Largemouth bass can swim upwards of 15 miles per hour in short bursts. Scientists say bass can swim 2.5 times their body length per second. Smaller bass can swim around three miles per hour, and fish over 20 inches can swim 12 to 15 miles per hour.
As a football fan, I often compare the game to fishing. It all started when I talked with a fellow angler about what position a largemouth bass would play on a football team. My answer: running back. Like running backs, largemouth bass are powerful, fast in short bursts, and know when to strike.
Largemouth Bass Speed and Movements
Witnessing a largemouth bass swim at full speed isn’t common. They often live in stained water, hunt within structure and cover, and spend time alone. Largemouth bass are methodical with their movements and don’t waste energy.
Cruising Speed and Movements
If bass are cruising through weeds, near shore, or within structure, they usually only swim a few miles per hour. Since they’re ambush predators, they don’t use quick movements and bursts of speed until it’s time to move in for the kill.
More often than not, largemouth bass will sit within the safety of structure and cover, but they do begin to move around as seasons and conditions change. During the spawn, male bass actively search for places to create beds.
As the seasons change, you’ll see largemouth bass cruising around more. They’re moving to different waters to prepare for the new season. But once they’re settled, they hold to their usual covered areas.
Hunting Speed and Movements
When largemouth bass are on the hunt, their movements become more methodical. Hunting takes a lot of energy for largemouth bass, so if they waste it, they won’t have much energy to feed.
Their ambush tendencies cause largemouths to sit in cover/structure and observe the open water around them. They use their speed if they see a smaller fish or prey a few feet away.
This extreme speed makes it challenging for prey to escape. Before you know it, the largemouth bass has swallowed its prey, returned to its cover/structure, and is waiting for its next prey.
You will rarely see largemouth bass cruising and feeding along the way. They know where to sit and how to wait for the perfect time to feed.
If a school of sunfish is near a dock, a largemouth could be under the dock near a pylon, waiting for one fish to get a little too far away from the school. Once it does, they’ll eat it and hide before the other sunfish know what happened.
I love to watch male bass hunt and strike at anything near their eggs during the spawn. The spawn is the best opportunity to watch bass in action. They’re speedy and don’t let anything close to the eggs.
Fleeing Speed and Movements
If you hook into a largemouth or they’re fleeing a larger predator, bass will do whatever they can to escape. They’ll swim as fast as they can for as long as possible.
Largemouth bass aren’t known for their stamina, so they get to cover and structure as fast as possible before they’re caught or eaten.
What Dictates Their Speed?
Different factors can dictate the speed of bass. Depending on the weather, time of year, and general water conditions, a largemouth’s speed and ability to move quickly will change.
When bass are in a feeding frenzy, they will work at top speed. They’re continually feeding so their body can produce energy to keep them moving quickly. They’ll dart around structure and cover, feeding on whatever they can find.
If food is scarce, bass will sit still and only move when it’s time to eat. If they see prey nearby, they’ll put all their efforts into catching and eating it. After they’ve eaten, they’ll return to sitting still and waiting for the next meal.
Largemouth bass aren’t going to swim as fast in cold water (35-50 degrees). They move as little as possible to conserve energy. Their blood has moved into their organs, and using energy forces blood away from those organs.
As the water temperatures warm, bass can move at their usual top speeds. They don’t have to conserve energy and can feel free to expend as much as they want while hunting.
In states in the Northeast, water temperatures get very cold, so fish move slower. Water temperatures are more consistent in states like Mississippi and Georgia, so fish can move well year-round.
Largemouth bass are like humans. They aren’t worried about spending a bit more energy when the weather conditions are comfortable. This is because the environment (water and air temps) won’t play as big of a role in exhausting the fish.
Water conditions are one of the final things that dictate the speed of largemouth bass. Cold, murky water doesn’t lend itself to fast swimming.
Bass don’t have as much energy, and seeing prey is difficult. So, they will wait to use their speed when they know food is nearby.
Clear water gives largemouth bass more freedom. While they aren’t as eager as smallmouth bass to swim in open water for food, they will venture further away from their cover/structure to hunt.
Largemouth bass are extremely fast in short bursts. The rest of the time, they aren’t going to do much to exert energy. They want to save as much energy as they can to feed or escape any predators that hunt them. Largemouth bass are exceptional swimmers, but their movements are far more calculated than other freshwater fish.