How Bass Eat
If you’re a BassHole, you wonder, “How bass eat,” because you want every bit of information that can help you gain intelligence to better catch them (then let them go).
Thankfully, science can help answer that very question.
Bass are like vacuum cleaners: they suck!
Scientists studying how fish feed have discovered that bass really put their backs into it!
It’s not muscles in the bass’s head or mouth that provide the powerful suction to pull prey into the jaws of bass, but rather the same muscles used to power their swimming.
Specifically, it’s the muscles arranged at the top of the bass’s back.
Scientists have suspected that there must be something more than just the bass’s head muscles to create the suction, but they had no idea. Until researchers at Brown University were able to use sophisticated 3-D X-ray video equipment to photograph the bass while feeding, confirming that it’s the bass’s back does the real work.
How’s the bass’s big mouth involved?
First up are the bones in the bass’s mouth. Those bones are likened to the spokes of an umbrella, and when there is food to be eaten, the bass’s mouth opens like there was a sudden downpour. This allows the size of the bass’s mouth to double in volume rapidly (giving another meaning to “large mouth” bass!).
What about those back muscles?
Biologists calculate that approximately 95% of the suction power of a bass is generated by flexing its back muscles, resulting in explosive slurpation (probably not a real word), measured at up to 15 watts. The swimming muscles along the side and stomach also contribute, but the back muscles do most of the heavy lifting. These are the same big white filets that people find delicious when they order fish in a restaurant.
What about swimming?
Bass acceleration experts (yup, they do exist!) say bass can swim for quick bursts at the rate of 2.5 times their body length per second. So small fish accelerate less than larger fish (and so cannot escape if being pursued by a big bass!), while as 20 inch bass can get up to 12 miles per hour, and some experts put the speed of some bass at 20 mph!
How can a BassHole use this information to catch them bass?
This BassHole sees 3 main points to consider to improve your bass fishing.
You don’t really need to worry that your lure is “too big” for the bass to eat. Even small bass can open their mouths like buckets (and so the name “bucket mouth” quickly thanks to their biology.
Plus the massive slurping power of the bass will pull that lure or bait right into the mouth.
Just remember you may need to wait a bit for the fish to close that mouth, turn, and start to leave before you set the hook, or you may end up pulling it right out of the bass’s mouth!
2. Retrieve speed.
If bass are chasing your lure, you probably can’t reel faster than the bass can swim. So don’t think you need to “slow down” for the bass! If that bass is interested, that bass will get to your bait.
That’s not to say you should always “burn” your bait back to the boat (or float tube, or bank, or you). Figuring out the right rate of retrieve is a key element to successful fishing. Some days they want a slow retrieve, but there are days when they want a faster retrieve!
Here’s a video on the effect of different speeds retrieving crankbaits
I remember fishing topwater baits for smallmouth bass on a river, and I wasn’t having much luck. So I cranked fast to get ready for my next catch, and then the smallies attacked! After that, I knew they were looking for faster moving baits.
I think it’s fascinating how much scientists have learned about fish in general and bass in particular during the past 20 years.
And this fresh knowledge has certainly challenged many of my old beliefs, which also happen to be 2 decades old! So I’m learning new facts and discarding old myths (which, at that time, were considered facts!).
I’d love to hear what my fellow BassHoles have learned about bass, or other fishing facts, that challenged their own notions.
So please share your new insights with your fellow BassHoles below!
Roger, The Smiling BassHole