Largemouth bass will eat their young. During the spawn, male bass are in charge of fertilizing and guarding bass eggs until they hatch. As they sit on their beds and protect the eggs, they rarely eat. Once the eggs start hatching, bass fry prove to be a simple, easy, and necessary meal.
In the animal kingdom, cannibalism isn’t uncommon. Finding easy, nutritious meals creates a challenge, so the animals that don’t stay with their parents are victims of cannibalism. Very few fish remain with their parents, so it’s prevalent with aquatic species.
Bass Eating Their Young
In the spring, bass go into full spawning mode. For a few weeks before the spawn, males and females enter a feeding frenzy to gain as much energy before the exhausting spawning process begins.
To start, the males move up to shallow portions of the lake and begin digging beds for females to lay their eggs. Females will follow and choose a bed to drop their eggs.
During this time, male and female bass rarely eat. Their bodies and minds have transitioned to only focus on reproduction. Once the females choose a bed to lay their eggs, males will fertilize them and begin protecting the eggs.
By the time the eggs hatch, it’s common for males and females to not have eaten a full meal for a few weeks.
The males have been fighting off predators looking for an easy meal of bass eggs, and females have been busy laying thousands of eggs over a few weeks.
This process taxes their bodies to the extreme, so male bass can’t help but eat the fry as they hatch. They’re accessible and found in high numbers. Young bass are also an easy meal for females.
Before the mature bass return to deeper water after spawning, they’ll eat their fair share of younger bass. They desperately need strength and there’s no better way to find it than by eating their offspring.
Bass Eating Other Bass
Bass eating other bass that aren’t their offspring is even more common than filial cannibalism. Young bass that are not sexually mature will feast on young bass any chance they get.
At least once on my bass fishing trips, I’ll see a larger bass chase after a buck bass I land.
I landed one of my best bass on a small, six-inch bass I was reeling into my boat. I was only a few feet away from flipping and releasing it when a seven-pound female came off a weed line and smashed it.
It was an amazing fight and showed me the brutality of the animal kingdom.
Bass are one of the toughest freshwater predators, so if a smaller bass looks distressed or like an easy meal, it won’t think twice about eating it.
While smaller fish and crustaceans eat most of the eggs on a bed, other largemouth bass will also take advantage of them. They have more energy than male bass guarding the eggs and aren’t afraid to fight for such an easy meal.
They’ll stay up shallow after the eggs hatch and eat as many bass fry as possible.
The survival rate for largemouth eggs is almost always less than one percent. Females will lay thousands of eggs during the spawn, and only 25 to 50 may survive. Even if an egg can hatch, it doesn’t mean it’ll grow into a full-size bass.
During flood or high water years, survival rates often improve. Bass change their spawning locations based on the water levels, so they move from their traditional spawning spots.
Non-spawning bass have a harder time locating the beds, giving the bass fry more of a chance of survival. But a higher survival rate one year doesn’t mean a higher survival rate the next.
It often means that the next year’s survival rate will be lower because more juvenile bass are hunting for bass fry.
Why Bass Eat Their Own
While studies have shown that there isn’t a predictable pattern for bass cannibalism, it happens. If other food sources are short, it becomes even more of a factor.
If panfish have a low spawn rate, largemouth bass will move on to the next easiest option: smaller bass.
Bass are exceptional predators. If something looks appetizing, they’ll stop at nothing to try and eat it. They don’t know their offspring and smaller fish become a meal.
For bass to grow to ten pounds, they’ve had to survive years of being hunted by larger bass, so those trophies don’t come easily. Bass are the true definition of survival of the fittest.