Biologists call bass opportunistic predators, meaning they may at times eat almost any sort of living thing small enough to cram into their capacious maws. Smallmouths eat peamouth in the Columbia River, crawfish in Rainy Lake, alewives in Dale Hollow, smelt in Lake Oahe, yellow perch in Mille Lacs, and bluegills in Lake Hubert. Largemouths ingest snakes in a Florida lake, mice in Connecticut, frogs in Minnesota, gizzard shad in Georgia, lake chubsuckers in Nebraska, and on. You get the idea.
One common thread to the diet of largemouths, smallmouths, and the five other species of black bass is that they take advantage of edges to capture prey. Due to their maneuverable and versatile body shape, black bass can hold motionless at the edge of a deep weedbed, or patrol a transition from sand to an underwater rock formation, turning on a dime or backing up for a better look at a critter crawling on the bottom. Edges come in many forms and nearly all attract and hold bass at one season or another.
On clear natural lakes of the Northeast and Northcentral regions, as well as in Florida, many species of aquatic plants offer prime bass habitat. With expansion of vegetation in southern and central reservoirs, the importance of weededge bass fishing has grown apace.
Weededges form for several reasons. First, as bottom depth increases, less sunlight penetrates into deep water. Bottom-hugging plants can no longer grow while long-stemmed species like milfoil, hydrilla, coontail, pondweeds, and cabomba strive to grow closer to the surface in deeper water. At some point, though, the water becomes too deep and weedgrowth ends, forming the deep weededge, a high percentage area for bass in summer and fall.
On the flipside, vegetation often stops growing on the shallow side of the weedbed, forming an inside edge or corridor of open water between the bank and the thick vegetation. This may be due to wave action in the shallows, water level fluctuations that eliminate grass during fall and winter low-water periods, or changes in bottom content. In many lakes, the nearshore zone contains mixed sand and gravel that isn’t conducive to most aquatic plants that prefer organic material with a mix of silt and sand.
Many clear lakes are ringed with vegetation. Where to look for bass? While a weedbed creates an edge, a secondary edge adds to a spot’s potential. Look for breaks in the weedline, pockets and inside turns, and also points where the vegetation grows out along an underwater extension. Weededges along offshore humps also are prime summer habitat for largemouth and smallmouth bass. Open pockets within weedbeds sometimes occur where a deeper hole or hard bottom breaks up an otherwise uniform terrain. The surrounding weededges are bass magnets.
Bass lurk along the edges, scouting for passing pods of bluegills or schools of shiners that pass overhead. From their relative concealment, bass lunge into the open area to seize prey. They also form small groups and actively search for prey along weededges. They swim and stop, peering into pockets, hoping to flush crawfish or bottom-hugging preyfish like bullheads or yellow perch into making a run for it. All bass may gain a meal from this group feeding strategy.
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