Bass can be downright frustrating sometimes, as I’m sure any angler can attest to. We spend hours searching the Internet, consulting fellow fishermen, and watching fishing shows hosted by professionals to learn about the best color patterns, baits, and tactics for any given situation, only to find that the bass just don’t want to bite. It happens. In my opinion, simply figuring out the basic instincts that influence bass behavior will help you immensely, which is why I’ve broken a few of them down today. Keep reading to learn a bit more about what makes bass tick.

Obviously, one important influence on bass behavior is the need to eat. While the primary food source for bass has been a much debated topic throughout the years, crawfish and shad are the top contenders for this title, with crawfish leading the way most of the time. Crawfish are an easier meal for bass and, contrary to what you may think, they are more commonly found in vegetation than rocky areas, which is something to consider the next time you hit the water. Of course, a bass’ diet includes a variety of prey items, including leeches, worms, lizards, frogs, and insects, which is why there are so many different baits on the market.

Cover is an integral contributor to the way bass behave. Bass are mostly ambush predators, and will use cover and structure such as vegetation, rocks, stumps, trees, docks, and ledges to shoot out after prey. This is because bass are actually lazy fish and will rather not spend a lot of energy chasing prey. Also, bass are territorial and will not travel a great amount of distance from the available cover in their territory. Lastly, some cover objects—large rocks and stumps in particular—retain heat more than others, which makes them popular in colder conditions.

Oxygen. No, this won’t be a chemistry lesson; oxygen is actually a very important factor in the way bass behave. When oxygen is limited, bass become disoriented and slow, or lethargic. Typically, the cooler the water the more oxygen and the more active bass will be, whereas warmer water usually means less oxygen and lass activity. Bass will usually do one of two things in a low oxygen situation: drop down to cooler water for a larger supply of oxygen, or seek out vegetation due to the constant supply of oxygen that aquatic plants provide. Oxygenated areas include rivers, creek mouths, deep water, vegetation, stumps and logs, power plants and discharge areas, and wind-blown banks.

For some of you, the tips outlined above may be Bass 101 information, but there are many anglers who place too much importance on exact color patterns or diving depth, and forget the very simple elements to bass behavior. These elements will help you locate fish, and then you can use that brand new, bluegill pattern crankbait to your heart’s content.