Of all the fish that inhabit N. America, none is more popular than the Largemouth Black Bass. Of course, they are not really bass at all, but members of the genus Micropterus. There are 13 species native to N. America, but the most popular species by far are the Largemouth Black Bass (Micropterus salmoides), and the Smallmouth Black Bass (Micropterus dolomieu).
Between the two, the Largemouth gets the lion’s share of attention.
There is a reason for this. In addition to growing to a respectable size, they put up a great fight. Even their small cousins, the sunfish, are scrappy little demons on light tackle, and the Largemouth is a downright pugnacious bruiser. They are just about everywhere in N. America except for the far northern reaches of Canada, and the more southern latitudes of Mexico. They will attempt to eat anything that will fit into their huge mouths, even baby alligators and ducks. They are not usually very picky eaters. And, in most areas, they bite all year long.
Just because they are very opportunistic feeders, don’t get the idea that they are always easy to catch. They have great situational awareness and can tell when something is not right. They can hear better than you can, by a large margin, have pretty good vision for a fish, and a great sense of smell. Largemouth Bass have been swimming, eating and breeding for over 11 million years. They haven’t been able to survive all this time by being careless and stupid.
Largemouth Black Bass can be found in most lakes, ponds, and some rivers, although they do not like rivers near as much as their close relative, the Smallmouth Bass.
They do not like moving water and need lots of cover and structure because they are ambush feeders.
Where To Find Largemouth Bass – 3 Factors To Consider
Before you can catch Largemouth Black Bass, you have to find them.
Sometimes, finding them is half the battle. Usually, if you find them, you will catch them, or at least some of them. Largemouth Bass are pretty cooperative most of the time. You want to keep the time you are fishing unproductive water to a minimum.
It is better to move on to a place where you can catch 10 bass, rather than spend all day trying to catch one or two. You can always come back and try to catch those later when they are in a better mood… It’s not really all that hard to find good water.
Some good rules to go by are:
1. Ideal Temperature For Largemouth Bass
Bass ideally need temperatures of between 70⁰F to around 85⁰F in order to function properly.
Anything lower than this and their metabolism slows way down, and they feed a lot less, move around less, and will only strike things that are almost already in their mouths. They will expend the least amount of energy possible to eat. Anything higher than the mid-80s, and they begin to overheat and will eventually die if they can’t find water within the correct range. They will usually go deeper, where the water is cooler. Temperatures below the 70s will also cause them to seek deeper water because it has more oxygen, and they will be able to breathe easier. By deeper, I mean anywhere from 20’ to over 50’, depending on the available structure and the depth of the lake.
2. Cover And Structure
Speaking of structure, this is 70% of the art of Largemouth Bass fishing.
All Black Bass like cover and structure, but especially for Largemouths, if you find one in open water, something is very wrong. Largemouth Black Bass despise open water of any kind. Even when they move from one area to another, they move along lines of structure, such as channels, drop-offs, lines of submerged timber and vegetations, etc… Drop-offs and ledges with easy access to shallow water are some of the best places to start looking for Largemouth Black Bass.
3. River Bass Fishing
Even though Largemouths are not really river fish, sometimes they do wind up in rivers, by accident, or natural mishaps.
They are survivors, and will just try to make the best of a bad situation. They can even reproduce, so don’t overlook the possibility of catching a Lunker in a river. Sometimes a river can produce some surprisingly robust Largemouths. One thing to keep in mind is that Largemouth Black Bass absolutely do not like currents of any kind and will do whatever it takes to get out of it.
Look for Largemouths in rivers on the downstream sides of any structures that may break the current, such as rock piles, fallen trees, points, cut-outs, sinkholes, etc… They will sit in the pocket, out of the current, and grab anything that swims or drifts by.
What Do Black Bass Eat?
Largemouth Black Bass are probably the least finicky fish on the planet when it comes to eating.
I wasn’t kidding when I said they will attempt to eat anything that may fit into their mouths, which are as wide as the bass is. They can swallow things almost as big as they are. Their menu includes things like muskrats, small beavers, small ducks, rats, nutria, snakes, including water moccasins and rattlesnakes, lizards, including small alligators, small dogs, frogs, large salamanders, crayfish, any kind of fish that will fit in their mouths, worms, especially big nightcrawlers, etc… They will eat insects when they are young, but once they get to be around 1 pound, they look for more filling meals.
They really love bullfrogs, pickerel frogs, and most larger species. Frogs and their imitation lures make excellent choices for bait. About the only thing that Largemouth Bass won’t eat is anything dead. They are not scavengers in any way, shape, or form, but they will dine on scavengers when they catch them doing their job, so keep an eye on carcasses in the water. Bass will jump on catfish and other scavengers anytime they can.
