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Saltwater Bass Behavior and Habits

Learn things about bass that help you catch more Fish.

Everyone loves fishing for stripers and there is something about them that appeals to everyone who fishes saltwater in Rhode Island.  Rhode Island is blessed with excellent fishing and many people come here from Mass, Conn, NY, NJ, and Penn to fish here.  Knowing a little about the peculiarities of these fish can help you catch more of them.

   Bass are not speedy swimmers.  They are good at quick bursts during which the fish can go very fast, but cannot maintain those speeds over distances.  Like many migratory species, they use tidal currents to get where they want to go.  In the springtime when they first arrive, they are full of vinegar and will chase schools of bait for miles, feeding as they go.  These are good times when anything you put in the water will work, and they are very aggressive.  Once the bait settles in and finds places to hide out, the bass also settle in.  Then it becomes difficult to find them during the daylight.  Bass are equipped with very large eyes and they have no eyelids, their eyes are not exaclty like ours in that they cannot adjust as well to the bright sunlight.  Stripers are very good at seeing in low light and night conditions.  They also feed more actively in daytime if its foggy or overcast, since this reduces the light available.   So if itís a bright sunny day in July and 10:30am, likely its not a good time to get out there and catch stripers.  If its going to be overcast and gloomy all morning, then it's a great time to get out there.   Nighttime is also another good time to fish for stripers, but the low visibility also brings danger to the boater and fisherman from rocks, bouys, other boats, etc.

   One thing to keep in mind when striped bass fishing is that they have a lateral line organ which they use to sense vibrations in the water.  They can sense vibrations at a good distance, because water transmits these vibrations much farther than air.  This is how they first zero in on a meal.  The last sense they use to decide to make a strike is visual.  When in an area of extremely strong current, the current itself causes so much vibration that the bass will be forced to use visual acquisition or smell only, making it much harder to catch them.  I can hear some of you disagreeing, but those of us who dive in New England waters can attest to the poor visibility, especially as you go deeper.  At 40í depth, a good day and very clear water there will be around 10í of visibility.   If itís not clear, this can drop to 3í.  If we consider an average of around 6í, you can see it might be very difficult to get your offering within visual range of a striper.  Rattles, violent movement, hefty jigging with a parachute jig, these all send out vibrations that bass can detect and zero in on.  Virtually any plug designed for bass fishing has rattles in it, so there is definitely something to it.

   In the early morning light doesn't penetrate very far and bass can be found chasing what bait there may be in shallow water.  The bait seeks the shallow water in an attempt to avoid the predators.  As the sun gets high in the sky, bass will move deeper to avoid the bright light.  So when you first start fishing, work shallow water and as the sun gets higher go into deeper water.

    Where will you find bass?  Usually around structure, such as drop offs, high points, boulders, rocks, and reefs, especially where there is a good tidal current that runs past.  The bait that bass eat also use currents when they travel and will also hide in reefs and rocks from predators.  Bass can certainly be aggressive and chase bait, but most times they ambush a bait, waiting for it to sweep by or come out of hiding so they can pounce on it.   This makes currents important, and explains why when the tide stops, fishing can turn off like a switch.  Stripers will often work the edge of the beach in the early morning, following the tidal direction when looking for bait.   Donít forget to keep a sharp eye for bass feeding at the surface, since this happens very often and can be hard to spot at a distance.  You should have an 8x50 or 10x50 binocular on board your boat for visual searching.  Anything stronger is very hard to use on a boat if not internally stabilized.

   When working shallow waters, engine noise is prime consideration as it can spook the fish and drive them off.  Very loud engines can drive them away even in deep water.  If your drifting and using plugs or jigs, its best to turn the motor off and fish that way.



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