What Do Bass Eat?

Written by Brandi Allred
Published: December 15, 2021
Image Credit iStock.com/RLSPHOTO
Share this post on:

Bass can be found all over the world, in both fresh and salt water. In North America, largemouth and smallmouth bass are the most popular species for fishers to target. They can grow anywhere from a couple of pounds, to over 500 pounds for the giant sea bass, but they all hunt the same way, and eat a lot of the same things. 

Here, we’ll discover just what bass eat, and how they hunt. We’ll also explore what different kinds of bass eat, and what determines their food of choice. Then, we’ll learn more about what baby bass eat, and what kinds of creatures eat bass. Finally, we’ll find out why so many fishers want to know ‘what do bass eat?’

What Do Bass Eat?

What Do Bass Eat?
Bass eat a combination of insects, fish, and other small creatures. They are carnivores

iStock.com/RLSPHOTO

1,292 People Couldn't Ace This Quiz

Think You Can?

Bass eat a carnivorous diet of insects, fish, crayfish, and any other creature that will fit in their mouth.

The smaller the bass, the more limited their diet. Baby bass, called ‘fry’ until they are two inches long, eat mostly insects, plankton, and small crustaceans. Bass will eat anything that fits in their mouth, so as they get bigger, they can eat bigger things. Adult bass are carnivores and opportunistic feeders; they will eat anything in front of them, just not plants. 

Bass eat lots of fish, including smaller bass. They also eat snakes, frogs, crabs, crawfish, lizards, and sometimes baby birds. Saltwater bass, like the giant sea bass, eat crabs, sharks, rays, and many ocean going fish.

A Complete List of Foods Bass Eat

  • Insects
  • Plankton
  • Fish
  • Other Bass
  • Frogs
  • Lizards
  • Snakes
  • Eels
  • Crawdads
  • Sharks
  • Rays
  • Skates
  • Squid
  • Birds

What Do Baby Bass Eat?

Bass start as tiny fry, only one in ten will make it to adulthood. Since bass eat anything that fits in their mouth; the smaller the bass, the smaller the food. Small bass eat mostly insects and plankton. As they get bigger, their diet expands to include small fish, other baby bass, and the occasional lizard or frog. 

The biggest bass in the world, the Giant Sea Bass, can reach a length of seven feet, and weigh over 500 pounds. Such a large fish also has a very large mouth, which means it can eat just about anything it comes across. The giant sea bass lives primarily in kelp forests off the coast of California and Mexico, where it is considered the apex predator. But, not to worry; they don’t prey on humans.

How Do Bass Hunt?

What Do Bass Eat?
Bass hunt by opening their large mouths and sucking the prey in

iStock.com/stammphoto

Bass, from the smallest fry to the heaviest giant, all feed the same way: by sucking. That’s right, the bass, alone among animal species, kills its prey by sucking it into its powerful jaws. 

When a bass spots a prey item (maybe a fish, crawdad, or even a shark), they move into position so that the creature is right in front of their mouth. Then, in a lightning fast motion, they open their mouth, creating a strong suction that literally pulls the creature into the bass’s mouth. From there the bass chews the food up and swallows it. Their digestive system is so powerful that it can actually dissolve fishing hooks.

What Animals Eat Bass?

Bass live in lakes, reservoirs, rivers, and the ocean. This means that they have a lot of predators. Their biggest predator is perhaps themselves; bass are opportunistic feeders and frequently eat other, smaller bass. In freshwater settings, birds (like herons), bigger fish, alligators, otters, and even turtles will eat bass. In the ocean, bass are preyed on by sharks, seals, other bass, and predatory fish. 

Bass are a very popular fish for fishers as well. Every year, all over North America, bass fishing competitions are held to see who can successfully reel in the biggest bass. The giant sea bass was once a popular target of fishers too, but it’s been listed as critically endangered since 1982, making it illegal to hunt these sea giants.

Bass Fishing Competitions

What Do Bass Eat?
Bass’s propensity for eating anything that moves in front of them makes them a popular game fish

iStock.com/abadonian

Bass eat anything they can fit in their mouths, and even try to eat things that may be a little too big, but that doesn’t stop people from fishing for them. Avid fishers all over the United States enter competitions every year to land the biggest bass. Everyone can fish for this ubiquitous fish, from the smallest child just learning to hold a pole, to the oldest fisherman, just out to have a good time. Bass are popular because they are so prevalent, but also because their diet and ‘eat anything’ attitude makes them relatively easy to catch.

Because bass use suction to hunt their prey, they often put up a good fight for a fisher. The bigger the bass, the harder the fight. Before giant sea bass were listed as endangered, people spearfished them in great numbers. Giant sea bass were also a popular target for sport fishers. Because of their great size and the immense power of their jaws they provided a unique fishing experience. 

Share this post on:
About the Author

Brandi is a professional writer by day and a fiction writer by night. Her nonfiction work focuses on animals, nature, and conservation. She holds degrees in English and Anthropology, and spends her free time writing horror, scifi, and fantasy stories.

Thank you for reading! Have some feedback for us? Contact the AZ Animals editorial team.