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How Well Do Bass See Color?

Bass are “sight” feeders, so water clarity and keen eye senses are critical for normal development.

Interesting data from Chris Horton at Bassmasters explains bass have a large ocular lobe.  Big, protruding eyes provide broad peripheral vision.  Their only blind spots are directly below and behind. Bass experience excellent night vision by collecting more light than human eyes.  Since they’re ambush feeders, nighttime hours are productive foraging periods.

Vision is predominantly monocular.  To focus on an object, both eyes must see it simultaneously.  Bass may detect motion on one side, but to clearly identify the object, they must position themselves so both eyes peer in the same direction.

The most common question biologist receive regards a bass’ ability to distinguish color.  Without a doubt they do! Retinas have cones and rods.  Rods help process black, gray, and white.  Cones interpret color and bass eyes contain numerous cones.  Color is a product of light.  Water clarity influences color spectrums.  If there’s a strong algae bloom or recent rain created murky conditions, light responds differently.  At night, bass rely on rods to see shadows and movements.  During new moons, increased ambient light in water dissipates quickly with depth.  In these conditions, darker lures have more contrast and are seen better.  On bright, moonlit nights, light penetrates deeper increasing recognition of colors.

Bass have great eyesight.  If water is exceptionally clear, they can see you in a boat.  I’ve had a fishing buddy joke about my bright colored shirt.  Couple excellent vision with a “radar-like” lateral line that senses vibration and you see why bass are the top predator in your pond.

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