The Largemouth Bass is known by many names. Its scientific name is Micropterus salmoides, but it is also known as the widemouth bass, bigmouth bass, black bass, bucketmouth bass, the green bass, green trout, largie, and greenie- just to name a few. The largemouth is the state fish of Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi, and Florida. Largies are yellowish to olive green in color and colors vary in clarity and brilliance depending on time of year, water conditions, structure and other factors. The lateral line of this species is marked by a series of dark, sometimes black, blotches that form a jagged horizontal pattern not unlike a cardiogram readout or the readout from a sound check. The upper jaw of a largemouth extends beyond the rear edge of the eye socket. Female bass grow faster and generally larger than their male counterparts. The largemouth is the largest of the black basses. The upper limit of length for the largemouth is estimated at 30 inches and the maximum weight could be 24-25 lbs. – but a monster this size has not yet been documented. On average, barring an untimely meeting with a skillet, Micro Sal has an average lifespan of 12-16 years. It has established itself as the most popular game fish in the USA, but here remain some mysteries which I will attempt to reveal.
First, let’s establish the parameters for a lunker. I spend much of my time shuttling between Detroit Metro and the mid-Atlantic states. In my region a six pounder is considered quite an achievement. While that might be good for a tournament bag in the south/south central states, there you only really start to brag when you’ve caught a 10-pounder. So a Northeastern/Upper Midwest 6-pounder holds the same bragging rights as a Southern 10 or maybe a central states 8. Got it? California is a whole different story since more top 10 fish have come from that state than any other.
The All-Tackle record for largemouth is arguably the most sought after game fish record in the world, sort of the “holy grail” of fishing. According to the International Game Fish Association, the official keeper of world records, the current world record for largemouth bass is held by both George Perry (1932, Montgomery Lake, Georgia) and Manabu Kurita (2009, Lake Biwa, Japan) at 22-pound, 4-ounces. Kurita’s fish was a 29-inch monster. Perry’s was weighed but not measured to our knowledge. His record stood alone for 77 years- and still stands today as quite an achievement. At the time, Perry was a 20-year-old farmer fishing with longtime friend Jack Page. The two were taking turns with a single rod and reel, casting a Creek Chub Fintail Shiner from a wooden Jon boat. Perry was later quoted as saying, “I thought I had hooked a log, but then the log started moving.” He played the bass out from a submerged treetop, finally boating a fish which was bigger than anything he or Page had ever seen. They beached the boat and headed for town where they officially weighed it at 22 pounds, 4 ounces. What it weighted before the journey to the nearest scale is anyone’s guess. Perry’s sole ownership of this record came to an end on July 2, 2009 when Japanese angler Manabu Kurita pulled his own 22-pound, 4-ounce largemouth from Lake Biwa after it ate the live bluegill he was using for bait. Although it occurred on the other side of the globe, news of Kurita’s catch spread rapidly and the doubters circled like vultures waiting for every detail to be authenticated. The IGFA and Japanese Game Fishing Association (JGFA) went as far as to administer a polygraph test to Kurita to ensure the catch and documentation met all IGFA rules. After months of rigorous review, the IGFA granted Manabu Kurita a tie for the coveted All-Tackle largemouth bass world record.
Raymond Easley holds the title of King of Lake Casitas with his massive 21 lb. 3 oz. largemouth boated on 8 lb. test! What an incredible knee shaking, bone aching, achievement! Caught March 4 1980, it was the largest bass anyone had recorded since Perry’s. Easley’s fish was caught while demonstrating to some friends how to fish a live crawfish in deep water. His bait was crushed, and after a mercifully quick fight, considering the light line, Easley was able to weigh-in on a certified scale not far from the lake. His 8-pound line class world record still stands today. The catch sent shockwaves through the angling community renewing long dormant dreams of catching the next world record largemouth, especially for anglers in southern California. Ten years later, on March 9, 1990, Robert Crupi pulled in another 21-pound lunker, this time from the renowned Castaic Lake in Southern California.
