Fish Beat: Picking apart largemouth feeding habits

Darren Ebany of Rockford caught this 48-inch muskie in the Rock River.
Darren Ebany of Rockford caught this 48-inch muskie in the Rock River.

In almost all areas of North America, largemouth bass will be extremely active before and during their spawning season. After the spawn, when water stays consistently close to 78 degrees, often makes for perfect and consistent fishing.

Noting the feeding habits is essential in knowing where to fish during specific times of the day. Fish often feed just like other animals. Generally, largemouths enjoy a hearty breakfast and dinner, while some often pass lunch. The ones that do nibble during the day often do it from the comforts of the deeper, cooler water.


In relatively warm water, early morning is usually prime feeding time for bass. Mid-summer outings are usually successful with a variety of top-water baits such as Hula Poppers, Jitterbugs and jerk bait, especially around shorelines and weeds. Depending on the area, live bait such as frogs, leeches and feeder fish are effective in cool morning water.

Mid-day hunting

During hot seasons, when water temperatures rise, by mid-day, bass tend to head to deep, cooler water, where it’s easier for them to breathe. When the water remains around 78 to 80 degrees, some will hang in the shallows. Spinners, crank baits, floating lures and weighted plastic worms usually produce fish despite the need to move frequently to find pools and shaded shallow spots.


A setting sun and the calming lull of dusk is often a bass fisher’s dream. Vegetation is ripe, and feeder fish nibble at the surface for diving bugs. Largemouths emerge from the depths and begin their quest to answer the dinner bell. Shorelines, mats, fallen trees and rock faces are havens at dusk. Largemouths often won’t think twice about striking plastic worms, leeches, minnows and top-water lures as night approaches.

Area tidbits

Kent Creek has produced a variety of fish the past few weeks. Large flathead catfish are active near the river mouth, while muskie and northern pike are active despite considerably low water levels. A 27-inch walleye was landed Saturday, July 18, near Tinker Swiss Cottage.

Cold weather has kept bass in hiding while sizable pan fish are being taken at Pierce Lake at Rock Cut.

Where are the smallies?

This seems to be the first year since 1995 that smallmouths simply aren’t biting. The Kish produced some solid smallies in the spring, but hasn’t been so kind since. If they still exist, a few pictures of some big smallmouths would be worth the looking.

Send us your fishing photos

The Rock River Times is interested in seeing pictures of local fish caught in area waters. Send digital photos to us at with “Fish Beat Photos” in the subject line. Glossies can be sent to The Rock River Times, 128 N. Church St., Rockford, IL 61101.

from the July 22-28, 2009, issue

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