Not only are bass not put off by noise, they actually like it, especially low frequencies, so anything that splashes, clicks, gurgles or vibrates will attract Largemouth Black Bass from great distances. They will come up to see what all the commotion is and if it may be something to eat.
I have never seen a Largemouth that wasn’t hungry.
Largemouth Bass Have A Strong Sense Of Smell
Largemouth Bass have a sense of smell that will make a bloodhound cry.
Their sense of smell is around 100 times better than the best-hunting dogs that ever live, so don’t wear cologne, aftershave, hair tonic, or use soap or sun-blockers when bass fishing.
I would even skip mouth wash. Bass will be less put off by your bad breath than by the smell of mint and Scope. You can shower, shave and primp yourself when you get home. Oh, and leave off the deodorants as well. You’re not going to a party. You’re going out to catch bass. In the same light, don’t be afraid to use scents on your lures. They increase the effectiveness to the nth degree.
You don’t even have to match it to your lure. You can put Crawfish Smelly Jelly on a Shad Rap crankbait, and they will bust into it just the same. They just like the smells.
What’s The Best Lure For Largemouth Bass?
I said Largemouth Black Bass aren’t picky, but given a choice, they will usually opt for things they are familiar with, such as lures that resemble the locally predominant forage fish population. Not that they will refuse other things, but they will usually go for the familiar stuff first. Keep in mind that other things also factor in, like what is the closest, what is making more noise, or what smells more. It’s all Give-And-Take.
Another factor, and one that is greatly over-rated in my opinion, is color.
Colors fade out as the depth increases, starting with reds, and on down the spectrum. Reds are gone after around 10’ and will appear gray to the bass. Next go the oranges, yellows, greens, and finally blues and purples. What the bass do see is contrasts, such as stripes, bars, and other markings. These are more important than the actual colors. Make sure your lures have contrasting markings.
Speaking of contrasts, remember, the Largemouth Black Bass, as well as most other fish, will be looking up at your lures and baits from underneath and will see it against the sky. You want the bait to contrast with the sky. If your lure is a jig or spoon and you will be bottom-bouncing it, you will want it to contrast with the bottom. This is why black, and dark lures seem to work better most of the time, especially at night.
Largemouth Bass really like Spinner Baits, Buzz Baits, and Inline Spinners, most likely for the noise they make. And it is hard to find a more fun way to catch Largemouth Black bass than on a topwater lure, such as the Pop R, Billy Bass and Lucky 13. When bass are deeper, crankbaits are the Go-To lure to pull them up from the depths. Spoons also work well when Largemouth Black bass are deep and on the finicky side. They can be vertically jigged or cast and retrieved.
How To Catch Largemouth Black Bass With Plastic Worms
I said Largemouth Black Bass were not picky, and they would show a preference for baits they are familiar with. But there is one exception to this.
The #1 bait for Largemouth Black Bass in any water, any time, any place, is a purple plastic worm.
I am not kidding. This lure has caught more bass than all other lures and natural baits put together.
It doesn’t matter if it is the original Creme Worm, a Zoom Worm, Berkely Gulp worms, or whatever. Largemouth Black Bass attack them viciously anytime they find one. When rigged Texas-Style, they are totally weedless and can be fished directly in cover, where the bass are, and they won’t have to chase it. When rigged Carolina-style, they provide enticing action that no Largemouth can resist. When used on a Drop-Shot rig, they can be fished with absolute precision.
A new variation of this lure has been used recently with outstanding results. It is called the Finesse Worm. It is not so much a new worm, but a new way to fish it. One of the best-known models is called the Senko. It is usually rigged Texas-Style with no weight, but is also fished Carolina-rigged, Crazy rigged, or on a Drop-Shot rig. It depends on the circumstances. Another popular model is called Sluggo. They are all also called the “Do-Nothing Worm”. They sink slowly, and the action is not impeded by any artificial weights.
The Bottom Line….
Entire books have been written on how to fish for Largemouth Black Bass, and there are websites dedicated to nothing else. Fishing for Ole Bucketmouth can be as simple as a cane pole and a nightcrawler, or a complicated as using a multi-thousand dollar bass boat with enough electronics to chase down submarines with, and rods and reels you have to take a second mortgage out to buy.
And there is the risk of becoming addicted to Bass Tournaments… It’s entirely up to you, which may be the reason Largemouth Black Bass are the most popular fish in N. America, by a big margin. My advice is to get what you want, fish where you want, and see what works for you.