Largemouth Bass Habitat

I don’t know about you, but every year, I look forward to catching some largemouth bass. Just like everything that is worth going after, it can take a lot of patience, a lot of knowledge, and a little bit of luck to catch a largemouth bass.

One of the best things you can do to prepare to catch a largemouth bass is to learn about their habitat so that you know where to look for them.

To help you know more about the best locations to catch largemouth bass, we will take a look at the largemouth bass habitat to discover quality locations that might be ideal for catching these types of fish.

Where Do Largemouth Bass Live?

Largemouth bass is a freshwater fish that can be found in lakes, streams, reservoirs and any other freshwater source. They are native to the central and eastern parts of the US but have been introduced into freshwater all across the country.

Largemouth bass are one of the top fish species for recreational fishing. For this reason, they have been stocked in water sources across the United States. Largemouth bass can be found in all 48 lower states, although it is more commonly found in the southeastern states.

The largemouth bass, also known as the bucketmouth, has an incredible ability to adapt to its surroundings, which is why it can be stocked and found in any state except Alaska. As long as each water source has the necessary habitat characteristics to sustain largemouth bass such as coverage and food sources, you will more than likely be able to find largemouth bass in the area

But what exactly is required to have a habitat that is perfectly suited for finding largemouth bass?

Seasonal Temperatures

Water temperature plays the most important role in where largemouth bass can be found. In general, largemouth bass can be found in temperatures ranging from 40 to 90 degrees. They are adaptive to other temperatures but are more likely to be found in warmer water.

Spring is the best time to fish for largemouth bass. When the water temperatures begin to rise from low temperatures of about 45 degrees, these fish will then start to move from the deeper waters to the more shallow waters. During spring, the best place to start fishing for largemouth bass will be in the Northwest corner of the lake or reservoir where the water temperatures will be the warmest.

The weather also plays a role in catching largemouth bass. Warm rain is more likely to warm up water than air temperature. After a warm spring rain could be a great time for you to load up your gear and head out to fish for largemouth bass.

When the water temperature hits about 55 to 65 degrees, it’s the perfect temperature for spawning. Shallow, well-covered areas directly in the sunlight could prove to be a successful fishing experience for largemouth bass.

Summer will raise water temperatures anywhere between 75 and 90 degrees. Now, largemouth bass will move less to conserve energy and will stay close to structures that will provide shade from the hot sun. They may also move down towards the bottom of shallower water to stay cool. In the early mornings and late evenings when temperatures are cooler, largemouth bass will still come up to shallow waters to feed.

The fall will again drop water temperatures to between 50 and 60 degrees and these fish will become more active again.

In the winter, the water will drop below 50 degrees, causing largemouth bass to become sluggish. In these seasons, they will gravitate towards deeper backwater areas like close to a marina or areas with dense coverage like green weedlines or submerged stumps.

The Perfect Water Conditions

The ideal habitat for largemouth bass is slow-moving to non-moving water that provides ample vegetation for coverage. They are one of the most cover oriented fish and cover will always play an important role as to where they choose to move.

They tend to gravitate towards waters that are less than 20 feet deep but more than 6 feet deep filled with weeds, submerged logs, rocks, or brush. Bright sunlight and shallow waters make them feel uncomfortable as they are very defensive fish.

At first, coverage provides them a place to hide when they are young.

Later on, coverage becomes necessary to ambush prey. Shade and seclusion are ideal conditions for this type of fish, no matter what age.

Largemouth bass can be found thriving in clear or muddy water. Depending on what type of water they are in will determine what type of bait is best for catching these fish.

When in clear water, they rely more on eyesight to catch prey so you will want to use bait that resembles their food source. In muddy water, they rely on vibration and silhouette to catch prey so it becomes all about bright bait and loud sounds.

Given a choice, however, the largemouth bass will choose clearer waters and will avoid the bottom of lakes or rivers where water can get murky and layered with silt.

Unlike their counterparts, smallmouth bass who prefer faster waters, largemouth bass are more likely to be found in shallow, slower-moving currents. However, they may position themselves by a “near current”. This current acts like a conveyor belt, bringing oxygen and food sources directly to the fish.

You can also be successful fishing in current breaks. Objects such as logs, boulders, or docks that will break up the current attract largemouth bass. They prefer to be lounging near current breaks so that they don’t have to work harder to swim against flowing water.

