Then it dawns on me again ... it's either a change in season (their season, that is), a change in the weather, a change in the water. These are the usual things that will affect how the bass feed. But not how the bass strike. The way a bass strikes is determined upon why it strikes. Most people think that a bass strikes because it is hungry. That's one reason ... and usually the most aggressive reason. That is why it is best to fish at the times designated by the moon phases, since that is what triggers all of nature to feed.
But what about the other times. Why would bass strike if they are not hungry, or it is not their natural time to feed? There are numerous other reasons that cause bass to strike a lure or a bait. One is territorial. The bass is an extremely territorial fish, and it will strike at anything that enters its domain. Not necessarily to eat it, just to either kill it or deter it from sticking around.
Another is preparation. During the mating season, the bass, both male and female, will gorge themselves to stock up for the mating ritual, during which neither one feeds. First, the male prepares the bed. Then the female moves in and lays her eggs.
Thereafter, is replenishment. Once she is done laying her eggs she leaves and goes back to feeding. The male fertilizes the eggs and then stays to protect them from predators. During this protection phase, the male doesn't eat ... he just either kills the predators or spits them back out away from the nest. He goes so long without eating that once the fry hatch, he will begin foraging on the young.
During the Fall as the waters cool down, bass tend to go on feeding frenzies, striking anything that moves in the water. They will gorge until they regurgitate, and then feed some more. This is a particularly exciting time to fish, especially if you come upon an entire school of bass in a feeding frenzy. It can look as if the entire area of water has come to a rolling boil.
Yet another reason is predatorial instinct. If something comes by that is within the "strike zone," a bass just can't help him or her self from striking at it, whether hungry or not.
And another is competition. If one bass strikes at a lure, another one (sometimes larger), tries to take it away. Who knows ... maybe it's sibling rivalry! That is why you may sometimes catch two bass at the same time if your lure has more than one hook on it, such as a treble hook.
As you can see, there are numerous reasons, not all mentioned here, why a bass will strike. And each of those reasons will cause the bass to follow through differently after the strike. For instance, if a bass is just protecting the nest then they will most likely just pick up the intrusion, move it a ways off, and then spit it out. Many times, the bass will be holding the lure/bait in such a manner that even if you set the hook at the optimal moment, you still won't catch it because the hook is not in its mouth. A bass only turns a lure head first into its throat if it intends to swallow it. Otherwise, they will just hold it sideways or endwise in its mouth until killing or disposing of it.
This is one reason why people flock to Florida in the late Winter and early Spring. That is the time when the Florida Black Bass is spawning on both the full moon and the new moon. So just before and after are great times to find them feeding like crazy, which makes it easier to find those trophy-size females. Plus, it's a great excuse to get out of the cold of up North.
Look down the right side of my blog and you will see some of those trophies that have been caught this season ... and all returned back so they can complete their spawning ritual. Because remember ... big fish breed big fish.
CPR = Catch, Photograph, Release