If you’re a bass angler, learning how to properly hold a bass is key. Most anglers practice catch and release, and the proper handling of a caught bass will determine how well the bass does after you release it.
In short, when lifting a bass out of the water, the best option is to place your thumb inside the lower jaw and lift the bass vertically. Adding support to the bottom of the bass with your other hand helps when dealing with larger bass.
Continue reading to learn the details of handling a bass.
Landing A Bass Properly
Ideally, if you have a landing net, you can get the bass situated in the net at first. This will allow it to calm down a bit before you reach for it.
Once you’re ready to reach for a bass make sure you know where the hooks are. This is especially important if you’re using a lure with treble hooks. A treble hook could easily find its way into your hand. Being hooked to a flopping bass by a treble hook is definitely not recommended.
If you notice that there are treble hooks in the lower jaw area I recommend you use a tool. Try something like a needle-nose pliers or a fish grips.
You can use the pliers to try to remove the treble hook before you try and grab the bass by the lower jaw.
If you find yourself in a situation where you don’t have a tool, the only alternative I have found is to grab the lure body. Try and stabilize the lure so that it does not flop around. Then you can try and remove a treble.
Keep in mind that this is still a risky move and having pliers is a much better option. If you’re using treble hooked lures I think having pliers is a must.
How To Hold A Bass
When you’re sure you can grip the lower jaw of the bass without getting hooked, go ahead and grip it with your thumb. You can then lift the bass out of the water.
Vertical Bass Hold
A vertical bass hold is probably the safest way to hold a bass. Just let the bass hang down naturally by its lower jaw. If the bass is less than about 2 pounds, you can maneuver the bass around more safely. But as a bass gets larger the chance of injuring the bass increases.
If the bass is larger than about 2 pounds, do not try to hold the bass horizontally without supporting the body.
Horizontal Bass Hold
To hold a bass that’s larger than about 2 pounds horizontally, follow these steps.
- Lift the bass vertically.
- Place your other hand under the body of the bass at the belly or behind.
- Now you can lift the lower half of the bass and hold it horizontally.
The reason you want to follow these steps is to protect the bass.
If you try and hold a larger bass sideways by gripping just its lower jaw, you can cause damage to its connective tissues.
This can make it hard for a bass to recover from being caught and resume normal feeding behavior.
Largemouth bass use their mouth to create a suction that helps them consume their prey. To do this they need to be able to open and close their jaws extremely quickly.
Do Bass Have Teeth?
In short, yes, bass do have teeth. But they are composed of mainly small needle-like pins that stick up and are very close together. This creates a sandpapery area on the bass’s jaw. The teeth are pointed inward to help the bass get a solid grip on prey and draw them into their mouth.
When you grab a bass by the jaw, their teeth can cause “bass thumb.” Bass thumb usually happens when you have handled multiple bass. It’s caused by their sandpaper-like teeth. The teeth will wear the skin on your thumb down. If you look at someone’s bass thumb, you’ll see that the skin has tiny rips and flaps in it.
Many anglers wear their bass thumb as a mark of pride for having had a good day on the water.
Keeping Bass Out Of The Water
If you’re planning on releasing a bass you’ve caught consider minimizing the amount of time it’s out of the water. A good way to do this is to keep the net and bass in the water until you’re ready to remove the hook and photograph it.
If you are going to take pictures of your bass, another option is to place your bass in a livewell. This will allow it to keep oxygen flowing while you get ready to take your pictures.
If you’re not going to take pictures of your bass, remove the hook and get it back in the water as soon as possible. This will help ensure that the bass survives.