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What Do Bass Eat? | Searching For The Best Bait For Largemouth And Smallmouth Bass

what do bass eat for bait

What Do Bass Like To Eat?

If you spend any real amount of time 5 billion dollar recreational industry…and bass fishing plays one of the biggest, if not the biggest part of that industry. That means if you’ve never had the privilege of bass fishing, then someone very close to you certainly has.  And there’s one thing all of these people ask…what do bass eat?

The problem is that people tend to ask this question as a generalization for all bass.  The thing is, there are many different kinds of bass, and all of them have there own unique feeding habits.  So to give you a better answer to what bass like to eat, we need to narrow down what kind of bass it is we’re fishing for.

In this article, we’re going to talk about the two kinds of bass that I’m most familiar with…largemouth bass and smallmouth bass.  

Generally speaking, both largemouth and smallmouth bass like to eat crayfish and other small fish.  But there’s much more to it than just crayfish and other small fish.  For example, a lot of what a bass eat depends of the environment that the bass lives in.

Let’s break it down by types of bass…

What Do Largemouth Bass Eat

what do largemouth bass eat

Largemouth bass are predators and opportunistic feeders…meaning they’ll eat just about anything that swims in front of them…and that will fit inside their mouth!  The problem is, largemouth bass have massive mouths and there’s a lot of things that’ll fit inside it.

Fortunately, the largemouth bass has some favorite foods that it likes to eat.  Some of the things a largemouth bass prefers to feed on are:

As you can imagine, all these things can easily be found within a largemouth bass’ habitat.  And studies have shown that out of all these things it’s known to eat, largemouth bass first prefer to eat other small fish.

But if the habitat in which they live in is in short supply of small fish, then the bass will move on to other opportunistic foods, such as crayfish, frogs, etc.

What Do Smallmouth Bass Eat

what do smallmouth bass eat

Smallmouth bass are much like their cousins, the largemouth bass, in the sense that they are also opportunistic feeders. Their environment also plays a large role in determining their diet.  

The difference however, is that smallmouth bass are typically found in much cleaner water.  They’re also found in faster moving rivers and streams, which largemouth bass do not like. Sure, smallmouth and largemouth bass can be found sharing the same waters, but generally speaking, smallmouth prefer cleaner water.

And different environments can mean different kinds of food.

Below are what smallmouth bass typically like to eat based off their environment:

Cool Lakes: In cooler lakes and slow moving water, smallmouth bass tend to feed heavily on crayfish and other small fish and insects.

Clear Water and Moderate Current Rivers: In these environments, smallmouth bass like to feed on crayfish and aquatic insects.

Faster Flowing Streams: In these areas, smallmouth bass have an pretty unusual feeding behavior. According to Freshwater Fishing News, smallmouth bass “…are known to follow behind northern hog suckers. A bottom feeder, the hog sucker grubs among stones, often dislodging small crayfish, insect nymphs, and other prey. Positioned just downstream of the sucker, the smallmouth eats any prey that is swept by.”

General Questions About What Bass Like To Eat

What Do Bass Like To Eat In Ponds?

Look and see what other creatures are living in the pond.  If the pond contains other small fish like perch or bluegill, then that is probably the primary source of food for the bass.  

If the pond has a heavy population of frogs, then frogs are probably another main source of food.

Other things that bass like to eat in ponds are insects, snakes and even mice!

What Do Bass Like To Eat In Rivers?

In rivers, largemouth bass tend to hang out in the slower murkier water.  And those habitats greatly mimic ponds. So the things bass like to eat in those parts of the rivers are much like what bass like to eat in ponds.  

Bass will eat other small fish and crayfish most frequently.  But they definitely won’t turn down other easy meals such as frogs, snakes and insects.

But in the other parts of the river where the water is moving faster, that’s where smallmouth bass can be found.  In these faster moving currents, bass will eat crayfish, other small fish and many aquatic insects and invertebrates.

Do Bass Eat Crawfish?

Absolutely!  Both largemouth and smallmouth bass are known for eating crawfish.  As a matter of fact, if targeting smallmouth bass, starting with a lure that resembles a crayfish is a great way to start that day.

Here’s a great video showing that largemouth bass eat crayfish.

Do Bass Eat Minnows?

Yes!  Bass eat minnows. As mentioned earlier in this article, both largemouth and smallmouth bass are ferocious eaters of smaller fish, including minnows.  

Do Bass Eat Trout?

Believe it or not, yes, bass eat trout.  As a matter of fact, some people even argue that trout are a great food source for stocked bass ponds and lakes.  According to regarding the nutritional value of trout to bass, “…trout certainly fill that bill. They are long, slender and easy to swallow. They are nutritionally complete and easy for a bass to catch when water temperatures are above 65 degrees.”

Final Thoughts

As you can see, bass will eat just about anything.  Whether it’s other small fish, crayfish, insects or even mice…if the bass is hungry enough, and can fit the food in its mouth, then chances are the bass will eat it.  

What’s the craziest thing you’ve ever heard of or seen a bass eat?  Have you caught a bass on something unique that most people wouldn’t think of using for bass?

I’m definitely interested in hearing about it.  Leave a comment below and tell us all about it!

Written by Don

When I'm not bass fishing or looking for steelhead in my home state of Oregon I can be found working on house projects dreaming of my next fishing adventure.

I started this website to share just some of the things I've learned along my fishing journey, and the many things I'm still learning. Enjoy!

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