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Entries in bass behavior (12)


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."

'Left-Handed' Bass?

Two researchers in Japan have discovered that bass are more like bass anglers than anyone would have suspected.

While we are right- or left-handed, a largemouth bass favors one side of its body over the other.

"This antisymmetry is defined as dimorphism in which one side of the body is structurally and/or functionally more developed than the other," explained Maski Yasugi and Michio Hori from Kyoto University.

In other words, some bass turn left more often when moving and feeding and others turn right. And, the researchers learned, the same holds true for other fish, including forage species such as gobies.

That being the case, they wondered, would bass that turned preferentially in one way have more success capturing prey that turned toward or away from them.

Yasugi and Hori filmed encounters between  bass and gobies as the predators approached from the rear. Recording the distance, direction, speed and success of the bass strike, the duo also noted the point during the attack when the goby began to take evasive action and the direction in which it turned.

Finally, knowing that left-biased individuals tend to be more strongly developed on the left side and vice versa, the duo measured the size of the bass lower jaws, looking for the telltale asymmetry that would confirm their directional preference.

As they correlated the bass approach direction with its direction preference, they realized that when approaching from the rear, left-biased bass circled in a clockwise direction, while right-biased bass circled counter-clockwise.

Meanwhile, left-biased gobies reacted earlier to the approach of left-biased bass and right-biased gobies escaped more quickly from right-biased bass. This suggests that right-biased gobies are more at risk from left-biased bass approaching from behind while left-biased gobies are more vulnerable to attacks from right-biased bass approaching from the rear.

"We believe that the lateral biases in approach direction and in evasive response corresponding to morphological antisymmetry are the principal mechanism causing the predominance of cross-predation," Yasugi and Hori concluded.

Practically, this discovery isn't likely to help anglers catch more fish, but it does give them something to think about as they watch bass chase baits to their boats and then turn away at the last second


Don't Try to 'Out-Think' Bass

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.

From "Biology and Behavior" in Better Bass Fishing.


How Weather Affects Fishing

This is an excerpt from the "Weather" portion of my book, Better Bass Fishing. Of course, the book is written mostly for bass anglers, but this section --- as with many of the others --- can help you become a better angler in general by understanding the "big picture."


Generally moving from west to east, areas of high and low pressure determine our weather.

As high pressure moves in, winds tend to blow clockwise and away from the center. Weather within the center of a high-pressure area features clear sky, dry air, little or no wind, and cooler temperatures. Especially during fall and winter, high pressure brings sunny, blue-bird skies, cold winds, and poor fishing.

With the approach of a low-pressure area, the wind blows counter clockwise and toward the center. Weather within the center of a low-pressure area features cloudy sky, high humidity, light winds, steadier temperatures, and possibly precipitation. Fishing almost always is better under these conditions.

Changes occur as one type of pressure is pushed out by another. A low pressure area moving in typically brings unstable weather and falling barometric pressure. Falling pressure, anglers know, typically coincides with better fishing.

But maybe not for the reason that many believe. Some think that high pressure makes fish uncomfortable, which is why they don’t bite well upon the arrival of fair weather and a rising barometer. They also believe that falling pressure prompts fish to become more active.

Actually, what probably happens is that falling pressure allows plankton and tiny invertebrates to become more buoyant and float upward. This makes them easier prey for shad and minnows. The increased activity of these forage species, in turn, triggers bass and other game fish to feed.

Or, falling pressure simply might be an indicator of more favorable conditions overall, according to Bob Ponds, a former professional angler who worked as a radar specialist and supervisor for the U.S. Air Force and the National Weather Service.

“If you have falling pressure, you’re going to have high humidity and clouds. It will be darker and the fish will stray out farther from where they have been hiding and they will bite better,” he says. “Barometric pressure doesn’t affect how fish bite so much as it indicates conditions that affect how they will bite.” 

And what happens when the barometer rises? Why do the fish stop biting? Here’s one theory:

“When you’ve got a rising barometer, fish are going to seek eddies and structure to take the pressure off them,” says Sam Griffin, a lure maker and guide on Florida’s Lake Okeechobee. “We can feel a temperature change. They can feel a pressure change. We think that fish hide in cover and behind structure to feed. They also do it to rest.”

Secret: Changing atmospheric pressure is not as likely to affect fish behavior in rivers and streams as it is in lakes and impoundments. That’s because water flow in these fisheries is a more dominating factor for increasing or decreasing pressure than is the air.


Secrets From The Headwaters

In general, finding the right locations are more important during summer and winter. That’s because bass tend to school and stay in the same places for days or even weeks during these times. By contrast, lure selection can be more important during spring and fall. Fish roam more then, looking for places to spawn and chasing bait in the shallows.

Find out many more fish-catching secrets like this in my book. Buy at Barnes & Noble or Amazon.