Let’s start the life-cycle discussion with the spawn- every article should have its spice, right? Well, perhaps to no one’s surprise, there is a lot of bumping and grinding going on during the spawn. Male bass bump (that’s with a B) the females to stimulate the release of eggs and hurry the spawning process along. It’s a bizarre mating ritual somewhat reminiscent of a domestic battery case I saw on a “Law & Order” episode. One interesting fact that you may not know- the bigger they are, the earlier in a season they will spawn. No one really knows why. Some scientists think it is a sort of metabolic impetus while others think it could be a Darwinian “to the biggest go the best spawning beds”- sort of right of first mating. Regardless of the reason, the bottom line is, if you fish the beds, you will likely find the big girls are the first at the Dance.
Unlike with a lot of other species, these big girls are not going to win any prizes for maternal instinct. Drop and run is pretty much the female bass’ approach to egg laying and nest tending. It is the smaller male bass that take on the egg-guarding role. This means the window to pick off a large female on the nest is limited. After dropping their eggs they move smartly to take up position on post spawn ambush type structure. They are looking for easy meals to regain energy without expending much of the same. All the while the female is laying her eggs, the male is into his role as security.
Largemouth have adapted to a wider range of water temperatures and oxygen levels compared to their cousins the smallmouth. While largemouth have preferred temperatures- as evidenced by the fact that their size varies by geographic climate, they still move from the depths to the shallows and back again depending on time of year and temperature of the water– functioning well in water from 30 to 90 degrees Fahrenheit. Their ultimate preference? The low 80s.
Debate amongst biologists and fisherman alike has gone on for many years as to the intelligence of largemouth bass. Are their actions the result of genetic imprinting and impulse or is there indeed an element of learned behavior and decision making? Most agree that bass behave in a manner which, suggests they are the smartest of the common game fish. Most fisherman agree that if you want to catch a bass with a specific presentation, you had better get it right the first time. There is evidence that suggests that if a largemouth slips your hook(s) it may indeed avoid similar situations in the future.
Although one of them is not determining the mortality of Bruce Willis, largemouth do have six senses that help them defend against or deal with the various aquatic threats or situations they are likely to encounter. These senses are facilitated by their lateral line which, while accentuated by its geometric pattern, is really a series of pores filled with water and nerve endings. These pores allow the bass to detect extremely low-frequency vibrations in the water and enable the fish to determine the source, and in course, develop a reaction to it. Bass can link different frequency patterns to things as specific as types and location of both predators and prey. Therefore, for a bass, a specific pattern of sound waves will elicit a specific response.
Another of these senses is sight. It has been determined that bass are attracted to the color red. While scientists do not believe a bass can see colors, they have determined that bass can discern red better than any other color in the light spectrum. Bass biologists have also determined that bass cannot adjust their eyes to sunlight. This may be the key to understanding bass movement and structure preference during certain weather conditions and times of day. It is, however, a myth that bass avoid bright sunlight because it hurts their eyes. While bright sunlight won’t bother a bass, bass cannot adjust their eyes to sunlight. In addition to not having eyelids, bass have fixed irises, so they can’t internally block light before it reaches the retina. That light doesn’t hurt their eyes because bass have unique dark color pigments around their photoreceptors that dampen the harshness of the light.
When it comes to taste, a list of all the foods consumed by bass would lead you to conclude they do not have a picky palate. While they may not be picky, what a bass eats is one of the key things that determines the overall health of the bass population in a particular body of water. Recruitment, or better said, how many baby bass grow to adults, what kills bass, and how long they live, is often determined by what foods end up in their stomachs- not that different from humans. Where as we say “you are what you eat” bass more directly tell us “as you eat so you will live”. In well managed bodies of water, biologists help bass eat better by stocking forage fish such as shad, herring or alewives. But then, almost every lake, pond, river and stream have at least some food bass will eat, so these efforts are more like dietary supplements to manage the overall health and growth of the bass population. Bass will pretty much eat anything- insects, crayfish, frogs, lizards, snakes, other fish, baby birds and even small rodents end up on the bass a la carte menu.
