What Bass Eat

Fast Facts: What Bass Eat

Photo Courtesy of: FWC Fish and Wildlife Research Institute

As a bass angler, I am constantly looking for any advantage I can get to improve my fishing knowledge and expertise. Usually, this comes in the form of researching the latest trends in rig set-ups or baiting methods, but every once in a while, I look elsewhere.

Recently, a friend mentioned that he researches feeding habits of bass and I got curious. I did a little research of my own, which ended up being a huge contribution to my understanding of bass fishing techniques.

Since I found it so beneficial, I thought I would compile a guide on what bass eat to share with you. You may be asking yourself: What benefits will I gain from knowing feeding habits of bass? Do I really need to be familiar with what bass eat when there is already so many forms of bait out there? Will this really make me a better angler? Well, I can tell you that learning more about what bass eat has improved my ability to choose the right bait for the right situation and time of year. If you want to improve your angling skills, check out this guide to what bass eat.

What They Eat

The good news? Bass will eat virtually anything living. They eat forage fish, including herring and shad. They eat crayfish. They eat amphibians, reptiles, insects. You can check the video below showing a bass eating a lizard, courtesy of TyersReelFish Youtube Channel. They will even eat other bass if they can swallow it. If something triggers their eye and looks remotely alive, chances are they will eat it.

For bass, it seems the only expectation comes in the form of vegetation. While bass will consume vegetation, they will only do so when they are in the process of eating something else. For example, they might accidentally swallow some algae while swallowing a crayfish, which results in scientists finding vegetation in their digestive tracts.

How They Eat

Bass use their impressive speed to feed. According to bass expert Hal Schramm, bass can move up to three times their size per second. Their speed allows them to catch virtually anything that comes their way, whether it is a shad or your fast-reeling crankbait. Here's a video on LakeForkGuy's channel, showing a bass striking:

Along with their speed, bass have the advantage of having a vacuum-like mouth. They achieve this vacuum by a combination of widening gills and opening their lower jaw. This creates an impressive suction which allows bass to catch their prey without having a precise strike.

When bass approach a prey, they do so headfirst. Bass stick to this approach to such a degree that they will spit out prey if they cannot approach them headfirst and attempt to re-catch them. For anglers like us, this should give the confidence to use a single hook while fishing with larger bait.

Bass depend on two main techniques to catch their prey. They either attempt to ambush or chase. Chasing involves using their speed to chase down prey on open water. When bass ambush, they conceal themselves in vegetation cover and wait for their prey to come to them. Both techniques are good to know for anglers, as they can be used to approach different baiting and casting methods more effectively.

If all else fails, bass will attempt to trap their prey. Trapping is a process where bass attempt to push their prey to the top of the water surface, which greatly decreases the plain that prey can utilize to escape. Trapping is the technique that results in surface feeding fishing techniques, so it is a good feeding habit to be aware of.

When They Eat

Bass change their feeding habits depending on seasonal conditions. For example, bass relocate to accommodate feeding patterns in the spring in response to falling, murky, and rising water. Since they are spawning, they are willing to move farther distances and are extremely active and aggressive. This results in aggressive feeding, no matter where they are located, so anglers can take their pick in what approach they take to landing them.

But after spawning season, their feeding habits change dramatically. Bass will be far less aggressive and willing to chase prey. Instead, they will move into heavy cover and vegetation and begin to use the ambushing method.

When bass retreat to heavy cover, they do not feel vulnerable and trust that any prey that comes their way is safe to eat. This is a big advantage for anglers if they can effectively use heavy cover techniques. For this reason, anglers should be prepared to employ techniques such as snell rigs that can withstand repeatedly moving through cover and vegetation. For a great guide for fishing in heavy cover, you can check this video out:


Bass are predators that feed on any living thing they can get into their mouths. This ranges from shad and other forage fish to reptiles and even smaller bass. Bass vary techniques such as ambushing and chasing to secure their prey with their vacuum-like mouths.

Bass feeding habits change depending on seasons and whether or not they are spawning. Being familiar with what, when, and how bass eat can give you an advantage while you are out fishing. It allows you to use proper casting and baiting techniques depending on the season and location.

If you want to be more familiar with different casting and baiting techniques, check out some of our other guides, such as How to Use a Drop Shot or How to Snell a Hook.

Did you enjoy this guide to what bass eat? Find a particular feeding habit beneficial? Have your own method to respond to the different feeding habits of bass? Tell us about it in the comments below and be sure to share it on Facebook and Twitter so your friends can up their fishing knowledge as well.