The most popular freshwater fish to catch throughout America is the largemouth and smallmouth bass. But what makes them so popular?
While there are many reasons that bass are the most popular species to fish for, the most simple reason is that they are everywhere but there aren’t so many that they’re easy to catch. So they live in almost every fishery, but are challenging enough to be worthwhile. But there are other reasons too!
Lets get into 8 reasons that bass fishing is so popular so we can talk about each one.
1. Bass are in almost any fishery
When you go to a pond, river, or lake you’re bound to see many different types of fish. A variety of panfish including bluegill, perch, or crappie. Then there are likely some catfish as well. Maybe even some carp. And you’re sure to find some largemouth or smallmouth bass.
But outside of those fish, there aren’t many freshwater species that just show up in almost every body of water. Species like trout, pike, muskie, striper, or walleye are really fun to catch. But the majority of fisheries across the U.S. just don’t have them in large supply. Bass are available in about every one – from big lakes to small ponds. From Washington to Florida.
The reason for this is because bass are very adaptable to various conditions. They can live in cold water as well as warm. They can adapt to shallow or deep water as well. Rocks or grass. Muddy or clear. They can eat almost any fish smaller than them, a variety of crustaceans like crayfish, frogs, salamanders, and even bugs or fish eggs.
So wherever you are, you’re likely to find a good population of bass available. It makes them a very popular fish for anglers – knowing no matter where they are they have a good chance to catch them!
2. But there aren't too many bass either
While bass can be found in about every fishery across America, what makes them truly special is they aren’t overpopulated either.
When learning to fish, you likely used a bobber with a nightcrawler. It’s the simplest form that lets even the beginner catch fish, just throw it out and wait for the bite. You’ll catch tons of different panfish doing this – things like perch or bluegill.
The reason for this is that they are usually everywhere in a fishery. You don’t really have to try that hard to catch them – just put some bait in a general area and you’re sure to find one hungry enough to bite the hook.
Bass are different. They might bite a worm every now and then, but they’re a bit more picky. And there aren’t so many of them that you’re sure to find one by casting anywhere. They usually only are in specific locations that you need to put some thought into to find.
This duality of bass is really what makes them special. You CAN catch them anywhere, but you WON’T catch them everywhere. So it makes a great mixture of availability with a challenge that sport fishermen love. That’s what really makes the bass so special.
3. Bass fight really hard
Once you catch your first good sized bass, you’ll also be hooked on how well they fight!
Perch and bluegill are fun to catch, but don’t really pull so hard on the end of your line that you ever become worried of line breaking or other mishaps. Even larger species like catfish and carp will fight and provide a thrill – but they are not the most agile fish that twist and turn and swim around like crazy.
When you hook a bass, it will do all of the above. They’re big enough to really pull against the line and make you worry about breaking off. They swim so quickly they can dart for a tree or dock and tie you up if you aren’t careful. Often times they even jump clear out of the water to try and spit out your lure!
Bass are the most exhilarating and exciting fish to catch outside of deep sea fishing in my opinion. And obviously other people must agree – considering it is so popular!
4. Bass can get to a pretty good size
The most exciting part about fishing though is seeing how big your catch is when you do finally get it out of the water. And with bass, you have a lot to anticipate.
Where I live in Virginia, bass can get as large as 12 pounds in many fisheries – though anything in double digits is unusual. But go to Florida or California where warmer strains of bass live and you’ll find them all the way up to 16 or 18 pounds. And catching something 10+ lbs is actually quite doable for many anglers.
The majority you catch though are well under that. An average bass is 2 to 3 pounds. And even those are quite impressive to look at. So it’s not only that bass can get so large, but that they vary so often that the excitement of not knowing makes it even more fun to fish for.
They also don’t get so incredibly large that they require heavy gear or specialized set ups. You can catch even a ten pound bass on a child’s barbie rod as shown below. If you’re catfishing and catch a 50 to 100 pound cat, you probably won’t have as much luck.
5. Bass will bite a lot of different types of bait
Probably one of the most underrated aspects of bass fishing is that you have so many different kinds of lures at your disposal.
Most fish have a singular food source. Panfish are caught best with nightcrawlers. Crappie are caught best with minnows or anything that resembles them. Catfish exclusively feed on the bottom of the water.
Bass on the other hand can be caught with a variety of different lures. Topwater, crankbaits, worms, you name it. Some lures mimic fish. Some lure crayfish. There are even lures in recent years that are meant to mimic small ducks and mice to catch bass that are very hungry.
So when you get bored of a bobber and worm, and want to have lures that you can work yourself in a variety of different ways to catch a fish, you come to bass fishing. Most types of fishing is just sitting and waiting for a fish to bite. Bass fishing is all about using different lures, reeling them in in different ways, bouncing them in different ways to get different actions. This all makes bass fishing much more fun and interactive than other types of fishing.
6. Bass live in specific locations
Additionally, when you fish for bass you target casts to precise locations. This makes even the practice of casting fun.
Catfish, panfish, or really any other freshwater fish just roam general areas most of the time. When you cast, you don’t have to get it in an exact spot to catch a fish. You probably just have a general area – you toss out your line and wait for a fish to happen by and bite it. Which is fun – but not the most interactive process.
Bass fishing is completely different. You see a boat dock and can just imagine the bass sitting underneath it waiting for a meal to come by. You toss your worm right beside the piling and wait for it to fall. Give it a twitch, then BAM! You feel him bite and you’re bringing him in.
There is something much more exciting about knowing that you put the lure exactly where it needed to be to catch that fish. And it happens in bass fishing more than any other kind. You don’t just get lucky – you knew where to put that lure.
7. There is a science to catching bass
Which brings me to the reason I love bass fishing – and frankly the reason I write this blog. Bass fishing is way more scientific than the majority of people realize.
There is some science that goes into catching any type of fish. You need to know where they are, when they’re active, what they want, etc. But even if you know this, it’s still a great matter of luck. You need the fish to swim by at that time, happen to bite your bait, and hope that it happens to be a big one.
Fishing for bass is much more purposeful. You choose a specific lure because it matches the conditions you’re fishing. This can be influenced by water clarity, water depth, time of day, time of year, temperature, even the amount of sun that is out. You may think I’m overstating this, but listen to any professional fisherman talk about fishing. You’ll soon find out how many layers there really is to becoming a great bass fisherman. It takes decades to hone and master.
But the reason that makes bas fishing so popular is that its so rewarding when you get it right. You put on the right lure, pick the right spots, and you catch bass after bass. Or pull up a 10 pounder, the catch of a lifetime. And you know it’s all because you put in the work, understood the fishery, and outsmarted the bass. It wasn’t just dumb luck, it was all skill!
8. Bass are a good looking fish
Finally, bass are a pretty attractive fish. So whenever you pull it out and take a picture, people aren’t just going to look at it like it’s a disgusting animal.
Obviously beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but the majority of people agree that there is something about a bass that just looks nice. When you grip right under their tongue and hold it up – it just looks right in a picture.
Catfish are just an ugly animal by comparison. They are usually brown and dirty, with no scales that refract light to provide a shine. Sunfish have pretty bellies maybe but just don’t look is good in a picture – or nearly as big.
So catch a nice 5 pound bass and take a picture. It just looks right.
So go to your local Bass Pro Shops and pick up a bass fishing rod and reel. And a few lures. Read articles like the ones below to find out all the right gear you need. But most importantly, go bass fishing!