Adult largemouth bass are primarily carnivores. Their diet consists of crustaceans, frogs, smaller fish, snakes, leeches, and small mammals. Younger largemouth bass are more omnivorous and will eat insects and zooplankton. As they grow older, they become carnivorous. Bass will eat almost any animal in the water.
There’s a reason largemouth bass are so fun to target: they need to strike their food hard and with a purpose. Whether it’s a bluegill or a leech, they don’t pull any punches. When they hit our lures, they use that same ferocity to get exactly what they want. No food is off limits, so whatever looks appetizing, they hunt.
Feeding Largemouth Bass
Like most living things, largemouth bass change as they age. Not only do they grow larger, but their diets change. It moves from a simpler diet to one filled with larger, more satisfying prey. It’s a transition from omnivore to carnivore.
Young largemouth bass are omnivores. They don’t have the hunting skills or power to take on a more carnivorous diet. When they’re at their youngest, largemouth bass eat smaller insects and zooplankton they find near the bottom.
They’ll also feed on plants and other aquatic vegetation that fulfills their needs. It’s a fairly simple diet that allows them to focus on surviving. When they’re young, largemouth bass focus on surviving and growing.
Very few bass survive past the fry stage. Less than one percent of eggs laid survive, so it’s a challenging task for young largemouths.
As a result, food can’t be the primary focus. Young largemouth need to find easy meals to help them grow and stay safe.
When they reach two years old, bucketmouths eat more meat. Worms, leeches, frogs, crustaceans, and small fish form part of their diets.
Again, they want easy meals but don’t shy away from the hunt like they would when they were younger.
At two, largemouth bass are around 12 inches long and more capable of holding their own and finding food.
Three-year-old bass are considered adults and are in the full carnivorous stage. At this adult stage, largemouth bass are some of the primary predators in their lake, pond, stream, or river.
They use their massive mouths, ambush skills, and power to take on almost anything they find.
Their diet includes smaller bass, bluegills, perch, catfish, and bullheads. Additionally, they will eat worms, leeches, crustaceans, mammals, frogs, and snakes. It’s not uncommon for largemouth bass to eat fish that are half the length of their body.
I’ve caught many largemouth bass with 10-12 inch catfish, bullheads, or largemouth bass in their mouths. They have little to no fear, and as long as whatever they’re hunting can fit into their mouths, they will pursue it.
Adult largemouth bass will eat insects and plants, but most of their meals are meat. Meat provides the most energy, so they only take on an omnivorous diet if other food sources are scarce.
How Largemouth Bass Feed
Largemouth bass are ambush predators. Unlike smallmouth bass, largemouths like to hide in cover and structure and wait for the perfect opportunity to feed.
Young largemouths hate leaving their cover and structure. Whether it’s a fallen tree, a rock pile, or weeds, they look for food within the areas they live. They’ll hunt the bottom for insect larvae and appetizing plants so they never have to leave safety.
At one year old, they may venture out in the mornings and evenings when the light is low, and hunting is easier.
They want leeches, crustaceans, and the occasional minnow at this age. They haven’t fully transitioned to adulthood, so they rarely leave safety.
Adult largemouth bass have fully developed their hunting abilities, so they’re more crafty and understand when to take risks.
Largemouths pursue most of their meals in the mornings, evenings, and nights. The low light allows them to sneak up on whatever meat they want.
When pitch black, bass will sit in the shallows and wait for frogs, birds, and mice to swim nearby. Largemouth bass take far more risks when they don’t have to worry about the bright light giving away their position.
Adult largemouth still cherish their cover and structure for most of the day. They want to stay hidden in case a good meal approaches. Largemouths will dart out from hiding, grab their meal, and return to cover.
Adult largemouth combine stealth with power and aggression.
Largemouth bass are some of the top predators in the water regardless of what else is in there with them. Their desire for meat and hearty meals forces them to be aggressive and calculated with how they feed. Largemouths’ carnivorous cravings are a wonder to witness, and they only grow as they age.