The Importance of Cover and Structure

There is a saying among largemouth bass fishermen that says that you may find a structure without a largemouth bass, but you will NEVER find a largemouth bass without a structure. Therefore, fishing-specific structures are critical to locating and catching this particular type of fish.

A structure is any object that allows the largemouth bass to hide.

It can be anything from an underwater hump or island to land jutting out from the shore, rocks, the edge of a weed line. Bass tend to live near the bottom of water, although that may change depending upon seasons or water temperatures.

They prefer to live near bottom material such as sand, shell, gravel, clay, or rocks wherever there is a structure that presents a difference from the bottom of the water.

Adult largemouth bass will hide between weeds and roots or under rocks, striking at their prey as they unknowingly swim by. They will also utilize the changes in structure as a reference point for defining their “home territory”.

When you are specifically seeking out largemouth bass, cover and structure are two crucial elements to consider for bass locations.

Spawning Season

Once largemouth bass are about a year old, they have reached sexual maturity and are ready to spawn. The spawning season for this fish is in the springtime, once water temperatures are holding steady at 60 degrees or above.

In the colder, North region of the US, you can find this process beginning around April and lasting until July. In the warmer Southern states, it will begin a bit earlier, around March, and is over around June.

During spawning, the male largemouth bass will build nests, using their tails to move debris around on the bottom of the body of water. Sand, gravel, or muck bottoms are their preference for this process but it can be other materials as well, as long as there is cover for the nest.

You will find largemouth bass spawning in more shallow waters such as a shallow bay, channels, backwaters. They can be found during spawning season in depths approximately 1 to 4 feet deep, although it can be deeper in more clear water.

Once the nest is complete, the males will begin the search for a female to mate with. Once a female is found, the two fish will swim around the nest, releasing sperm and egg that will come into contact on the way down to the nest.

The female lays approximately 2000 to 7000 eggs per pound of her bodyweight. After depositing the eggs into the nest, she immediately heads once again towards deeper waters where she will remain for several weeks.

The male guards the nest until the eggs hatch, which can be anywhere from two to four days, depending upon what region the largemouth bass are found in. Anywhere from 2000 to 12000 eggs will hatch from the nest.

Of the thousands of eggs that hatch, only 5 to 10 will survive to reach a maturity. The male will then stay with the new fish until they are ready to venture out on their own, usually two weeks after hatching.

Once spawning season is over, these fish switch into more of a summer pattern, focusing more on feeding and building up for the colder months than spawning.

When you are preparing to fish in the spring, keep in mind that these fish will be found closer to shore in the more shallow waters. Spawning season means changes in patterns for the largemouth bass, and thus, changes in how and where you will fish for these creatures.

Largemouth Bass Migration

Seasonal changes affect the habitat of largemouth bass. If you are a novice fisherman on your first outing to catch largemouth bass, you can easily use seasonal changes to create a fishing plan that will hopefully lead to success.

Spring

After a cold winter spent in deeper waters, spring begins the migration towards more shallow waters for spawning. As the water begins to warm up, largemouth bass will begin suspending more and more.

Bass that don’t move out into the main body of water will begin to migrate towards shallow waters first. These fish are already more oriented towards shallow water and so will spend most of their time nearby secondary creek channels.

Next, the main water fish begin their migration towards shallower water and will spawn in areas still near the open main body of water. They can usually be found in coves or on the edge of drains.

Keep in mind that the water still must remain at 60 degrees or higher for several days for spawning to take place and are easiest to catch when they first begin their move into the more shallow waters.

Summer

Once spawning season is over and the waters warm up to 80 degrees or above, largemouth bass will begin the summer migration. During this time, you will find these fish hanging near vegetation. They will still stay near more shallow waters for feeding purposes.

In deeper bodies of water, fish will also be shallower than in the winter months because of the stratification process. The stratification process that occurs in mid to late summer means less oxygen in deeper waters, forcing fish to move out of deeper water.

Fall

In the fall, largemouth bass become the most active, needing to feed often to store up for the upcoming winter months. They won’t’ return to the creeks or shallow waters where the spawned, but rather roam the creek channels that open up to the main water.

Winter

In the early parts of winter, bass instinctively know its the last opportunity to store up on food sources. You will find them still moving about in mid to shallow waters trying to take advantage of the limited feeding time as long as the water temperatures remain in the mid-50s or above.

