Black Bass
Lorena King

Black bass are found in every state except Alaska, many of the Canadian provinces, all of the Central American countries and Cuba. It is a safe assumption that most anglers live but a short distance from good bass fishing.

Much research has been done to determine whether a bass sees better at night or during the day and if it sees in color or black and white. As a predator fish the bass' sight is the dominant sense used in seeking food. A fish's eyes can receive five times more light than the human eye, allowing them to distinguish shapes and patterns that the human eye can't. Bass have a full 180 degree field of vision in each eye. Blind areas exist under and behind the fish. Bass have both day and nighttime vision, however it takes about two hours for the eye to adjust to night vision, then the reverse to adjust to daylight. Dr. Loren Hill, chairman of the University of Oklahoma's Zoology Department and Director of Biological Research, found after a nine year study, that bass were sensitive to all colors tested and they could even discriminate between green, blue green, light green and dark green. A point to remember, however, is that bass perceive color differently than we do and that the color in any lure depends on the light reflected off the object. Thus, the color can be perceived differently 10, 15 or 20 feet down.

Bass utilize their sense of smell especially when visibility is limited. Tests have shown that bass can detect a prey fish odor source at a distance of 25 feet. Bass also use their olfactory powers to find their way back to feeding grounds, in territorial claims and in reproduction. Many anglers still use scent on their lures to attract the bass. The array of scents on the market today are designed to last from five casts to 30 minutes. Liquids work better for soft baits. The best time to use a scent product may be in cold water when bass rely more on their sense of smell or the bass are not aggressively chasing lures or when using a slow-moving lure.

When visibility and smell are limited the bass relies on it's most acute sense, hearing. Bass frequently rely first on their sense of sound. Sound and vibration travel four times faster in water than they do in air. Boat traffic will often turn off feeding bass, though bass in water more than 15 feet deep, are usually undisturbed by the sound. It is best to approach the area in a slow idle and shut off the motor. The bass should continue feeding. In some areas boat traffic can dislodge forage from the shoreline into vulnerable areas. Bass can then associate boat sounds with feeding. Lures that make noise sell well and catch bass.

Feeding Habits
Black bass have an insatiable appetite. Baby bass feed on plant and animal microorganism. After four to six weeks they graduate to terrestrial insects, especially nymph and larvae forms. At about 10 weeks their diet consists mostly of tiny forage fish such as crawfish and grass shrimp. By the time they reach six months and are 6-7 inches long, they are not particular about what they eat usually frogs, large crustaceans and even their small siblings. As a bass spots its victim, it approaches its prey with caution and opens its large mouth to suck in whatever happens to be there. The gills flare simultaneously to discharge the water through the gill covers, thus creating a suction. The predator doesn't even have to be right on target. If the bass recognizes a phony bait, the action is quickly reversed to spit it out. When food is scarce, bass compete with others in the area, often going after the same bait. Tossing another lure into the action will often prove successful. Careful observation and a sensitive rod are needed to detect this type of strike action. The size of a school of bass may range from half a dozen to over 400 depending on the conditions of structure and forage. They usually school by year class, however a four-year-old bass can weigh as much a eight pounds or a little as one depending on how aggressive a feeder it is. Bass will normally spread out over shallow areas while they hunt, but remain schooled while foraging in deep water. Bass burn energy rapidly while chasing smaller prey requiring longer feeding time, thus shorter feeding time when prey is abundant, of some size and easily caught. Large female bass feed more actively than males, though there are times when males are more susceptible to capture, especially when they are guarding the nest during the spawn. The females usually lie deeper and loss interest in feeding unless it appears to be injured forage. They'll simply suck it in and check out its edibility. At this time the females are physically spent , the easiest prey is their own young.

Depth Of The Water
If you know what to look for, an angler can develop sound fishing strategies by using topographical maps. The closest contour lines on a map indicate sharp drop-offs and points--areas that attract fish. Anywhere the contour lines come together and provide a change, even if it is a small change, from three to six feet, if it's a sharp drop, it will hold concentrations of bass. With a good map you can locate roadbeds, points, underwater bridges, fence lines or old tree rows. Bass relate to a change in water depth wherever the sharpest drop-off occurs. The map shows you the coves and creeks that have definite channels. These are important when looking for concentrations of fish. Flat areas with greatly separated lines are often spawning flats and can be good areas during the spring spawn. Look for little ditches or ridges in the flat areas. When they're in the shallows they'll be scattered, but on a point they'll be schooled. When they move out to these points from the flats, they may not be hitting so try grubs or small lures. When active, crankbaits get them and don't just concentrate in the shallows, you may have to go deeper. Summer structures appear relatively flat or gradually sloping. The topo contour lines will be far apart. Winter time look for steep, vertical drops. The contour lines will be very close together. Consider the type of cover, water color, chemistry and temperature in selecting your fishing area. Good habitat such as trees, bushes, rocks, grasses and drop-offs is necessary for good water quality. A greenish tint to the water indicates a good base for the food chain.

Weather And Tides
In the spring, the warmest water usually produces best. In summer it's the coolest. In winter, fish the sun-warmed shore first because it may be a degree or two warmer. Many times, just a couple of degrees can make the difference. One key to successful river fishing is in knowing the predominant forage available to the bass. Rivers and creeks generally have a smaller food chain than lakes. You find shiners threadfin shad and other small minnow species often abound in moving waters. Crayfish are more numerous in the rocky, sandy reaches of small tributaries. Select a lure that closely resembles the particular forage found in rivers and creeks. Jigs, spinners, small crankbaits, short plastic worms and rubber crayfish imitations generally produce. Weedless baits that are less likely to snag in a rocky crevice are also practical. Lures that are easy to control in current since an unanchored vessel moves at a fairly rapid rate, allowing only one or two casts per fish-holding structure. In tidal water, correlating the tables from the reference station nearest your favorite fishing spots is extremely difficult. The tide delay depends on several factors such as depth, width, freshwater discharge, wind, rain and runoff. Once the differential has been established for a particular area, selection of optimum times to pursue bass can then be made from the tide tables days ahead of time. Out going tides force baitfish from their hideouts into the main stream. Outgoing tides is, in general, the most productive phase of tidal bass fishing. At high tide when the flats are flooded, top water plugs, small spinners and weedless spoons occasionally entice feeders from the grass. The crankbait is probably the most versatile lure. There are two types of crankbaits: wood baits and plastic baits. Plastic baits can be fished slower and are usually associated with slightly colder water. The state of the art regarding spinnerbaits has progressed more rapidly than many other lure technologies. Some are size and shape adjustable. Some have a rotating blade nearest the head. Others have thin wire shafts that enhance the spinner vibrations. Some even have an upper shaft that pivots back out of the way of a strike. Vibrating baits tend to attract bass from great distances. The lure's action is extremely good in off-color water as well as clear. They are particularly effective over heavy cover were bass hold on an outside weed line. For best action, use vibrating baits with 10- or 12- pound test monofilament line. You get a truer action, more depth out of the plugs and more fish strikes. A productive yet overlooked lure is the jig. The jig and trailer most resemble a crayfish or, perhaps, a small snake. To that end, most jig and trailer manufacturers offer brown, black and crayfish colors. The size of the forage the fish are feeding on and the average size of the bass present in the water being fished dictate the size of lure. Individual preferrence is also key in selecting the type of lure since some lures involve more work to use than others. No matter what you use, they have all been proven to catch fish. You decide where and when then decide how. Catch and release fishing guarantees the future of our sport.

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