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HeavyDluxe

"Schooling" bass

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So, I'm sorry is this has been discussed ad nauseum before and I just didn't have the right kung fu in my search to find it.

 

I've been consuming more 'fish knowledge' this past year - including things like the FLW podcast, etc - and, more and more, I've heard people refer to bass 'schooling'. 

 

When I got into bass fishing, I - as someone who works at a college - went the route of consulting all kinds of biological resources on bass (In Fisherman books, peer-reviewed papers from journals, etc) and devoured them more than technique-focused stuff.  Consistently, I see in them that bass are NOT considered to be a schooling species, and yet anglers sure seem to use the term.  I've been confused.

 

I think I've come to the conclusion that "schooling fish" in bass-angler parlance means something like this: A concentration of bass that are actively feeding (busting on top, etc) on a concentrated bait source.

 

Is that a fair definition from a 'technical' standpoint?  "School" me if I'm wrong. :)

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I will not try to school you. I don't think your definition is completely accurate though. I am not interested enough to try to get a textbook definition of schooling, but I can tell you that bass sometimes gather in large groups that seem to have little interest in feeding. 

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I'm interested in hearing more about this too, as I never really saw the "schooling" phenomenon in action until last week. Most of my fishing is done on shallow, weedy, eutrophic lakes without shad populations. When I find active bass, they are pretty much always cruising shallows, or around wood, vegetation or man-made cover.  But I was out at dawn the other day on a lake with a very large pelagic zone, and this feeding frenzy at the surface starts up in 25 feet of open water, a little ways offshore from where I was fishing. I didn't know it was bass until I got over there with a walking topwater, and sure enough, it was a bunch of little largemouth chasing...something (shiners? little perch? no shad in that lake). Lasted for a bout 30 minutes; little buggers were nailing the bait on every cast, but only hooking up about once every three strikes or so.

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I don't know enough to correct (or confirm) your statement.

 

But, if and when I stick a bass (top, middle or on the bottom), I try and make that same exact cast and retrieve a few more times. If there's one, there's more.

 

P.S. Mike someone (Lembeck?) did a fair amount of study on "schooling" and the gist is still saved somewhere on my harddrive. I had a hard copy report or two on his results- must have misplaced them somewhere.  @WRB Tom, would you have any info that's not easily found regarding this research?

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Bass are for sure schooling fish. They tend to school by size, not just while they are feeding, but also while resting and for safety in numbers. I have no studies to quote, all I have is my on the water experience. 

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LMB certainly may shoal, that is they often stay together in groups of similar sized individuals, but I don't believe they literally school, which involves coordinated swimming in the same direction. Check out the Wikipedia article:

 

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shoaling_and_schooling

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1 hour ago, deep said:

But, if and when I stick a bass (top, middle or on the bottom), I try and make that same exact cast and retrieve a few more times. If there's one, there's more.

 

Yup... But, I think what I've read says that has to do more with the fitness of the environment at that 'place' than the fishes instinct to group together.

 

If you opened a Chick-Fil-A in my town, lots of people - including my whole family - would congregate there. (Curse my idea of living in the frozen northeast for robbing me of delicious chicken!)  But, we're there because of the food source, not because we're instinctively grouping up because we feel like it.  The way I've seen it explained is that bass will congregate because of things like a pod of baitfish or good cover, but they'll happily cruise off on their own when the bait's gone rather than prefer to stay in pods.

 

Whenever I hear more seasoned anglers talk about 'schooling bass', it seems to be a real reference to feeding behavior.  "They're schooling over there!"  If that's what they mean, cool.  I don't care about the terminology. But, I am curious when I hear them say that whether what they're seeing is something ELSE (not just them grouped together and feeding) that I should be looking for...

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I've seen them swimming and resting in large concentrations as well. Times when I can mark a large group of fish that are all holding in the same area and not feeding on anything (no bites and no marks on the depthfinder of feeding fish). Come back hours later and they're still there and actively biting and feeding. 

I guess you could say they're there because it's a prime feeding area, but since that's one of the main concerns in a bass' life, a majority of the time they're where they are because there is food somewhere nearby. Seems like it's really difficult to decide if the group is there to school or for feeding. 

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Bill Murphy references Mike Lembeck DFG biologist tracking studies is his book In Pursuit of Giant Bass. Glen Lau documents schooling bass behavior in his video Big Mouth Forever.

There is scientific evidence regarding school bass behavior if you take the time to read or watch what has been documented.

The fact that bass of similar size tend to group together can be observed and proven by angler catches. Giant bass are rarely loners, they tend to group together with anywhere from 3 or more. The concept is big bass find a isolated spot and gard it from all intruders may be a result of anglers watching spawners, however big females often are located near a bed site. Both loners and groups or school bass existed in nearly every ecosystem.

Tom

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Could the similar size have something to do with the fish being territorial. I.e. A larger fish will run off a smaller fish but not be able to run off a fish its equal?  That would explain fish of equal size being together.  The concentration of fish in one area be the result of a prime habitat and or feeding area?

 

On average it is rare for me to find concentrations of large mouth bass beyond 2 in immediate proximity.  I do however find an "areas" where I'll catch a dozen fish.

 

My guess is the bass aren't true schools by definition but do have some schooling characteristics at times.  Kinda like coyote.  They don't run in true "packs" but will take those tendencies at times.   

 

Granted i I don't have electronics so I only see what I catch.  

 

For the record im making no claims. Just reporting my experiences on a subject that I've been giving thought to for awhile.  I'm not a biologist and I've only fished a few bodies of water in one state.  So...

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I don't have any written sources of information concerning schooling bass but from my own personal observations, I've seen it many times. One lake I fish in the spring has two spots I can count on finding a school of largemouths. In both spots, they school by size. In one spot, year after year, they are always small. 

With smallmouth, just a week ago, in a river, I was finding small schools, with both large and small fish swimming together. For that river, I have seen that many times. For me, it is certainly more common for me to see schooling smallies than largemouths. By the way, these have seldom been packs of fish attacking a school of bait. 

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Most generally when anglers refer to "schooling" bass they are referring to bass actively feeding on large "schools" of bait fish.

 

When at rest or non-active bass will hold on single pieces of structure in large groups. It is possible to "fire" up the whole "school" by catching one or two.

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From my experience I think largemouth are both isolated and will school. My fondest memory was about 7 years ago we had a mild winter and air temps in the 60 the last week of November, I was casting a lipless crankbait into a weedline just off of a ledge. I caught 30 bass ranging from 1# to 4# in 45 minutes. I was on shore and a boater seen me and came in and started fishing the same spot; both of us we hooking up on every cast. He put a camera in the water and seen that once we released the fish they would swim right back to the same spot they were in. after about an hour what looked like the biggest fish swam off and every fish followed. I didn't catch another fish the rest of the day. I have the video the boater sent me if I can find it I'll post it. To me that is a school of bass but majority of the time I can one or two in an isolated area.

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