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« Lake Fork Gives Up Third 13-Pounder In Less Than Two Weeks | Main | Healthy Bass Less Likely To Stockpile At Tournament Weigh-In Sites »

Bass Learn And Remember

Bass remember. That's something that anglers should remember when they continue to throw the same baits in the same waters with diminishing returns.

In a laboratory test at Pure Fishing, Inc., Dr. Keith Jones, one of the country's foremost experts on bass behavior, allowed fish to freely strike a minnow lure for 5 minutes. By the end of that time, the bass had learned to ignore it "since it provided no positive food reward."

Half of those fish then were re-exposed to the same lure two weeks later. This time, the interest in the lure was just 1/10th of what it was originally, "indicting that the bass had retained a strong negative memory of the bait during the two-week interval."

After two months, the other half of the fish still tested well below the original response level.

"The results show that under some circumstances, bass can remember lures for at least up to 3 months and perhaps much, much longer," Jones said.  "Who knows? If the experience is bad enough, they might never forget."

Concurrently, Jones discovered that bass learn in four main ways:

  • Associative learning or, in other words, trial and error, which likely is why bass ignored the minnow lure the second time. Also, this type of learning has been proved in lab tests "where the animal is taught to link two types of stimuli, such as certain colored light with an ensuing electric shock. Bass readily learn those associations, both in the lab and in the field, although not as fast as some other species."
  • Habituation. In this type of learning, a bass gradually becomes less sensitive to particular stimulations, such as the noise of boat traffic on a busy lake.
  • Spatial. Bass learn to navigate freely in home environments, recognizing landmarks or objects and staking out territories. Jones reported that bass in a lab learned to find their way through a maze to a desired point.
  • Prey images. Bass learn to recognize different types of forage. "Given enough positive experience with a certain prey type, a bass will gradually come to actively seek out that specific prey," he Jones said. "Prey species, for their part, often counter the bass's efforts by changing their signature stimuli, often through the use of camouflage."

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