Spotting bubbles at the surface of the water can be very exciting, especially since most anglers take it as a sign that some type of bass fish is swimming down below.
This brings about the questions: Do bass make bubbles? What do these bubbles mean? And how can you pinpoint them?
If you’re wondering about those things, then you came to the right place! In this article, we’re answering all these and more, so let’s dive in!
What Do Bubbles Mean?
The first thought to cross your mind when you see bubbles shouldn’t be “oh! There’s a fish here!”. Instead, you should take the time to determine whether or not it’s actually a fish that caused these bubbles.
Yes, unfortunately, bubbles can be the result of natural underwater processes, not bass. Here’s how:
Pockets of gas naturally develop in the substrate of all waters. These gas pockets result from the bacterial breakdown of organic matter.
Any disturbance in the substrate of the water (such as fish or water movement) can cause the pockets to expel its gas content, which bubbles up to the surface.
However, the release of gas trapped in the substrate can also happen without any form of disturbance as a result of natural steady accumulation. This often makes the angler think a fish is responsible for the bubbles when it’s not.
Author Note: Bubbling is more common in areas of organic matter (such as silt) as the bacterial activity is at its highest level. But it can be seen over hard gravel substrates as well.
The type of gas released differs according to the nature of the substrate. Whether the breakdown is aerobic or anaerobic, the gas could be anything from oxygen to methane or the nasty hydrogen sulfide (Yes! The one that smells like rotten eggs!)
Of course, this chemistry is pretty irrelevant for most anglers who simply view the act of bubbling as a suggestion that a fish is lingering around.
Another possible reason for the formation of bubbles is the feeding and other regulatory processes of the fish themselves. They release bubbles through their gills as part of the sorting process where fish separate food from non-food items.
Additionally, depth regulation mechanisms often require the release of gas from the swim bladder as the fish move upwards in the water.
How Can You Identify Fish Bubbles?
It takes some learning to differentiate between the bubbles formed by fish and the ones resulting from natural processes. Experience is key, so the more you study the water, the better you get in pinpointing bass bubbles.
Here are some tips to help you along the way:
- Bubbles caused by the physical feeding process and depth regulation mechanisms in fish are relatively large and short-lived. This means that they ‘pop’ soon after breaking the surface.
- If you’re dealing with larger feeding fish, you should be able to observe two lines of bubbles – one coming from each gill. But this is usually hard to notice for beginners because the lines may not be very clear.
- Fishes feeding over silt typically produce smaller, more persistent bubbles that often form a thin foam. Occasionally, larger bubbles will join the smaller bubbles. These are generated from physical expulsion through the gills during the release of the gases trapped in the silt.
- The key to identifying feeding bass bubbles is that the bubbles follow the location of the fish, meaning they “move” as the fish moves around the water.
On the other hand, gas bubbles resulting from natural processes tend to be static and often originate from a single source; an area of silt that ruptured from the build-up.
- Sometimes, you may notice large “sheets” of fish bubbles rising to the surface and covering a wide area. This usually happens when a fish is rolling on the river or lake bed.
In fact, this is typical catfish or carp behavior where the weight and length of a big fish rolling on or burrowing through silt disturb large areas of trapped gas.
What to Do After Pinpointing Bass Bubbles
Once you’re sure that the bubbles you see are, in fact, bass bubbles, it’s time to catch those bad boys!
Here are some tips to increase your fish-catching chances:
- Find cover – the most important step to catch bass is to drop your lure where the fish are. To do this effectively, you need to first find cover on the water you’re fishing in.
The cover could be anything from grass and lily pads to docks and rock. Bass prefer lingering around cover, especially when feeding.
- Match the hatch – as savages, imitating the preys of bass isn’t just a good idea to get bit, it’s mostly the only way.
For this reason, make sure your lure mimics the type of forage that the bass is feeding on in the waters you’re planning to seek.
If they’re feeding on small minnows, throw a drop shot rig. If shad is the primary forage, your best option may be a silver-colored crankbait.
- Understand the effect of weather – weather conditions usually have a significant effect on the behavior of bass. Knowing this is key to become a successful bass angler.
For example, bass fish tend to be more active when it comes to feeding on cloudy days. This is when you’ll probably notice more bubbles.
In contrast, bass like to “stand by” and wait for meals to come to them on sunny days.
Author Note: Consider the water temperature – the feeding patterns and activity levels of bass are affected by the water temperature. In general, bass will move slower in colder water (throw slower-moving bass) and faster in warmer water (throw more aggressive lure).
General Bass Fishing Tips
Before we close, we also wanted to go over some general tips for bass fishing. Identifying where the bass are is half the battle – now you need to actually catch them! Here are a few pointers that will increase your success rate.
Match Your Lure Color to the Conditions
Depending on the weather, you’ll want to use different colored lures. If it’s a bright and sunny day, we recommend using darker colored weedless lures or natural colored lures.
Since the direct sunlight will allow the bass to see very clearly through the water, you don’t want to scare them off with lures that are too bright. We like using dark green and brown lures in these conditions.
For dark or overcast days, the opposite is true. Bass will have a harder time seeing your lures, so using a bright-colored lure is strategic. On these days we like to use white and light green colored lures.
Match Your Action to the Conditions
Much like the color of your lures, you should match the action you apply to them to the conditions. What do we mean by this? On bright days when the visibility is especially high, you won’t need to work your lures that aggressively. This is because any nearby bass will easily see your lure and either be attracted to it or not.
For days with less visibility, the opposite applies. You should retrieve your lure more vigorously to make sure any hungry bass in the nearby waters notice it. Don’t go crazy though! Adding more sporadic jerks and a quicker retrieval is all you need to do.
Think Like Prey
What do we mean by this? We mean to try and make your lure act as natural as possible. If you’re fishing a frog lure, think like a frog! Try and retrieve your lure exactly how a frog would jump. Cast your lure close to shore and have it frantically jump towards cover.
Author Note: If you’re fishing a Texas rig, try and give the worm a frantic injured retrieval. Try and mimic what the actual prey would do. This will work the best in convincing a tentative bass to strike.
Fish at the Right Time
And by the right time, we mean the time of day and the time of year. Bass are most active during the golden hours of the day. These are the two hours before and after both sunrise and sunset. This is because the limited light gives them an advantage in hunting smaller fish and other prey.
They also haven’t eaten much after sleeping at night, so they’ll be actively hunting in the morning.
As far as seasons go, the best time of year to fish for bass is in the spring and in the fall. The fall is great because it’s when bass mate and are most aggressive. They’re also more inclined to eat because they’re preparing for winter. During winter food is much more scarce, so they need to increase their fat reserves to survive.
The springtime is also great for bass fishing because they are coming out of winter and are hungry. They haven’t been eating much for the past few months and will be aggressively feeding.
The other reason why these seasons are best for bass fishing is that the water temperature is ideal for the fish. In the summer it gets too hot during the day, and in the winter it gets too cold. In the spring and fall, it is just right.
Do Bass Make Bubbles? Well, the simple answer is yes, but there’s more to the story.
You see, the size and nature of the produced bubbles can guide you to identify the species of bass causing them – at least to a certain extent.
However, this takes time and practice to master. So the more you study the water, the easier you’ll be able to spot and identify bass bubbles.