A Day in the Life of a Bass

By Todd Reed

I was asked at a professional conference one time, “What animal would you be in today’s world?” My answer was simple, a largemouth bass. I received plenty of odd looks from colleagues around the room, as most said some exotic African animal. Seriously, who would want to be the “King of the Jungle” when you could be “Lord of the Lake”?

The largemouth bass is quite a character when it comes to freshwater fish. In many lakes around the state they are at the top of the food chain, they rule the lake or pond they inhabit. In the rivers, the glacier lakes, and the lakes of Iowa that are stocked with walleye and muskies, they are the second fish on the food chain. In either situation, the bass rule the ecosystem by numbers and predatory habits.

It has been said many times in hunting, that you have to become the animal to understand it and harvest it effectively, the same goes for fish. The more an angler understands the species of fish they are after, the more fish you will find and catch. I have been chasing bass around Iowa for three decades now, I have learned so much about the fish by reading about them, catching them, not catching them, and watching them in their own habitat. Besides chasing bass in the spring/summer/fall, I am an avid ice angler as well. Ice fishing has probably taught me as much or more about bass than actually fishing for them in the warm months. During the winter months it is easy to drop an underwater camera down and “live” in the habitat of fish. I have spent hours watching fish on my underwater Vexilar camera, mostly bluegills and crappies but plenty of largemouth bass make an appearance too. No matter the fish, they all have to eat, stay safe, and react to current weather trends. Even in the middle of winter, fish move in and out of areas a lot. They are constantly on the move even when their bodies are dormant for the most part. These observations have told me that when searching for bass, anglers need to be active and on the move too.

To fully understand a bass, is to live like one. The more we know about the creature and how it reacts to certain stimuli the better we can prepare for those responses. While no method, or hypothesis can be true all the time in the world of fishing, knowing the habits of bass will allow you to catch more this summer. Here is typical day for a bass and some of the reasons why they have patterns in their daily lives:

As the sun starts to appear over the horizon, the bass start their day. During the summertime when water temperatures are at their peak, mornings occupy the coolest temperatures they will feel all day. This is the time of day when bass will be the most active. Bass will cruise shallow waters looking for their prey. Most bass, no matter where they are caught will feed on crawfish the most. However, during active times of the day, like breakfast time, they will be after larger prey. Bluegills, crappies, minnows, shad, and other bait fish will be their targets early in the morning. During the hottest months the metabolism of a fish is at its highest. They have to consume more food when the water is warm, less when the water cools down. As they cruise the shallows looking for food they can extend rapid boosts of energy and chase down anything in the water.

As the sun gets high and the water is the warmest it will be all day bass will gradually go deeper and deeper. The deeper the water, the cooler the water will be. Being a cold-blooded animal, the bass wants to maintain its body temperature when possible. To do this they will swim out of the shallow water that is warming quickly and head down in the water column. Here fish are most likely going to feed on the same things they did for breakfast. Baitfish will probably be on the top of their list, and then crawdads. Many times bass will go shallow to get a quick meal of crawdads, but generally they will remain deep during the midday. Things that will trump this logic are weed growth and current. Water where current is present will not change much in temperature, so fish can stay at any depth. Weeds will also allow fish to stay shallow because of the shade it offers and good oxygen levels. Current and weeds will also hold bugs, and baitfish all hours of the day.

As the day comes to an end is another key time to feed up before darkness appears. Bass are sight feeders, so very low light or darkness are not times that they will be actively feeding. The last hour of daylight seems to always be a peak time for bass to feed/bite. Once again any forage is up for grabs as the bass ends its day. Baitfish, crawdads, frogs, anything that moves in the water a bass will be sure to look closely at to see if it should become dinner.

Fishing for bass under the cover of darkness can be dynamite and lead to some of the biggest bass of the year, as the larger ones tend to move more during the night hours. A bass’ vision is far superior to a humans and can see quite well at night, making ambush strikes ideal. Areas that are shallow but have deep water cover nearby are great spots for night time bass. During the day a bass will look for deeper water cover and structure. Once the suns disappears a bass will then move closer to the top of this structure to stay in the warmer water to find bait fish hiding near structure.

Bass move a lot, this fact is especially true during the hot summer months. Bass must follow the water temperatures and food sources of the lake or river they inhabit. Since they are active the most during the morning and evening hours, faster moving baits and topwaters are always a great choice. During the midday times, deeper crankbaits, jigs and slow moving plastics tend to be the best in the summer months. These are both very general suggestions, as we all know each lake and angler have their favorite baits to fool bass into biting. As anglers, the biggest battle is finding the bass. Catching them is the easiest part and most definitely the most FUN part. Understanding a day in the life of a bass will help you on your next adventure catching bass during the summer months.