Prey Size for Largemouth Bass

Prey Size for Largemouth Bass

Largemouth bass may try to eat prey almost as large as themselves, or they have to settle for larger forms of tiny animal plankton when larger prey aren't available. Nevertheless, bass size sets practical upper and lower limits on prey size.

The lower limit is set by several factors. Prey must be large enough to be visible and worth chasing. Largemouth bass rarely waste more energy chasing food than they get from digesting it.

Prey also must be large enough to be held by the gill rakers -- thin, fork-like spines blocking the areas between the gills. Water flows out, while food items remain in the bass's throat. Prey smaller than the spaces between rakers usually escape. The space between rakers gets larger as bass grow, so the minimum size of food gets larger.

Upper limit of prey size is determined by the gape of the mouth and throat, and the ability of bass to catch and hold strong, struggling prey. Crayfish may be too tough or painful to eat, even if they fit into a bass's mouth. Large gizzard shad may be strong and swift enough to escape unless they're taken headfirst. Catfish and bullheads erect spines and wriggle strongly to escape. Such preyfish may be low-percentage targets.

Maximum length of prey varies with the shape of the prey and other features, like spiny fins. Bass take longer thin preyfish in longer sizes than thicker sunfish. Studies show that bass occasionally eat fish that are about 60 percent of their own length. Stomach samples show, however, that bass typically eat prey between 10 percent and 50 percent of their own length. Twenty percent to 45 percent are the most typical sizes. Preyfish this size are the best balance between the energy used to capture and the energy gained from eating.

Each prey species has special abilities and tactics to avoid being eaten. The dash speed of fish increases with size. Bass need a proportional size advantage to run down prey. They usually attack only injured or sick larger prey.

The shaded area shows the actual size of preyfish bass typically eat. Although bass may eat preyfish as small as about 10 percent of their own length, or as large as 60 to 70 percent, most preyfish fall between 20 and 50 percent.

Larger bass tend to eat larger prey. Most of the food of young adult bass falls between 20 percent and 40 percent of their own length, while older and larger bass tend to select preyfish in the 30 to 50 percent range, depending on prey shape.

Get Your Fish On.

Plan your next fishing and boating adventure here.

Recommended for You


Rigging Soft Bass Baits Correctly

Matt Straw - May 15, 2018

Balance is the goal when tipping jigs with trailers.


Topwater Lure Secrets for Bass

Jim Edlund - April 26, 2018

These secrets will put more and bigger bass in your boat!

Fish Recipes

Pecan-Crusted Catfish Fillets Recipe

By: Emilie Bailey

This is not your run-of-the-mill fish recipe! Buttery, savory pecans are seasoned up to make...

See More Recommendations

Popular Videos

13 Fishing Inception SZ

Florida angling pro Jessie Mizell knows that the saltwater found in Sunshine State coastal fisheries can wreak havoc on even the best fishing gear. But with 13 Fishing's new feature laden Inception SZ saltwater baitcasting reel, tackling inshore and light tackle saltwater game fish just got a whole lot easier!

Electric Filet Knife from Bubba Blades

As OSG's Lynn Burkhead looks on, Josh Neville shows off the cordless and corded versions of a new electric filet knife from Bubba Blades.

MLF BPT angler and former Classic champ Casey Ashley has been with Costa del Mar sunglasses his whole career. At ICAST 2019, he shows OSG writer Lynn Burkhead some new products and talks how to pick the right lens color for the water.

See more Popular Videos

Trending Stories


The Best Catfish Rigs

In-Fisherman - January 11, 2018

Catfish are simple creatures that can be caught using the best catfish rigs. Catching them is...


All About Catfish

Rob Neumann

Catfish are among the most popular groups of fish with over 7 million catfish anglers...


Walleye Length To Weight Conversion Chart

Dr. Rob Neumann - January 03, 2017

Several methods are available to estimate the weight of a fish. Some use length as well as...

See More Stories

More Bass


Catching Trophy Smallmouth Bass

Matt Straw - July 01, 2019

What makes intercepting a trophy smallmouth more likely? The answers might be surprising.


How to Sustain a Freshwater Pelagic Bite

Bob Maindelle

Using these tactics, it's not uncommon to stay on a school for two hours or more.


Sensational New Softbaits for Bass

Steve Quinn - April 22, 2019

Steve Quinn talks new softbaits for bass from Berkley.

See More Bass

GET THE MAGAZINE Subscribe & Save

Temporary Price Reduction


Give a Gift   |   Subscriber Services


GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.