The largemouth bass, one of North America’s most popular freshwater fish, is an opportunistic feeder. Adult bass are voracious, eating nearly anything that they can swallow, including fish, crustaceans, amphibians, reptiles, small mammals and even members of their own species.
Young bass begin feeding on plankton soon after birth. They eventually leave the nest to seek cover and find food. Although newly hatched bass are vulnerable, they feed heavily, growing quickly during the Spring. Within a few months they have become skilled predators, gulping down young bluegill sunfish, small minnows, tadpoles, invertebrates and practically anything they can catch. Depending on their geographic location, water temperature and food supply, they may reach lengths of 4-8 inches in the first year.
Adult largemouth bass often feed on other members of the sunfish family. In many locations, bluegill sunfish are the main food source for bass. Other favorite meals include pumpkinseed and redear sunfish.
Largemouth feed heavily on non-native species in some lakes and rivers. They often gobble up young rainbow trout or other stocked species of fish that come within range. In some lakes, forage species such as gizzard shad or alewives have been introduced and make up a significant part of largemouth bass diets.
Another favorite meal of adult largemouth bass is the American bullfrog, a large aquatic frog, usually found along the water’s edge. Bullfrogs live in freshwater ponds, lakes, and marshes from Canada, southward throughout the continental United States and into Mexico. Their large webbed feet make them excellent swimmers but when caught in open water, they are no match for a trophy bass.
Crayfish are a favorite food of bass. Also known as crawfish or crawdads, these freshwater crustaceans resemble small lobsters. About 390 species of crayfish are found in North America, most ranging from 1-4 inches in length. They hide under rocks or in vegetation along the shoreline, occasionally stumbling into open waters where largemouth can feed on them.
Experienced fishermen often pay close attention to habitat and structure before and while fishing, looking for clues about what types of forage are available for largemouth bass. In some cases, matching the predominant food source can pay off.