaw extends past the lower, increasing the size of their mouth when open, hence the name largemouth bass. Finally, the dorsal fin is effectively split into two, with a large indentation that makes the fin appear as two.
A key feature of a largemouth bass is its lateral line. This acts as a radar system, sensing underwater movements and helping the fish hunt when water visibility is poor. This lateral line is easily visible and distinctive to the largemouth bass.
A Note on Spawning
Largemouth bass spawn late in the spring or early summer, depending on various environmental factors. No matter when it hits, the spawn follows a similar pattern every year. The females become very aggressive in the run-up and build nests to lay their eggs in. These nests are cleared out areas on the lake’s bottom, usually in relatively shallow water.
After the eggs have been laid and fertilized, bass guard the nest fiercely until the fry have hatched and moved on. This presents the angler with a unique situation where they can exploit the defensive nature of the largemouth bass. By pitching jigs, worms, and other soft plastics into largemouth nests, you can trigger the protective instincts of the fish, drawing in bites.
A largemouth bass on spawning ground
How to Catch Largemouth Bass
Favorite Locations & Feeding Spots
Largemouth bass are ambush predators to their very core. It’s essential to keep this in mind when looking to catch one. Target areas that cast a shadow and allow fish to conceal themselves. These spots enable largemouth bass to leverage their superior eyesight and lateral line system to detect potential prey. Prime examples include lily pads, docks, and overhanging branches.
The ideal location should contain a few things. Firstly, there must be a food source to draw largemouth bass in. Secondly, there should be a good mix of deep and shallow water. This setup allows bass to feed in the shallow areas, yet they can quickly dart into deep water for protection when needed. Thirdly, having structures like rocks or plants in the area make it even more desirable for largemouth bass. These structures serve as excellent hideouts, providing extra protection from predators.
Largemouth bass can be caught all year round, although you must tailor your approach to the season.
Bass start the year attempting to conserve energy in the cold of winter. While they will feed, they primarily want easy meals that require little to no energy expenditure. If you’re looking to get a bite during the winter months, it’s worth fishing deep holes with slow-moving bait.
As spring begins, largemouth bass will start to prepare for the spawn. With warming water temperatures, the bass move into shallow water to exploit the heat and emerging food sources. This leads to very productive early morning fishing with topwater baits.
Due to high water temperatures, summer can provide some of the most challenging fishing conditions. As the sun rises, though, there is a brief period of cool water temperatures combined with abundant sunlight. These early summer mornings can be extremely fun and productive when fishing topwater baits through lily pads and around docks.
As fall approaches, the fish will start to hunker down. Anticipating the chill of the coming months, largemouth bass start congregating in schools. During this period, the fish are difficult to pattern and predict, meaning the best approach is to try different tactics depending on the day’s conditions.
Given the vast array of tackle options available for largemouth bass, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed when trying to make a choice. However, all largemouth bass fishing baits can be broken down into four categories; topwater, search baits, crankbaits, or slow baits. There is an optimal time, place, water condition, and temperature for them all.
Topwater baits are best used early in the morning, during the late spring and summer months. In this period, bass move into shallow water under the cover of darkness and hunt as the sun comes up. They are susceptible to topwater disturbances and will be very active during this time.
A largemouth bass fish caught with a spinnerbait
Search baits are suitable for all seasons except winter, and they are best used when the fish have moved into deeper water. When fishing these lures, target submerged structures that the fish are likely to have congregated around. Then, make multiple presentations with the search bait while intermittently stopping or popping it on retrieval. The classic search bait is a white spinnerbait with tandem willow leaf blades that are copper in color.
Crankbaits are a complex and diverse family of fishing lures. They can be used at all depths and in nearly any water condition. It is good to have a wide variety of them on standby for any number of potential situations. They shine in cold, deep, clear water conditions. Selecting the correct diving crankbait is critical as it allows you to present it in the right section of the water column.
Soft plastics and jigs can be used in a wide variety of situations and circumstances. They come into their own when the fishing has become a bit slow and are particularly effective during the spawn. Many tournaments have been won by pitching a Texas-Rigged worm into a nest inhabited by a large female. I find the pumpkin seed-colored fluke a devasting option on my local water.
A rig caught largemouth bass
Top Tips for Catching Largemouth Bass
Bass are predators, and they need to be fished in a manner that appeals to their predatory instincts. Many bass have been caught from banks and piers, yet the most common way is by boat. This enables effective presentations, optimizing your chances of successfully catching a largemouth bass.
To close, here are three tips to help you catch more largemouth bass.
- Go where the fish are. The way you do this is to use your eye first, but if the fish are not presenting, think through the food chain. If you want to catch more bass, then pay attention to where the plants that bring in bugs are.
- Match your bait selection to the season and water conditions. The clearer the water, the more your bait must be shiny, white, and blue. If you’re fishing in muddy water, make sure your bait selection holds brown and earth tones.
- Exploit the spawning season by targeting beds with soft plastics. This is the crescendo event that bass literally live for each year. Leading up to the spawn, they pack on weight. During the spawn, they are hyper-aggressive and will be very active.