Bass movement throughout water column
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Thread: Bass movement throughout water column

  1. #1
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    Default Bass movement throughout water column

    In my never-ending search for trophy bass “enlightenment”, I have come across a ridiculous amount of contradictory “pro” tips regarding bass behavior. That leaves me to take it all in, filter it, apply the concepts, and let me create my own conclusions.

    I’ve come across one that I find very interesting.

    Traditionally, anglers believe bass move from deep to shallow and vice versa. Read nearly any piece online about finding bass and that’s what it will state. With the water being as stained and muddy as it is in eastern NC, I have been unable to see any of this with my own eyes to confirm either way.

    Basically this thought process that I have found is that the majority of bass movement is horizontal, not vertical, as the swim bladder does not comfortably allow for large depth changes. They may suspend at a seemingly arbitrary depth when not feeding, but move to structure at that same depth when they are feeding. If not suspended, they may be deep in cover, basically inactive. Bass biologist Ralph Manns has noted the same thing when diving and researching bass. The thought is that bass have a relatively small preferred depth range and do not stray from that, except potentially for the spawn. We are taught that the majority of fish all move up and down in the water column, because we catch fish deeper in the middle of the day and shallow in the morning and late in the evening. However, many bait fish like threadfin shad don't have the same limitations that a bass does. Threadfin have no swimbladder so they can make fast movements up and down throughout the day. The bait movement, not the movement of the bass, causes the action. When the bait moves deep, the deep bite may turn on. When bait moves shallow, the shallow range bass turn on and feed.

    I jumped around a bit so hopefully this is coherent.

    What say you, NCAngler?


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  3. #2
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    So your saying the bass don't really move to chase bait but instead become active when the bait are in their area.

  4. #3
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    According to what some people theorize, yes

    I’m not sure what I believe. But it’s an interesting thought for sure

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  6. #4
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    Usually what I think is the same as what I assume and have the same end result. Therefore I will take a Xanax before reading any responses later and now share with you “What say I”

    I agree that bass movement is horizontal when not feeding but I do not know if it is because of the swim bladder, if I understand that correctly. I believe L/M bass can be found anywhere from 1’ to 25’ down under normal conditions with a normal swim bladder. If that is an arbitrary depth then I stand corrected.

    I believe in paying attention to certain things that will put the fish at a certain level or location. First I think that like water, the thermocline will always seek its own level. This decides the fishes depth when they are just hanging out. Second I feel sunlight affects fish depth as they have no eyelids, so deeper if no cover from light and shallower if cover is available because most cover is from trees and docks. Third where is food available?

    As you pointed out, baitfish can be at any level in different spots at different times so as a bank fisherman I don’t worry too much about this. I do believe fish are no different than me when it comes to food. If someone hands me a good NY pizza I am gonna eat it whether I am hungry or not and probably ask for another. Because of this I never limit where I toss my offering but the above does decide the order.

    When it comes to structure for feeding, as a strictly bank/surf fisherman this knowledge usually completely eludes me without obvious structure of some sort or having a history of casting an appropriate weighted rattle trap or needlefish without hooks to find high points, fallen trees, stumps, rocks, shopping carts, tires, Jimmy Hoffa and anything else bait fish may relate to. This structure can be anywhere in the water column. While I agree the fish would prefer to use structure at their most comfortable depth, what matters more is location of the food at any depth that can be obtained quickly with the least expenditure of effort, calories and time and then head back to their comfort zones.

    Finally I do believe that when fish are in a non-feeding mood that atmospheric pressure can have some part in fish depth but that will always come after water temp and angle or intensity of sunlight.

    Because of the above I personally feel (assume) that bass do have a range of depth that changes depending on conditions rather that preference.

    Of course I was kidding about the Xanax and welcome others thoughts on this.
    BrandonK, and Fishscalz like this.

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  7. #5
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    I dont let a bunch of scientists fill my mind with clutter... they aren't necessarily always right. I throw the books out the window and go fishing... a lot of times I catch them good going against the grain.
    ChltBnks, Fishscalz, and meenyt like this.

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  8. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by Neilslure View Post
    I dont let a bunch of scientists fill my mind with clutter... they aren't necessarily always right. I throw the books out the window and go fishing... a lot of times I catch them good going against the grain.
    Other than broad guidelines, I agree, you just need to check things out most days.
    Sometimes someone makes a good guess, generally it takes a few guesses to get it right.

