Importance of Resident and Seasonally Transient Prey to Largemouth Bass in the St. Johns River, Florida
Nicholas A. Trippel, Micheal S. Allen & Richard S. McBride
Bass are considered generalist predators, often times feeding most heavily on what type prey is most prevalent. As such, you frequently see seasonal variations in diet, and this can, at times, correlate to bait choice for anglers. One good example of this is the frequency with which blue jigs and similar colored baits have scored major wins or high finishes on places like the James River, where bass often take advantage of blue crabs in their diet. Another recent study on Florida's famed St. Johns River revealed a similar pattern, but involving different species.
In this study, the four most common prey species were threadfin shad, bay anchovy, Atlantic croaker, and Atlantic menhaden. Atlantic Menhaden (in the pic) were most energetically beneficial to bass when available, and as such, were eaten by bass of all sizes. However, they were found only from September through November in the river.
Atlantic croaker were most prevalent in the river during the months of April, May and June, and appeared in bass diets accordingly. Bay anchovy was a common river species that appeared in the diets of smaller bass in all months except September and October. In medium and larger size bass, they were really only prevalent in bass diets during the winter period of December through March. Threadfin shad was another prey species that was commonly consumed most all year round.
The lesson to be learned is that it can be important to know what is commonly available prey in the waters you fish, as well as when that prey and the bass might intermingle. If you can figure this out, you might have an edge when it comes to selecting baits or bait colors. One good example of this was Lake Waveland. Prior to it being renovated, gold Rat-L-Traps probably accounted for more bass and more tourney wins on that lake than most other baits. As it turned out, fishery surveys showed a healthy population of golden shiners in the lake at the time. Coincidence?