Why Bass Strike
Despite the ton of snow we have had in April and even May 1st of this spring, I have been able to get in a little bit of fishing, but just enough to make me want to go more. I know it’s early in the season, and I will have my chances, but I am anxious. My Uncle Gary and cousins Greg and Grant are coming to Colorado next Saturday, and I am going to take them fly fishing for a day. Even though I probably won’t do any fishing myself, it will be fun to be a guide for a day and spend time on the river.
Last weekend I caught a few largemouth bass, and I have to say that this time of year they are my favorite fish to go after. While all fish are interesting to study, largemouth bass are the fish I have studied the most. When I was in college at Kansas State University I really became a bass fanatic, and I spent more time at Tuttle Reservoir than I should have, but my parents don’t need to know about that.
While I am sure there are other fish with similar characteristics, you can get a bass to strike a lure for a variety of reasons. It is common for people to think that fish only bite when they are hungry, but that isn’t always the case, especially with bass. Hunger is the number one reason why bass strike, but that only accounts for about 30% of strikes, and of that number, 35% of those strikes occur in the early morning or late afternoon. That is good to know, it tells you when it’s a good time to go bass fishing.
But what about the other 70% of strikes? About 25% of the bass we catch are striking a lure out of reflex, like a cat pouncing on a mouse. Being a predator, it is ingrained in a largemouth bass to attack things, often times before it even knows what it is attacking. This is why certain flashy lures that don’t really resemble anything found in a lake will catch bass.
The third main reason a bass will strike is out of anger, which I find to be a very interesting fact, almost suggesting that the fish has emotions or a personality. This is especially true of larger bass, and it is very important to remember this fact. If you find a nice looking spot that should hold a big bass, or even see one holding in an area by himself, don’t give up if the fish won’t take your lure. Keep casting over and over, and you may aggravate the fish enough that he will attack your lure.
Fishing for bass that are spawning is a touchy subject; I prefer to leave the bass alone during this vulnerable time. Bass reproduce by laying eggs in a depression carved out in the lake bed, and the fish protect the eggs, striking anything that comes close. While this can be a good time to catch bass, it also endangers the reproductive cycle that we as fishermen want to be successful. Whether you fish for bass during the spawn or not is up to you, but if you are wading in a lake or pond during the spawning period, be sure to avoid stepping on bass beds and destroying the eggs.
There are a few less common reasons why a bass will attack your lure, but ones that should not be forgotten. Curiosity can sometimes draw a strike, as will a territorial instinct, these behaviors apply year round. Trophy-sized bass are extremely territorial, and if you combine this with the anger characteristic, this can be a good tactic at landing a monster largemouth. Bass also have the ingrained killer instinct that I mentioned before; this is why you may catch a bass that couldn’t possibly eat a fish the size of the lure that caught him. I have had this happen many times, and after doing some research I learned why bass do this, simply to kill what came swimming their way.
One of my favorite bass motivators for striking is the competition factor. When bass are schooled in deep water in the pre-spawn period, especially in tight structure, one bass striking a lure will cause the other bass to sense that bait is nearby, and this can ignite a feeding frenzy. I have experienced this many times, especially with white bass. I often fish a double rig of plastic minnow baits, and many times I have caught two fish at the same time. Talk about an exciting fight!
The next time you are out on the lake for bass, remember these behaviors, don’t simply focus in on the lure you are using or your presentation. Of course those things are important too, but understanding what makes a bass attack your lure is equally important, and will lead to more fish on the end of your line.