Bass Facts and Myths: 19 Things You Didn’t Know About Bass

You don't know bass like you thought you did


Bass fishing is easy during the beginning of summer when the fish are up and the weather is comfortable. But now summer is burning to an end. Water levels are low, dissolved oxygen is low, and the mercury is up. To catch bass now you need to put everything you know into action. This gallery will help you sort out what you know about largemouth and smallmouth bass and what you don’t.

Myth 1: Bass avoid the sunlight because they don’t have eyelids and the sun hurts their eyes.

Fact: TRUE. Bass lack eyelids and their iris is fixed, so bass cannot adjust the amount of light reaching the retina (the layer of photoreceptor nerve cells in the back of the eye). BUT, bright light does not hurt their eyes. The amount of light reaching the photoreceptor cells is regulated by the amount of dark pigment in the cells surrounding the photoreceptors.

Myth 2: Bass prefer water temperatures of 70 to 72 degrees Fahrenheit.

Fact: Largemouth bass prefer temperatures of 82 to 84 degrees Fahrenheit, smallmouth a couple degrees cooler. But what does prefer mean? Everything else being equal, this is the temperature they occupy if available. However, bass function quite well from 39 to 90 degrees Fahrenheit.

Myth 3: Bass don’t feed when the water temperature is below 50F.

Fact: Bass consume less food in cold water, but they still feed.

Myth 4: You need to work lures very slowly when fishing cold water because bass metabolism and swimming speed slows.

Fact: It’s always a good idea to try a slow retrieve, even dead-stick a lure, to entice a strike in cold water; but it’s not because a bass can’t catch a fast-moving bait. There isn’t a reel made that can burn a lipless crankbait faster than a bass can swim, even in cold water.

Myth 5: Remember the pH scale? Bass are found in pH near 7.

Fact: TRUE. But bass can tolerate pH from 5 to 8.5, and they can grow and be caught in waters throughout that range. The pH in many renowned Florida bass lakes is 6 to 6.5.

Myth 6: Bass feed when their stomach is empty.

Fact: Bass feed when they want to or when they are hungry, whichever comes first. Hunger has nothing to do with food in their stomach. The bass’ brain signals hunger when levels of energy compounds — like simple sugars or fats — in their blood drop below a certain level.

Myth 7: Bass are sight feeders.

Fact: True, BUT bass are also very adept at finding forage in dark water. The forage is probably detected by the lateral line system, which detects water movement and pressure. Although less conspicuous than the lateral line on the side of the fish, the lateral line system is especially well developed on the head of the fish. These “head canals” enable the bass to detect objects in front of the fish. Want evidence for the head canals? Look on the underside of the bass’ lower jaw — the rows of pores on each side of the jaw open into the lateral line system.

Myth 8: Bass spawn during a full moon.

Fact: Water temperature, not moon phase, triggers spawning. Hatchery managers who make a living spawning bass report bass spawning on all moon phases. Peak spawning occurs when water temperature is 64 to 68 degrees Fahrenheit. Keep in mind that the water temperature that sends the bass to the beds is the temperature where the pre-spawn bass hang out, not the temperature in a shallow, dark-bottom spawning pocket.

Myth 9: The male bumps the female to loosen the eggs.

Fact: The bass courtship and spawning ritual can get a little animated, but the male bumping the female is to stimulate her to release eggs, not to loosen them. Hatcheries go out of their way to give their brood fish a lot of TLC, and female bass will release their eggs without being bumped, nudged, rammed, or battered.

Myth 10: The big bass always spawn first.

Fact: This generalization is true, but several of the reasons I’ve heard that attempt to explain why are pretty hokey. Just accept it and expect the size of the bass you see on beds to get smaller as the spawning season wanes. I repeat, this is a generalization.

Myth 11: Female bass help the male guard the eggs; that’s why you often see two bass on a nest and can irritate the female into attacking your offering.

Fact: You will find a female bass at a nest before she spawns. Every biological study of bass spawning has found that the male guards the eggs and the female spawns and leaves. It is well established that female bass often spawn in multiple nests.

Myth 12: The bass bite better when the water is moving; the flow brings forage to them.

Fact: Flow can turn on the bite in tidal waters and hydropower reservoirs with periodic current. But loads of bass are caught in lakes and ponds where they never see flowing water. Bass get active when the forage gets active.

Myth 13: Bass move deep in the summer when the water is warm.

Fact: Bass live where they have favorable temperature, adequate oxygen, and appropriate cover (which could be reduced light). They feed where the forage is. The bass’ life is good when their resting and feeding habitat is the same. As long as ample forage is in shallow water, some bass will be there, no matter what season; but a lot of forage fish move to deeper water to find their preferred temperature.

Myth 14: Bigger lures always catch bigger bass.

Fact: Little lures catch big bass and big lures catch little bass. In feeding studies where bass were offered a range of forage fish sizes from small up to the maximum size they could eat, the bass always selected forage fish near the center of the size range. How big a forage fish can a bass eat? Largemouth can easily swallow a forage fish up to one-third its length. A smallmouth can slurp up a forage fish that is one-fourth of its length.

Myth 15: Trophy bass are old fish.

Fact: Most double-digit bass, at least from southern waters where 10-plus pound bass are not uncommon, are fast growing and relatively young. A study in Florida found that a high percentage of angler-caught bass over 10 pounds were only 7 to 10 years old.

Myth 16: Largemouth bass grow faster than smallmouth bass.

Fact: Largemouth grow to a larger size than smallmouth, but in waters that provide good habitat and forage for both species, growth rate is the same at least up to 4 or 5 pounds.

While I’m irritating every hard-core bass angler reading this, let’s pull the covers off the greatest of all excuses for not catching bass: the cold front. Several reasons have been offered why bass don’t bite after a cold front…

Myth 17: Why bass don’t bite after a cold front – The water temperature dropped 8 or 10 degrees overnight.

Fact: A “blue norther” won’t drop the temperature in a 5-acre pond more than 4 or 5 degrees. The drastic temperature drop so often reported results from anglers comparing surface temperature in late afternoon before the front to surface temperatures the morning after the front passes. On a sunny summer day on southern reservoirs, surface-water temperature typically climbs 5 to 8 degrees from dawn to late afternoon.

Myth 18: Why bass don’t bite after a cold front – The high pressure causes discomfort.

Fact: Water is heavy stuff, and atmospheric pressure at 33 feet deep is double that at the surface. A super high barometer after a major cold front passes is less than 2 inches of mercury higher than before the front. That is a change in atmospheric pressure of about 7 percent. Bass can compensate for this added pressure by moving 2 feet up in the water column.

Myth 19: Why bass don’t bite after a cold front – The bright light makes them retreat to dense cover or deep water.

Fact: As noted before, the bright light doesn’t hurt their eyes. Don’t experienced anglers rely on bright sun to position bass under docks or weed mats?