Common angler wisdom contends that you will find bass by focusing on cover, structure, and proximity to deep water. But these elements do vary by the water being fished. In impoundments it is often brush and timber that hold fish. In natural lakes fish related to various types of aquatic plants, and fallen trees along the shore. bottom structure such as humps, underwater points, rock piles, old roadbeds, and edges of a creek channels also are key places for bass “hangouts”. If you really want to think like a bass, think of places from which you could launch an ambush. Oftentimes this means a place that is fairly close to deeper water. The proximity to deep water, or location of features in deep w ater is more significant the clearer lakes or body of water you are fishing. As a broad rule, big structure will hold fish in quantities, but a bigger fish must be thought of as being more isolated. For example, a small clump of sticks, a lone tree stump, or an isolated pod of milfoil could each be just the spot where a big bass might be waiting for its next meal.
So what about seasonality and time of day? Like most creatures, bass have a keen awareness of seasons. Whether from the amount of day light, temperature of the water, behavior of forage, or other factors, largemouth know the season, even in regions where the changes are more subtle, and they behave accordingly. Seeking the thermocline in the winter, warmer waters in the spring, cooler waters in the summer and following forage in fall are all seasonal behaviors. As for catching largemouth, you can catch them all year long in just about any climate. Seasonal patterns have been the subject of many articles on the iBass360 blog so I will leave further details to those authors.
Time of day is a different matter. Time of day for best fishing really has to do with how well the angler understands how this pectoral eating machine adjusts his feeding patterns to the basic elements- water temperature, light intensity, and human activity. If you understand how a largemouth will select cover and water depth to put itself in the best position to get an easy meal, then you should have no issue selecting the right places to fish during any particular time of day, as well as the right lure to represent that easy meal. Look at the amount of human activity that occurs on a given body of water. It’s mostly in daylight hours, and heaviest in the nicest weather of summer- typically bright, hot days. Plug all these seasonal, temperature, light and human factors into your thinking process and you’ll see patterns emerge. For example, in summer your best bet for big bass is either in periods of low light or places of heavy cover. In spring you have the best opportunity during the warmest part of the day in areas of warm water. In Winter, the main time is the warmest part of the day in places the sun has had a chance to warm or in deeper water where you can identify concentrations of forage. Finally, in fall they will be wherever they can best load up on food during the day.
The last comments I will make regarding largemouth relate to bass baits. Many fishermen use big lures to catch big bass. There is nothing wrong with this approach. Anglers need to also be flexible and recognize that under tough conditions, small lures can also catch big bass if presented the right way and under the right circumstances. A similar corollary is that a big part of presenting the right way is to fish very slowly. Forget about the physical differences between smallmouth and largemouth. The biggest difference is that smallmouth are athletes, speedsters, and acrobats when it comes to feeding. On the contrary, largemouth are muggers lurking in dark alleys waiting for the ambush- a quick overpowering burst and then back to the shadows. This is why they are more about worms, jig and pig or soft plastics, swimbaits, and surface plugs- they can all be fished very slowly in a manner that allows them to linger and entice the brute to strike. Oh and when it happens, LIVE THE PASSION!
