Oak Orchard River Bass Anglers

October 2019


In my opinion, few bass anglers today understand bass feeding behavior. 

Like spawning behavior, feeding behavior is instinctive.  Instinctive behavior is genetically passed from one generation to the next.  Instinctive behavior is not learned.  While feeding behavior is not learned, it can be fine-tuned through experience.  The more success a bass has at feeding behavior, the better the bass becomes at feeding behavior.

However, instinctive behavior cannot be changed or ignored.  This simply means that a bass must always be a bass regardless of how big it may be.  Big bass do not have the ability to change instinctive behavior just because they are bigger. 

Despite what you may have heard or read, big bass do not change feeding behavior as they grow bigger.  However, big bass do become the very best at achieving feeding behavior.  This is true because the biggest bass are also the most experienced bass.  Bass get bigger by being better at achieving feeding behavior. 

Remember, in the world of bass, there are no “do overs”.  Bass either get feeding behavior right or they perish.  For a bass to get truly big, getting feeding behavior right is not good enough.  To get truly big, a bass has to be the very best at feeding behavior.

Now, a little about feeding behavior. 

First, and foremost, bass feeding behavior is individual behavior.  Unlike spawning behavior, feeding behavior is determined at the individual level, not the species level.  Since there is only one way for bass to spawn and bass cannot spawn successfully as individuals, all mature bass spawn at the same time (spring), in the same way and in the same areas.  In addition, bass spawning behavior is the same in every environment.

Unlike spawning behavior, there is more than one way to successfully accomplish feeding behavior.  Individual bass feed in one of two distinct and different ways.  Bass either feed by hunting prey or bass feed by ambushing prey.  All bass feeding behavior is the same to the extent that all bass feed by either hunting or ambushing, but all bass do not hunt or ambush at the same time, at the same place or in the same way. 

While bass only have two methods to choose from to successfully accomplish feeding behavior, there are untold numbers of different ways for bass to hunt or ambush.  There are basically two factors that determine whether bass hunt or ambush.  The first factor is individual activity level and the second is specific environment. 

As a feeding method, hunting requires the use of more physical activity than does feeding from ambush.  Hunting is an active and aggressive method of feeding.  Hunting bass are bass that are constantly on the move.  Hunting bass are actively stalking, searching for vulnerable prey.  Once vulnerable prey is sighted, hunting bass actively and aggressively pursue it. 

In order for hunting to be both an effective and energy efficient feeding behavior, hunting has to occur where the odds for success are the highest.  This will always be where the vision of the bass has its greatest range, on an edge.  Precisely where edges exist in any water body is a factor of the specific environment. 

In this way, each environment dictates how hunting behavior has to be achieved as well as exactly where hunting behavior has to take place to be successful.  For bass, successful feeding behavior, regardless of the method used, has to always be energy efficient.  Individual survival is possible no other way.

As a feeding method, ambush feeding is the most versatile feeding method available to bass.  It is also the feeding method that requires the least amount of physical activity to accomplish successfully.  This means that bass are able to continue to feed in an energy efficient manner even though their activity level may be extremely low.  It takes very little energy or physical activity to simply suck in vulnerable prey. 

Bass can maintain energy efficient feeding behavior when their activity level decreases simply by decreasing the size of the ambush zone and their strike zone.  The lower the activity level of bass, the smaller the size of the ambush zone and the strike zone.  When activity level gets so low as to make energy efficient feeding behavior impossible, bass are forced to physically shut down totally.  Bass are forced to go totally inactive to survive.  Inactive bass are, in reality, dormant bass.  Dormant bass have insufficient energy to engage in any type of physical activity, least of all feeding. 

No angler has ever caught an inactive bass.  It is a physical impossibility. 

While I believe that it is possible, at least in theory, to raise the activity level of an inactive (dormant) bass by making repeated casts to its precise location, I also believe that doing so is such a lengthy, painstaking and precise process that it would be totally futile for a tournament bass angler to waste his time trying to do it during a tournament.  In any event, even if it can be done, a bass is no longer inactive if it can physically strike a lure.   

As I said earlier, it is the specific environment that determines exactly how and where hunting behavior can occur.  Activity level is different matter.  During feeding season (summer, fall and winter), the activity level of each individual bass is controlled by one factor only, stress.  As I explained earlier, individual bass survival requires that individual bass must always feed in the most energy efficient manner possible.  Before the most energy efficient method possible can even be determined bass must first adapt to the existing level of stress. 

Since bass are only able to adapt in two ways, physically or behaviorally, adapting to stress always requires physical activity.  Physical activity always requires the use of energy.  Energy that is used to adapt to stress is energy no longer available for use for feeding.  This means that the higher the level of stress, the less energy bass have for achieving feeding behavior.

One final thought about bass feeding behavior.  Since feeding behavior is individual behavior, there will never be a time when all bass are feeding identically.  However, most of the time, a number of individual bass will be feeding in a similar manner.  Don’t ever forget that individual bass all live in the same environment. 

Fishing during feeding season is about playing the odds.  It is an attempt to determine the feeding method that some individual bass are using at any given time, at any given place and on any given water body.  Determining the feeding method that the most individual bass are using at any given time will never be an exact science.

However, if an angler truly understands bass feeding behavior and knows the difference between hunting behavior and ambushing behavior, then that anger has all of the information that he needs to be consistently successful.  That angler knows where to look and how to fish for feeding bass, regardless of their feeding method. 

Since some individual bass will always be feeding during feeding season, catching some bass during feeding season is always possible.  This is true because feeding bass can always be instinctively triggered to strike reactively.  Being consistently successful is just a matter of how hard an angler is willing to work in order to always be fishing the right position correctly.

Knowledge, honed through on the water experience, is the real secret to consistent success.  To catch bass consistently an angler must first understand bass behavior, both spawning behavior and feeding behavior.  One thing should now be obvious.  All bass feeding behavior is not the same.



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