If you're an angler who believes that sometimes you get "outsmarted" by those wily ol' bass, I have some bad news for you.
Carp are even "smarter." That's right. The bottom feeder disrespected by so many is no dummy.
"From my years of experience in observing bass in the laboratory, I would have to rank them around the middle of the intelligence range: definitely smarter than trout (at least hatchery trout) but dumber than carp (no insult intended — carp are smarter than you think!)," said Dr. Keith Jones, who has long studied fish behavior for Berkley.
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"The common carp (Cyprinus carpio) are indeed among the smartest freshwater fishes, if not THE smartest," said another source. " They learn well for fish. They have the longest complex learning retention of all fishes tested."
Seriously, though, it's impossible to measure fish "intelligence" in any way comparable to the way that it is measured in humans. Rather, we watch how they behave in nature, and, more importantly, in laboratories and just their response to various stimuli.
As I reveal in Better Bass Fishing, you’re just outsmarting yourself if you try to “out-think” bass. Yes, bass are capable of learned behavior. But they definitely aren’t the “Einsteins” of the fish world. Carp and bluegill rank higher in laboratory tests. Most importantly, though, bass (and other fish species) don’t “think” and they aren’t “smart.”
Rather, bass are selective as to food, cover, and water, and, each spring, they are driven by the biological imperative to spawn.
Those anglers who are smart enough to recognize those needs and respond accordingly, are the ones who catch the most and largest bass. They look for water and cover that they have learned is attractive to bass during each season of the year. They learn the migration routes that fish take to those locations. They observe what bass are feeding on and try to offer baits that are similar in appearance.
Although bass are not smart, they do seem to learn to avoid some baits. That why new baits--- and new colors, to a lesser degree--- seem to produce better than older styles. For a while. We saw it happen with buzzbaits in the 1980s and soft jerkbaits in the 1990s. Now, it's happening with swimbaits.
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And here's an interesting take from the World Fishing Network:
The IQ of fish varies greatly depending on the species. It varies even further depending on individuals within any given species. Anglers need to look at the species that they are targeting for known traits and advantages that could make them more difficult to catch.
Fish can learn to avoid specific lures and noises made by anglers. In order to continue to be successful, anglers need to try new lures and colors on a regular basis. An effort should also be made to fish new areas and to make as little noise as possible.
Fish intelligence is hereditary and they can be bred to be easier to catch. Anglers should care take when harvesting fish in order to avoid selectively breeding intelligence. Smaller fish, whether intelligent or not, haven't had the chance to learn to avoid lures. Therefore, they make a better choice for harvesting.
Whether you are catching fish or not, it is unlikely that they are outsmarting you. Their intelligence is very limited. You just need to work around what they may have learned.
Where do carp and bass rank in intelligence on a planet with more than 30,000 species of fish in our ponds, lakes, rivers, and oceans? We'll likely never know that.
But some scientists suspect that the top of the class are of the marine variety.
"In general, cartilaginous fishes (sharks, skates, and rays) have higher brain-to-body mass ratios than bony fishes, as well as most cold-blooded vertebrates. And manta rays have the largest brain size of any cartilaginous fish, although we don't know why," reports one website.
"What we do know, though, is that they're very curious. They also somehow perceive humans as 'special.' Along with marine mammals, they are among the very few animals known to seek out human contact for reasons other than food. Some of them have even been known to let humans ride on them. Preliminary evidence even suggest that they could recognize themselves in mirrors, putting them in an extremely small group of animals."
And Thom Demas, curator of fishes at the Tennessee Aquarium shared this interesting observation on the same site:
"I don’t know that there is a clear answer to this question but here is a personal experience from my time working with fishes. The common hogfish, Lachnolaimus maximus, has proven over the years to be a very aware and observant fish.
"I have kept many of them and while I have never looked into brain to body percentage for this animal, it clearly displays behavior that seems just a bit above that of many other fish I have worked with.
"From observing my daily work (the hogfish was doing the observing) to following me around (moving in the tank to be nearest me--- presumably because of curiosity). I know, you think it probably just wanted food and that’s what I thought.
One day I fed the fish until it would no longer eat and then went back to my work. I recall seeing that fish follow me around with a piece of food hanging from its mouth and more on the bottom of the tank being ignored; that convinced me there was more going on.
I had one that would allow you to 'pet' it while on SCUBA in the water with it. Many fish are evolved to display lots of complex behaviors or accomplish many things we could interpret as smart but the common hogfish will always be one of the smartest fish in my book!"