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Understanding Bass (Part 1)

By Roger Brown - April 1, 2000
Bass fishing is a sport like many others that when it comes to knowledge and the understanding of the opponent it allows one to become more successful. You may look at it kind of like deer hunting, the more the hunter understands the scrapes, trails, food areas, water areas, runs, and habitats of the deer the more successful the hunter will become at locating them. The same is true with Bass fishing (Bass angling), the more you understand the Bass along with the many different circumstances and conditions you run across the more successful you will be at catching them. So let’s talk about a few key factors when it comes to a better understanding of the bass. The first one we will look at would be the survival of the bass.

SURVIVAL: A bass needs three elements to survive which are:

  1. FOOD
  3. COVER
If any one of these three elements are not present in a body of water a bass could not survive, and just by knowing why these three elements are so important for a bass’s survival it will already start to make you a more successful angler.

The first element we will talk about is FOOD. Contrary to popular belief, shad is NOT! the primary 1st choice of a bass. Although shad is a very common food for the bass as well as other natural brown04_00(1).jpgbaits, the number 1 food choice of a bass is a crawfish (also known as crayfish, crawdads, etc.). A study was performed several years ago where 100 Crawfish and 100 shad were in a tank of water with all species of bass (Smallmouth, Spotted, and Largemouth), and to much surprise the crawfish were eaten 8 to 2 over the shad. There are several reasons for this, but the most important one is that a crawfish is an easy prey for a bass to catch, and they are fairly easy for a bass to find. And once again contrary to popular belief, studies show that there are actually more crawfish found in vegetation areas than around rocky areas (or as some may know as Rip-Rap.)

A bass will eat just about anything at any given time such as: Rats, Mice, Ducklings, Frogs, Snakes, Salamanders, Worms, Lizards, Grubs, Baitfish, Insects, Leeches, etc. (Is it any wonder why all the many different tackle manufacturing companies have so many different shapes and types of artificial baits on the market today?) but, there are certain types of artificial baits that bass will usually prefer over the others, and a lot of these I cover at my 3-day Bass Fishing School.

The next element of the three is OXYGEN. Oxygen is a element that any living creature needs to survive. The main reason an angler should pay attention to oxygen is that a bass requires it to survive. By knowing water oxygen content in various areas an angler will develop a better understanding why a bass acts the way it does under the many different conditions. When a bass has a limited supply of oxygen, it tends to get more disoriented and much slower or lethargic. The "Key" in understanding the rules of oxygenic water is that the cooler the water, the more oxygen content and on the other side of the coin the warmer the water the less oxygen content. The more oxygen a bass can get usually during the warmer months the more active it will be. Usually during the summer when the water temperature hits the 80 degree mark or higher, the oxygen in the water will start to diminish.

How does this relate to bass fishing?.... well, a bass will usually do one of two things in a condition such as this. A bass will drop down (usually under the thermocline mark) to water that is cooler for a larger supply of oxygen, or a bass will usually head for vegetation areas because of the constant

A bass will eat just about anything at any given time such as: Rats, Mice, Ducklings, Frogs, Snakes, Salamanders, Worms, Lizards, Grubs, Baitfish, Insects, Leeches, etc. (Is it any wonder why all the many different tackle manufacturing companies have so many different shapes and types of artificial baits on the market today?)
producing of oxygen that aquatic plants provide. This is mostly the case during Spring, Summer, and early Fall.

Here are some areas where ample supplies of oxygen can be found during these seasons:

  1. Rivers - because of the constant flowing of the water.
  2. Mouths of Creeks - again, because of the constant in-flow of fresh water.
  3. Deep water areas - remember, the deeper the cooler water a better supply of oxygen.
  4. Vegetation areas - constant oxygen producing aquatic plants.
  5. Around Trees, Stump, & Log areas - because of the porous wood that will hold oxygen.
  6. Power Plants - because of the constant discharge of oxygenic water
  7. Wind Blown Banks - a constant oxygen source
and there are many others........

The third element we will talk about is COVER. Cover is an extremely important element when it comes to a bass for many reasons, and I would like to cover some of the most important ones.

One of these reasons would be for protection. A bass, being known mostly as a "Ambush Fish" will use cover such as vegetation, rocks, stumps, trees, fall-downs, docks, structures, holes, etc.... to dart out after it’s prey. A bass really is a lazy-by-nature type of fish and will extend the least amount of energy for the greatest amount of benefit. Bass are also known as a territorial fish and will not travel a great amount of distance.

Another reason a bass needs cover is because of it’s eyes. A bass does not have eye lids like you or I and prolonged exposure to the Sun’s rays, a bass will eventually go blind. This is one of God’s way of protecting their site. Take notice next time you see a bass fishing show on television, you will usually see bass being caught in shaded areas, and in and around cover areas, these are some of the reasons why.

Now, understanding a bit more about cover and why a bass will usually be found around it should help you "Key-In" when it comes to "Blue Bird Skys" (high pressure periods) and "Overcast or Cloudy Days" (low pressure periods).

Until next time! Take Care & God Bless!

Author Roger Brown
Roger Brown
Roger is the founder and former President of the Pro-Tec School of Bassin', Inc. He is also a full time professional Bass angler and instructor and has over 20 years experience fishing as a pro. If you need any questions answered, wish to "Learn" how to bass fish, or would like to charter a bass fishing trip to see what it's all about, please feel free to visit his website(s) at: or or Email him at: [email protected] , or even call him at (518) 597-4240 and he'll be happy to help any way he can!
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