|Alabama||16 lbs, 8 oz||Mountain View Lake||Thomas Burgin||1987|
|Arizona||16 lbs, 7 oz||Canyon Lake||Randall White||1997|
|Arkansas||16 lbs, 5 oz||Lake Dunn||Paul Crowder||2012|
|California||21 lbs, 12 oz||Lake Castaic||Micheal Arujo||1991|
|Colorado||11 lbs, 6 oz||Echo Canyon Reservoir||Jarrett Edwards||1997|
|Connecticut||12 lbs, 14 oz||Mashapaug Pond||Frank Domurat||1961|
|Delaware||11 lbs, 10 oz||Wagamons Pond||AJ Klein||2016|
|Florida||17 lbs, 27 oz||Unnamed Lake||Billy O’Berry||1986|
|Georgia||22 lbs, 4 oz||Montgomery Lake||George Perry||1932|
|Hawaii||9 lbs, 9.4 oz||Waita Reservoir||Dickie Broyles||1992|
|Idaho||10 lbs, 15 oz||Anderson Lake||Mrs. M.W. Taylor||N/A|
|Illinois||13 lbs, 1 oz||Stone Quarry||Edward Walbel||1976|
|Indiana||14 lbs, 12 oz||Unnamed Lake||Jenifer Schultz||1991|
|Iowa||10 lbs, 14 oz||Lake Fisher||Patricia Zaerr||1984|
|Kansas||11 lbs, 12.8 oz||Private Pit Lake||Tyson Hallam||2008|
|Kentucky||13 lbs, 10.4 oz||Wood Creek Lake||Dale Wilson||1984|
|Louisiana||15.97 lbs||Caney Lake||Greg Wiggins||1994|
|Maine||11 lbs, 10 oz||Moose Pond||Rodney Cockrell||1968|
|Maryland||11 lbs, 2 oz||Private Pond||Rodney Cockrell||1983|
|Massachusetts||15 lbs, 8 oz||Sampson Pond||Walter Bolonis||1975|
|Michigan||11 lbs, 15.04 oz||Big Pine Island Lake||William Maloney||1934|
|Minnesota||8 lbs, 12.75 oz||Tetonka Lake||Joseph Johanns||1959|
|Mississippi||18 lbs, 2.4 oz||Natchez State Park Lake||Anthony Denny||1992|
|Missouri||13 lbs, 14 oz||Bull Shoals Lake||Marvin Bushong||1961|
|Montana||8 lbs, 12.8 oz||Noxon Rapids Reservoir||Darin Williams||2009|
|Nebraska||10 lbs, 11 oz||Sandpit Near Columbus||Paul Abegglen Sr.||1965|
|Nevada||12 lbs even||Lake Mead||Micheal R. Geary||1999|
|New Hampshire||10 lbs, 8 oz||Lake Potanipo||G. Bullpit||1967|
|New Jersey||10 lbs, 14 oz||Menantico Sand Wash Pond||Robert Eisele||1980|
|New Mexico||15 lbs, 13 oz||Bill Evans Lake||Steve Estrada||1995|
|New York||11 lbs, 4 oz||Buckhorn Lake||John L. Higbie||1987|
|North Carolina||15 lbs, 14 oz||Private Pond||William H. Wofford||1991|
|North Dakota||8 lbs, 7.5 oz||Nelson Lake||Leon Rixen||1983|
|Ohio||13 lbs, 2 oz||Private Pond||Roy Landsberger||1976|
|Oklahoma||14 lbs, 12.3 oz||Cedar Lake||Benny Williams Jr.||2012|
|Oregon||11 lbs, 9.6 oz||Private Pond||Randy Spaur||1994|
|Pennsylvania||11 lbs, 3 oz||Birch Run Reservoir||Donal Shade||1983|
|Rhode Island||10 lbs, 6 oz||Johnson’s Pond||Brandon Migliore||2016|
|South Carolina||16 lbs, 2 oz||Lake Marion||P.H. Flanagan||1949|
|South Dakota||9 lbs, 3 oz||Hudson Gravel Pit||Richard Vierick||1999|
|Tennessee||15 lbs, 2 oz||Chickamauga Lake||Gabe Keen||2015|
|Texas||18 lbs, 2.8 oz||Lake Fork||Barry St.Clair||1992|
|Utah||10 lbs, 2 oz||Powell Lake||Sam Lamanna||1974|
|Vermont||10 lbs, 4 oz||Lake Dunmore||Tony Gale||1988|
|Virginia||16 lbs, 4 oz||Connor Lake||Richard Tate||1985|
|Washington||11 lbs, 9 oz||Banks Lake||Carl Pruitt||1977|
|West Virginia||9 lbs, 9.9 oz||Dog Run Lake||Eli Gain||2001|
|Wisconsin||11 lbs, 3 oz||Ripley Lake||N/A||1940|
|Wyoming||7 lbs, 14 oz||Private Pond||Dustin Shorma||1992|