    Steeper areas in cold seasons and slower in cold water.
    Flatter areas and faster presentations in hot weather.
    I start shallow and go deeper, mainly because they are easier to catch shallow if they are there and active.

    They do what they do, they react to their environment, not much thinking on their part.

  9. #7
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    Belews Creek is relatively unique for where it's located - a deep, clear, rocky warm water lake in the piedmont of North Carolina. So it's an enigma, and the bass there *may* have adapted to niche ecosystem such that their behavior cannot be extrapolated to other places. It's certainly an interesting and thought-provoking theory, and may be more true or less true depending on the body of water.

    That being said, for whatever it means to you, I will share observations that may lean against the 'constant depth-swim bladder hypothesis.' I have on numerous occasions found schools of bass, wolf packs I call them, roaming about in Belews chasing bait. I have watched on my sonar as I follow a given school, and seen the fish move from feeding on the surface, to the middle depth, down to 35 feet, and back up again, all over just a few minutes time. I would catch some on top, and the very minute the surface boils stop, I would start throwing a sinking rattle trap or heavy A-rig and let the bait fall, 'following' the fish as they dive, and would get hits at different depths all the way to the bottom. I can watch the group of sonar signals rise in real time on my graph sometimes.

    So bass most definitely are *capable* of rapid movements between depths ranging from 0 to 35 feet, that much I can assert with categorical confidence.

    Whether they do this regularly, I'll let you guys debate, at least till the realization comes that it will be like the number of licks it takes to get to the center of a tootsie pop...

    Good post, and always good to chew on food for thought. Appreciate the post!
    BrandonK, ChltBnks, Fishscalz, and Neilslure like this.

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  10. #8
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    I thought the wise owl said 3?
    Fishscalz likes this.

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  11. #9
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    Shallow , deep, or somewhere in between
    meenyt likes this.


  12. #10
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    In my 40 plus years of fishing for bass, I have come to one conclusion. They don't read the same books that I do! Get out and go fishing anytime you can.
    Quote Originally Posted by Neilslure View Post
    I dont let a bunch of scientists fill my mind with clutter... they aren't necessarily always right. I throw the books out the window and go fishing... a lot of times I catch them good going against the grain.
    ChltBnks, and Fishscalz like this.


  13. #11
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    Coming from the west coast we regularly catch bass in deep water. In fact we were not even fishing deep until we passed 30 feet. It was not uncommon to catch topwater fish in 30 plus feet of water. Some of the desert lakes it is not unusual to fish to 100+ feet catching bass on jigs and spoons. Bass will be where they are comfortable no matter what depth.

  14. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by ChltBnks View Post
    I thought the wise owl said 3?
    Right after he bit into it, yeah!
    ChltBnks, and Fishscalz like this.

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  15. #13
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    Interesting thread, thanks for everyone's participation.

    I took this picture of my sonar a couple weeks ago at Belews, I see the same activity on other lakes as well, bass moving up and down through the depths chasing bait. It seems like they follow the bait wherever it goes without caring about the depth.

    I often see marks that appear to be a fish coming up from the bottom all the way to right under the boat, I wonder if they think my boat might be a school of bait...of course if I could really tell what they were thinking, I would be on TV winning the big tournaments. Click image for larger version. 

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    PS, does anyone know why some of my pictures end up sideways?
    "I've gotta stop wishin, I've got to go fishin!"

  16. #14
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    Regarding the sideways pictures. If you are taking them using your phone try editing them before posting. I think if you rotate the photo just one degree and save it then it will post right side up. Try it see if it works.
    ~JOE~
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  17. #15
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    Me too. I have found that bass don't read the same books and magazine articles that I do so I try not to get caught up in the scientific mumbo jumbo. The books will say not to fish in certain weather conditions, but I have to go when I get the chance. If one waits for perfect weather, one will rarely if ever get to the water. Go fishing and have fun!
    Quote Originally Posted by Neilslure View Post
    I dont let a bunch of scientists fill my mind with clutter... they aren't necessarily always right. I throw the books out the window and go fishing... a lot of times I catch them good going against the grain.
    ChltBnks likes this.


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