What Do Smallmouth Bass Eat? Facts and Info

Photo Credit – @geecrackusa

Are you looking into fishing? If you are, you need to consider many things, like choosing the right bait for what you want to catch. That way, you can have a successful fishing trip, but before your next trip, consider what smallmouth bass eat.

Smallmouth bass eat plankton and aquatic insects. As the fish get older, they may eat crayfish, other fish, and insects from the water and land. At all ages, some smallmouth bass can even start to eat each other. Smallmouth bass can eat anything they come across in the water.

If you’ve never caught a smallmouth bass before, you should consider what they eat. While they eat some common things, you want to have the right bait on hand to catch one. Keep reading to learn more about what smallmouth bass eat.


Photo Credit – @truenorthbaits

When they’re young, smallmouth bass will eat plankton. Plankton are small organisms that float on currents and tides. That makes plankton easy prey for younger, smaller, smallmouth bass.

The fish can catch the plankton as they float since the plankton is too small to swim away. Most planktons are also very small and are less than an inch long. That small size further helps smallmouth bass catch the plankton for easy food.

Plankton can float anywhere, so bass shouldn’t have to look too hard for food. You can find many types of plankton, so that can help diversify the bass’s diet.

As bass get older, they won’t need to eat plankton as much. The older fish will be able to find other prey to fulfill their hunger. Still, plankton is readily available, and smallmouth bass is open to eating anything.

Aquatic Insects

Younger smallmouth bass will also eat aquatic insects. Like plankton, aquatic insects are relatively easy prey for bass who haven’t fully grown or learned how to catch more difficult prey. Smallmouth bass has multiple options when searching for aquatic insects to eat.

  • Alderflies
  • Ants
  • Beetles
  • Caddisflies
  • Damselflies
  • Dobsonflies
  • Dragonflies
  • Fishflies
  • Flies
  • Lacewings
  • Mayflies
  • Mosquitos
  • Moths
  • Scorpionflies
  • Stoneflies
  • Wasps
  • Water bugs
  • Water striders
Photo Credit – @dptroutbum

Younger smallmouth bass will typically eat immature aquatic insects. However, most are small and are easy for bass to catch. While not all members of the listed insects always live in water, many do.

If a young bass can’t find enough plankton, aquatic insects are a great next choice. They’re easy to see, too, so they may not be as hard to detect as plankton.

Terrestrial Insects

Photo Credit – @ruben_martin_flyfishing

As bass get older, they may start to eat insects that live on land. The bass may approach the water surface to find nearby prey. Or if a terrestrial insect falls into the water, it will be an even easier catch.

Bass can eat almost any terrestrial insect that comes their way. Insects are a great option for bait if you want to fish for smallmouth bass. You can find them almost anywhere, and you can give the fish bait they will eat.

Good insects to use for bait include ants and beetles. But you can also use other insects that you can catch. That way, you can use only insects for bait or experiment with insects and other bait types to help catch smallmouth bass.


Photo Credit – @spro_europe

Crayfish look like small lobsters, and they come from the same family of crustaceans. You can find them in freshwater, making them the perfect source of food for adult smallmouth bass. The fish most commonly live in the southeastern region of North America.

Australia also has a big crayfish population, so that smallmouth bass can eat the fish there. New Zealand also has a couple of related species in its local waters.

If you don’t recognize the name crayfish, it may be because you call the fish a different name. Different terms refer to this species, including:

  • Crawdads
  • Crawdaddies
  • Crawfish
  • Freshwater lobsters
  • Mountain lobsters

No matter what you call them, you may find smallmouth bass nearby if you know where to find them. Keep those locations in mind next time you want to fish for smallmouth bass.

Other Fish

Some smallmouth bass will eat other freshwater fish. If the bass can’t find other good sources of food, they can broaden their diet. Depending on where the bass is, they may be able to find tons of other fish to eat.

Of course, adult bass tends to eat other fish. Younger bass may not be big enough or strong enough to catch other fish. Once a bass does grow up, eating other fish can help them supplement their diet, or the fish can be a primary food source.

Other Bass

Photo Credit – @elite.bassfishingtackle

Not only will smallmouth bass eat other types of fish, but they’ll even eat other smallmouth basses. If a bass can’t find another fish to eat, they aren’t afraid to eat one of their own.

The bigger smallmouth bass has a better chance of eating another smallmouth bass. Because of that, younger bass are easy prey for the adults.

Some smallmouth bass live in shallow streams. So if they can’t find much other food, cannibalism may be their only option for surviving.

Not All Bass Hit Adulthood

Because of how some bass will eat other basses, younger fish may not reach adulthood. Roughly 90 percent of young smallmouth bass won’t live past a few years. Some of this is because of cannibalism.

Other large fish besides bass may also eat younger smallmouth bass. As a bass gets bigger, they can increase their odds of living to adulthood. However, other fish can still eat the smallmouth bass at any time.

Anything in the Water

Photo Credit – @buggsfishing

Luckily for you, almost anything in the water can attract a smallmouth bass. While plankton, insects, and other fish are common prey for bass, they aren’t the fish’s only food sources.

Bass aren’t picky eaters, so they will try anything. Of course, their diet changes as they age. But it can also depend on where they live and what other food is around.

That makes it easy for you to find the right bait to catch smallmouth bass. You don’t need a huge kit of specific bait.

What To Put On a Lure

Because bass isn’t picky, you can use just about anything on your lure. You can use something that looks like a small fish to attract the smallmouth bass. However, you can also use insects or other small bait.

You don’t have to make the lure look like fish or any other common bass food source. As long as you have something and you go fishing in the right spot, you can probably catch smallmouth bass.

Photo Credit – @lucky_fisher_

If you’ve never fished for smallmouth bass, consider experimenting. Bring a few types of bait on your trip to see what works. You may find that what you thought was best doesn’t work. Or you may learn that something you didn’t expect to work on was the most successful.

Why Bass Eat What They Do

Bass eat whatever will get them the nutrients they need. The fish may chew on something a couple of times to see if it’s the right food source that day. Sometimes, the bass will spit something out if it isn’t what they need.

When they find a suitable food source, they will eat it like anything else if they see your lure as a good food source, which gives you the chance to reel the fish.

Final Thoughts

Before you go fishing for smallmouth bass, you should consider what they eat. That way, you can pack the right types of bait to improve your chances of catching a fish. Consider bass’s most popular food sources, but don’t be afraid to experiment with other bait.


Recent Posts