A Bass’s Sense Of Hearing.

By: Leo Watson

The black bass is an incredible predator. It can explode on a top water plug in dark, muddy water. It can easily capture forage after dark, and pinpoint prey in heavy cover. How can the bass pinpoint such objects when it can’t rely solely on its eyes or sense of smell? Quite easily. The bass utilize their full range of senses, especially hearing. Hearing is the bass’ most acute sense, however it is largely misunderstood. Bass detect sound through their lateral line at a distance of up to 100 feet, about twice as far as they can see! 
Sound and vibration travel four times faster in water then they do in air. In water, sound waves are transmitted at 5,000 feet per second. What this means is that the signal strength of a rattling bait, such as a rattle trap as it is cranked through stained or muddy water will be easily detected by bass in the area. Bass detect distant sounds with their inner ear. They identify closer sounds through lateral line. At distances of more than 20 feet, a bass will hear the sound with its inner ear. Sounds particularly those of high frequencies, are transmitted through the skin, muscle and bone to the inner ear, but the bass will not be able to detect the source or its location. To pinpoint objects, bass utilize their lateral line, which consist of a series of sensitive nerve endings that extend from just behind the gills to the tail on each side of the bass. The lateral line is a displacement-pressure receptor that "feels" the pressure waves   created by objects moving through the water.  At distances less than 20 feet, bass employ their lateral line to detect underwater vibrations and noise sources. The sound/distance factor is significant if you are wading, tube fishing or fishing from a boat in an area with very little cover. When casting in waters with sparse cover position yourself more than 20 feet away from your target. The underwater world is not as silent as some anglers think. Bass are very aware of the sounds that are normal parts of their environment. Some fish use sounds in their mating rituals or as a warning to predators. Crayfish and freshwater shrimp make clicking sounds, according to experts. Large crayfish often emit claw snapping and antenna scraping sounds. Initial underwater contact between predator and prey is not usually by sight or smell but through sound waves.
Bass themselves sound off by flaring and closing their gill plates. A bass protecting its territory or spawning bed will spread its fins and open and close its gills with a loud clap to scare away intruders. I have personally witnessed this behavior while spending many hours observing bass during the spawn. At times I could even hear them slamming their gill plates shut. It is a mighty intimidating sound to say the least.  Through sight, scent and sound we have seen how the bass operates. With exceptional sensory powers how do bass fall prey to mans imitations? It’s due to a need they share with us ...... the need to eat!  I hope all of you have enjoyed and learned from this series of articles on the bass’ senses. Reading  and understanding these articles will help you boat more fish. Keep checking back on this website for more articles written by myself to help you learn more about the science of bass fishing. Remember always take a kid fishing. They are the future of our great sport.   Good luck,  Leo Watson  Pro Staff -  Contact me with your questions or comments at leo.watson@bassonhook.com ,

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