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If you spend enough time in the American South, you will eventually be exposed to bass fishing. Whether fishing from a bank, dock, or boat, the largemouth bass, or Micropterus salmoides, is one of the most popular game-fish from Texas to Florida. The species has even been introduced in the Great Lakes and in freshwater near the Hudson Bay. This feisty predator has already inspired an entire culture of competitive fishing and is quickly becoming the favorite catch of anglers across the nation.
Largemouth bass are characterized primarily by their large mouth, with the upper jaw extending well beyond the eye. They also have a set of dark spots along their sides that form a jagged stripe extending from the gills down the length of the body. The dorsal fin is nearly split; the rear section is composed of several soft rays, while the anterior contains a set of sharp spines. Unlike the spines of catfish, these do not contain any form of poison, but they can cause lacerations which should be thoroughly cleaned and dressed to avoid infection from other sources.
The largemouth bass is a natural predator from birth, and is known for its indiscriminate and voracious appetite. Young fish commonly eat insects, shrimp, and small bait-fish. As the fish grow, so do their diets, and adults are known to eat small game-fish, frogs, and crawfish. The largest of this breed of bass has been known to dine on snakes, bats, and even small birds; on occasion largemouth bass will cannibalize smaller members of the species. Ultimately, the accepted rule of thumb is that a largemouth bass will eat nearly anything up to 35% of its body length.
While the largemouth is at the top of his natural food chain, he is selective about the areas from which he hunts. These predators typically prefer still, clear water, and they tend toward shaded areas such as overhanging banks, floating docks, and underwater logs. In flowing waters such as rivers and streams, the fish are most likely to be in still pools or oxbows. Bass often move near an inflow of water to feed; these, however, are often smaller than ones which have no trouble finding food in still waters.
The popularity of bass fishing can be attributed to the willingness of the fish to take almost any bait and to the ferocity it displays once on the line. Poppers, cranks, spinners, and spoons all work well, though plastic worms, lizards, and brush-hogs bouncing along the bottom are the more popular means by which to catch largemouth bass; this likely has more to do with simplicity of technique and the inexpensive nature of plastics than their effectiveness in attracting the fish. History has shown that even a novice fisherman can catch a sizable bass with nearly any lure he chooses. Though largemouth bass have tasty meat, it is usually considered proper etiquette to observe catch-and-release practices, especially in areas where anglers fish primarily for sport.
The widespread popularity of largemouth bass as a game-fish has resulted in the presence of these fish across the United States. They will hit nearly any bait and provide an excellent fight upon being hooked, sometimes coming completely out of the water in their attempt to escape. With these things in mind, any angler seeking an enjoyable day on the lake can certainly find it fishing for the largemouth bass.