Fishing is really difficult for one simple reason – you can’t see underneath the water.
So how are you supposed to know exactly how deep the water should be when you’re fishing? And are bass a foot under the water or at the very bottom? Or maybe somewhere in the middle?
In this article, we will go through every answer as to where in the water column (how deep) you will find most largemouth bass throughout the year. But to give you a simple answer if you don’t want to read through, bass are most often found somewhere between 4 and 10 feet of water and usually tend to hang out near the bottom of the water. So that’s a good place to start.
But a better answer is more complicated, so keep reading to learn everything you need to know!
A brief guide to how temperature changes water depth for largemouth bass
If there is one thing that you take away from this article it should be this – water temperature is the number one factor in determining the water depth that bass will be in.
This is for a quite simple reason – bass like the water to be a certain temperature. Generally this is between 65 and 80 degrees. So they will constantly be changing their water depth to find water in this temperature. And what changes water temperature? The outside temperature!
As the outside temperature changes, the shallow water in a fishery is the first to start changing with it. This means when spring starts, the shallow water is the first to warm and then it gets warmer out deeper slowly. Or vice versa, when it’s summer and goes into fall, the shallow water cools before the deeper water.
Following this logic, we will know at what depth bass are at depending on the time of the year.
In spring, bass are trying to find the warmest water they can to thaw out from the winter. As the temperature rises outside, the shallows will be the first water to get into that low 60s they want. So as soon as it does, you’ll find bass cruising in shallows as shallow as 1 to 2 feet.
Then as it continues to warm quickly, the first 10 feet of water will be in a good temperature range and you’ll be able to find bass in a variety of water depths from shallow to mid-depth. But eventually, as summer starts, the shallows get too hot and the bass will start their trip deeper.
By mid summer, bass will be as deep as 20 to 30 feet to stay in the coolest water possible. Then, as fall begins and the water temperature in the shallows cool, they’ll make their way back to the edges again. And do the whole thing over again until the coldest days of winter, when they hold in the deepest part of the lake to find any warmth they can find.
The few times that water temperature and fish depth aren't related
Above I described how water temperature and the depth bass want to be at are linked. But that assumes that there is no other factor other than water depth which controls the water temperature. In actuality, this is rarely the case.
When you sit in your yard on a hot August day, you probably find a nice big shade tree which blocks the sun. Because the shade makes that area just a little bit cooler than everything around it.
The same thing happens in the water. If you find an overhanging tree or a nice big dock that casts shade into the water, the water right underneath it will be much cooler than everything around it. The bass will react much like humans – and sit right underneath the shade.
So in these cases, the water depth is not controlling the temperature, it’s the shade that controls the temperature. So you can throw out water depth and just fish near the shade.
Try to think of other things like this when fishing that might affect water temperature. Some examples are incoming water from a cooler source, making that area of the water cooler despite depth. Or a power plant churning water keeping one area of the lake warm even in the middle of winter.
If you find one of those things that changes water temperature besides just what the temperature is outside, you can use it to get onto some great bass and determine the exact right depth to fish at.
Why you usually find bass near the bottom of any fishery
Now that you know how water depth and temperature are intertwined, and how bass relate to that, we have to get into where in the water column bass will sit.
People often get confused if they are told to fish in 10 feet of water. They will just cruise around the middle of a lake, casting 10 feet down, wondering why they aren’t getting bites. In reality, when a bass fisherman says they’re fishing in 10 feet of water, it literally means there is just 10 feet of water where they fish and their lures are near the bottom.
Bass very seldom stray from the bottom of a lake and sit in the middle of the water. This is for a few reasons.
One, many bass will feed on crayfish and other crustaceans on the bottom of the fishery. So if they want to catch a crawdad, they’ll be right on top of the bottom looking for a meal.
There is also a sense of safety bass feels when near structure. Sometimes this can be provided by something sitting vertically in the water – say a dock piling. But these things don’t exist very often. The bottom of a lake though always provides this hard structure. So it’s natural they sit closer to it.
Finally, bass will use the bottom of the lake as a dead end to chase bait fish into. Usually, bait fish flee a bass quicker than the bass can attack. So if they were chasing them in open water constantly, they wouldn’t have a high success rate. Using the bottom as a dead end to pin bait into is another benefit for bass.
Due to all of these reasons, you should almost always fish for bass with the expectation that they are near the bottom of the depth you’re fishing at. So you should try and get your bait down near the bottom of the lake in almost all cases. Or at least in a range it can be seen from the lake bottom.
If you made it this far, you should know have a good understanding of exactly what depth you should be fishing at during all times of the year for bass. Just remember that water temperature is the number one factor in determining bass depth – so make sure you gain that information. Or at least look at what the weather has been like in the area so you can guesstimate what the water temp should be like.
Then, pick baits that work in that depth range as most bass will be towards the bottom of the fishery in that depth. And it’s as simple as that to start catching quality largemouth all year long!
But if you want a leg up, consider buying a fishfinder like this Deeper Smart Sonar which you can even use from the shore. Then you’ll actually know where the fish are!