There are over 1,500 different types of cichlids found all over the world. Largemouth bass have far smaller populations, but they’re similar in behavior to cichlids. Both are territorial and ambush predators with massive appetites. They differ in appearance as well as the spawning process.
On my first freshwater fishing trip in Florida, I targeted peacock bass. Based on everything I knew, I thought they were the top dog in the bass family. I was wrong and quickly learned they are actually part of the cichlid family.
Largemouth bass are some of the most popular fish targeted in the United States. They’re found all over the country. Warm weather states are the best places to target these fish due to the ideal conditions for growth.
Generally, largemouth bass live in lakes and rivers with reasonably clear water, vegetation, crustaceans, populations of smaller fish, and plenty of structure and cover.
They prefer water temperatures ranging from 50 to 75 degrees but are most active in 60 to 70 degrees. It’s the perfect temperature for them to hunt without exerting too much energy.
Largemouths will spend most of their time in areas with heavy cover and structure. They want to be as hidden as possible. Staying hidden allows them to utilize all their skills to hunt for food.
Largemouth bass are green and white fish that are an average of 14-18 inches long. Largemouths get their name from their “bucket mouth” that is capable of swallowing their prey whole.
The top of the jaw extends far beyond their eyes to allow for extra access and reach when they’re hunting.
On the sides of the fish, you’ll find dark dots and blotches that create a horizontal line.
While they look similar to smallmouth bass, the size of their mouth is the dead giveaway. You won’t find a freshwater fish with a mouth as big as a largemouth bass.
Many states record largemouth bass weighing over 15 pounds, so they have the potential to become massive. With the proper water conditions, food sources, and minimal predators, female largemouth bass can easily weigh six to ten pounds. Both native and non-native largemouth bass can grow rapidly.
Largemouth bass spawn in the spring. As the water temperatures warm to 55-65 degrees, bass enter the spawn. The process starts with the male bass cruising shallow, sandy, or gravel areas, searching for the perfect place to make a bed. They’ll use their tails to dig a hole in the sand for the females to lay their eggs.
Once females are ready to lay their eggs, they’ll drop them on a bed. Males will then fertilize them and protect them until they hatch. Females will repeat this process until they run out of eggs. They’ll usually have around 3,000 to 10,000 eggs per pound of body weight.
The eggs will incubate for a few days and hatch. Once the fry are one or two inches long, they’ll feed on insect larvae and grow.
Largemouth bass are territorial and aggressive fish. They sit in areas of heavy cover and structure while they wait to feed. Largemouths only venture out into open water if they feel protected.
In the mornings and evenings, they’re at their most aggressive. They use darker conditions to hunt for larger prey.
Most of the time, largemouths sit in the protected areas until they see an easy meal. Even though they’re at the top of the freshwater food chain, they don’t take many risks. They let the food come to them unless the conditions are perfect.
People can catch largemouth bass using artificial and live bait. Either option will land fish, but live bait fishing is usually the most productive.
Crankbaits, jigs, soft plastics, and spinnerbaits are what most anglers choose to use when fishing for largemouth bass. I love to jig and use spinnerbaits, and each method is effective if used correctly.
Since bass sit in heavy cover, flipping jigs into the cover is ideal. I’ll attach a soft plastic to the jig, throw it along a weed line or in timber, and move my rod up and down. This jigging motion causes the bass to strike.
Crankbaits are fish imitations with a sizable front lip. The front lip allows the bait to drop deeper into the water column. If I’m not finding fish in shallow water, I’ll throw on a crankbait, get it in deeper water, and retrieve it slowly. The slow retrieve and wobble will excite those shy bass enough to strike.
Spinnerbaits, my favorite, have metal blades that flash and spin when retrieved. Plus, they have a rubber skirt that works excellently as an attractant. I’ll use it in all levels of the water column, so I often use it as a search bait if I don’t know what the bass are eating or where they’re sitting.
Carolina Rigs or Texas Rigs are the perfect setup for soft plastics like worms, crayfish, frogs, and lizards.
Cichlids (said “sick-lids”) have over 1,500 fish within their family. While they’re common in Africa and Asia, they’re also prevalent in the United States.
Bass anglers are likely most familiar with peacock bass, which is technically a cichlid and not part of the bass family. Peacocks were introduced into the United States in 1984 but are considered non-invasive.
While each cichlid differs, most live in freshwater water that’s at least 65 degrees. Cichlid species like the peacock bass live in areas of heavy cover and structure. Most of the time, they prefer rocky areas. They’re easy to hide within, and the rocks attract a lot of smaller prey. However, they’ll also spend time near fallen trees and other areas with shade.
Cichlids are found in warmer areas like Florida and Louisiana. The warmer freshwater is what they need to thrive. Any place with large fluctuations in water temperature will make it borderline impossible for cichlids to survive.
Cichlids’ color sets them apart from many other freshwater fish. Cichlids have bright, vibrant colors that stand out amongst other freshwater fish. Due to their bright colors, they have to hide in areas of heavy cover and structure so their prey isn’t able to spot them.
Peacock bass, one of the more common cichlids, can grow anywhere from 6 to 15 pounds. However, smaller forms of peacock bass only grow to 10-12 inches. Generally, they’re bigger than the largemouth bass found in the United States.
Cichlids are different from many other fish in how they spawn. Certain cichlids are called “mouth breeders.” These fish carry their eggs around in their mouths until they hatch. The female releases the eggs, the male fertilizes them, and then the female picks them up and holds them in her mouth until they’re ready to hatch.
Some cichlids will lay their eggs in beds with the males protecting the eggs, but many are mouth breeders. It’s a unique spawning style, but it protects the eggs from predators.
Carnivorous cichlids, like the peacock bass, are extremely aggressive predators. They are most active in the mornings and evenings, but aren’t afraid to feed at all times of the day. They’ll use their cover and structure to hide until they locate the food they want.
While largemouth bass are more afraid to venture out into open water, cichlids, like peacock bass, aren’t afraid to swim in open water in pursuit of food. They know they’re one of the most aggressive fish in the water and don’t shy away from a challenge. They’ll feed in the water column’s surface, bottom, and middle.
Omnivorous cichlids aren’t as aggressive as their carnivorous relatives. Omnivorous cichlids will cruise around in heavy vegetation, looking for aquatic plants to fill their diets.
Live bait will be your best bet if you want to go after peacock bass or other aggressive cichlids.
Minnows and crustaceans fished below a float is the ideal setup. Cast it near rock piles, structure, or up along the banks. Before you know it, a roaming peacock bass is going to smash your bait.
My favorite bait for peacock bass is High Roller’s Rip Roller. This topwater lure moves a ton of water and excites the peacock bass in the area.
Peacock bass are aggressive and reactionary, so they’ll go after the Rip Roller if agitated. My first fishing experience with the Rip Roller led to a 7-pound peacock bass. Since then, it’s been the first lure I throw when fishing for peacock bass.
Large, bright lures that move water are all you need for cichlids. They don’t need much of an excuse to feed and strike, so you’ll land fish easily if you put the lure in the right spot.
Frequently Asked Questions
Are Largemouth Bass in the cichlid family?
Largemouth bass are part of the Centrarchidae (sunfish) family.
Are Bass Considered Cichlids?
No, bass are separate from the cichlid species.
No, peacock bass and largemouth bass are not related.
Largemouth bass and cichlids may have similar tendencies and habits, but their different appearances and spawning habits set them apart from many other freshwater fish. They both need warmer water and plenty of cover. As long as they have those, they will thrive in most environments.