But usually, winter is the time for deep-sea fishing. When the water drops to below the mid-50s, largemouth bass will move down to 20 feet or deeper. It can take some creative fishing in the winter to catch a largemouth bass.

Most people move to warmer waters or simply wait until spring. But if you are willing to try, winter can be a great time for catching these fish for those who understand what to do.

Bodies of Water

You may not have access to specific types of water, but that’s okay. Because of their adaptability, largemouth bass can be found in a variety of water sources. They can thrive in streams, ponds, lakes, and rivers.

Each water source requires knowledge of largemouth bass habits to know the best locations that will give you the most success in catching this type of fish. We will discuss the differences between each habitat so you can be equipped to find this fish wherever you are.

Streams

Knowing the basics of bass fishing will help you in almost any type of water, and streams are no different. Largemouth bass will gravitate towards cover, structure, and ample food sources. In streams, bass will gravitate towards holes, shoals, ledges, undercut banks, spillways, sand and gravel bars, or near the shoreline with vegetation or wood coverage. They prefer to hang out in slack water over current, but in a stream, the forage is moving in the current. For this reason, bass will usually be found hanging out close to moving water.

Ponds

For most of you, getting to a pond for largemouth bass fishing is going to be the easiest. Nearly 80% of the population lives near a bass pond. If you find just the right pond, a survey out of North Carolina found that you can take twice as many fish per hour on a pond than on a lake.

Not every pond is a bass fishing pond though. The shallow part of the pond is in the upper ends or arms of the pond and is the best in the early morning hours from late spring to early fall. As light intensifies, fish will move to the mid waters and eventually to the deeper waters of a pond, meaning you should adjust your fishing spots throughout the day.

In winter, this process is reversed as fish move to the more shallow waters for warmth as the day heats up. Prime cover spots in a pond include water near the dam, the edge of the shoreline, drop-offs, inlets, trees, weeds, rocks and logs, or points.

Lakes

Most fishermen take to the lakes for their fishing expeditions. Whether on the shore or out in deeper water, you can have a shot at catching a largemouth bass if you know where to look.

Water temperatures in spring are some of the most ideal temperatures for lake fishing. Temperatures right before the spawning season can be the best for doing some great largemouth bass fishing. Much like other bodies of water, when temperatures drop in the fall and winter, these fish will follow their normal instincts to move to the deeper parts of lakes.

Because lakes are deeper than the other bodies of water, the key for lake fishing is to find the place where they like to hang out for dinner.

The type of bait when lake fishing is also very important as largemouth bass are naturally suspicious fish. Trying to pull it out of the shade of its cover can be the most difficult part.

Rivers

You might think that muddy, brown river water is one of the most unlikely places to find largemouth bass, but you would be wrong. You can catch some big fish in rivers if you know where to look.

Hone in on your bass fishing skills before setting out to catch this type of fish in a river. The best rivers for fishing for largemouth bass are ones that are directly off of a lake because current and river level will dictate where the fish will move to. If the current is too strong, focus more on backwaters where the current lessens.

A little bit of current is best so the fish will bite. Avoid completely dead waters. When fishing the backcurrent, be on the lookout for rocks near the mud bank, a small waterfall, or even a partially-submerged drain pipe where concentrations of largemouth bass are more likely to be.

If the river current is weaker, you can find largemouth bass in the main channel instead of the backwaters. Fishing the current is essential in determining where the fish will be.

In spring, search for the clearest part of the river as these fish will spawn in clearer water. They are also more likely to be in stumps or timber in the backwater.

Always keep fishing lures 5 feet deep or less. Even in the main river channel, this fish is likely to suspend at 1 to 2 feet deep.

The thrill of catching a largemouth bass is what keeps fishermen like myself coming back time and time again to this recreational sport. It takes a specific habitat to attract the picky and naturally wary largemouth bass.

Only 10% of all water conditions possess the exact characteristics like oxygen, temperature, structure, cover, food sources, and PH factor that attract largemouth bass to the area. But when you find these ideal conditions, you are sure to have the thrill of a lifetime catching fish after fish.

Next time you want to go after a largemouth bass, take into account the perfect habitat for the water source, river, pond, lake, or stream, and go after those fish. I hope with lots of knowledge and a little luck you will have a successful fishing outing!