Understanding Bass Diet And Hidden Habits

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May 23, 2016
Take the Plunge for Crappie (TFG Throwback – 1995)
May 26, 2016

An Examination of Bass Biology and Angler Performance

Largemouth bass seem to have an eerie “intelligence” about them that makes it look as though they can anticipate our next move. This is especially true of the elusive trophy-sized fish that lurk in the dreams of all Texas bass fans.

According to four-time Bassmaster Classic champion Rick Clunn, the greatest mistake is not repeating the exact cast you just made to catch a fish.

“Anglers should try to remember to make the exact cast to the exact spot and work the lure the exact same way,” Clunn said. “First off, bass are often together so there very well could be another there. Secondly, if you are aware of exact details and can repeat what you did, then you might let the lure fall the same way or work a crankbait with the same exact retrieve.”

“There is a reason what you did worked so it is worth repeating.”

The only other angler to attain four Classic titles is Kevin VanDam who won back to back in 2010-2011. He said casting is super important in consistently catching bass.

“Proper casting is the most important thing an angler can do to up his or her game,” Van Dam said.

Really big largemouth bass are rare creatures resulting from strong genetics, age and an ability to elude anglers.

Of those three traits, elusiveness falls partly into the hands of us anglers who tend to tackle the obvious and avoid the mysterious. This is a big mistake.

“We do a lot of electroshock surveys to help determine bass population and the overall health of the fishery, but we generally get very few large specimens that way,” said Texas Parks & Wildlife Department (TPWD) fisheries biologist in Jasper Todd Driscoll.

Solely fishing in shallow water is a huge mistake anglers make, especially if they are pursuing big fish.

A variety of studies in the South have proved the bigger largemouths’ tendency toward deep water. This includes a comprehensive project conducted by Auburn University in Lake Seminole in Georgia.

During the day, largemouth bass were offshore in deeper water near large woody structures and moved little. Movement was lower during dusk and night periods, and a general movement toward shoreline areas was evident.”

Largemouth bass appeared to divide their time between an offshore resting area, primarily occupied during the day, and a near-shore area, where foraging presumably occurred, primarily used during low-light periods.”

Sam Rayburn guide Roger Bacon said he is not surprised at these findings as many of his bigger fish are caught in deep water. Besides being a dedicated bass angler, Bacon also targets crappie for much of the year and his experience on open lake brush piles has given him unique insight into these deep water bass.

“Working on the brush piles fishing for crappie, we catch quite a few bass―and a lot of them―but what has been more interesting is studying the fish we see on the graphs when scoping areas on the open lake for putting out brush. We see a lot of bass that we, in turn, will go back to catch in spots that hardly anyone will target,” he said.

TF&G editor-in-chief Chester Moore interviewing Bassmaster legend Rick Clunn.

TF&G editor-in-chief Chester Moore interviewing Bassmaster legend Rick Clunn.

A lake like Rayburn has a lot of creek beds and humps throughout the main lake area from the north end down to the southern tier. From anywhere from 100 yards from the shore to one half mile from the shore, many of the biggest bass in the lake will live and probably die before anyone catches them.

“It’s a kind of fishing that doesn’t pay off with tons of bites and nonstop action. You have to go out there and put on a jig or jig and craw and work those areas you mark fish and be extremely patient,” Bacon said. “There are big fish out there but you have to be willing to work for them.”

Keeping with the idea of catching huge bass, refusing to fish with super-sized lures can be a mistake.

In fact, according to Texas Parks & Wildlife Department (TPWD) Inland Fisheries Biologist (and newly appointed Inland Fisheries Director) Craig Bonds, the issue is how far bass can open their mouths.

“If they can fit it in their mouths, they will attack it and over the years I have seen impressive evidence of this,” Bonds said.

As a graduate student, he conducted a study examining bass dietary habits using clear plastic tubes that could be inserted through the mouth, worked into the stomach and used to extract the contents without hurting the fish.

“I found everything from snakes to small turtles, a baby duck and all kinds of fish from sunfish to other bass.”

The 2008 Bassmaster Classic champion Alton Jones said his experience fishing on Lake Falcon suggests sometimes, very large lures will draw strikes or at least attention from big bass when others fail.

“You can see the big fish on a deep point and they avoid most things but you put something on like a huge swimbait, and then the fish swim out for a look for you get bit,” Jones said.

Another major mistake anglers make is relying too much on lure color to determine success.

Yes, it can make a huge difference, but changing colors 10 times during a trip keeps your lure in the boat more than on the water. Be aware of water changes that could signal a color change is needed, but find three or four standards for each lure and stick to them. This will give you confidence and allow you to spend more time worrying about casting, retrieving and feeling the bite than wondering if the color you are fishing is right.

Bass are truly unique fish and if you pay attention to their biology and your performance on the water, the chances of success skyrocket.

Chester Moore, Jr.

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