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02 Jun

Do Bass Bite Humans? Ultimate Guide to Handling Bass

How To

Handling fish tends to be the area that gives new anglers, young and old, the most problems. With fishing, basic equipment usage doesn’t require a lot of effort to get started, and most things tend to come naturally or with little guidance. Problems usually start to occur when it comes to getting the fish onto the bank, handling the fish while de-hooking it, and properly releasing the fish.

There are multiple reasons that proper handling needs to be a focal point in the fishing community. First, there is the safety aspect. Letting a fish dictate how the experience pans out is a good way to end up with a sharp hook flying around uncontrollably, larger fish might throw you off balance while you’re on your boat or a rocky shore, and generally, it’s just better to be in control of the situation. Then, there are the ethical reasons for proper handling. Fishing isn’t 100% safe for the fish. Improper handling increases the chance of killing or harming the fish, and that results in an unnecessary death that goes against CPR standards and sustainable fishing.

This is a guide that will predominantly help brand-new anglers, but experienced anglers might be able to pick up a tip or two that helps with ethical fish handling or simply controlling the fish more effectively. The guide will also answer the burning question: do bass bite humans?

Landing the Bass

This is part of the handling process that can typically present the most danger to you and the fish, and while it’s typically a very easy thing to do properly, it is something you need to focus on when you’re first starting out.

Small bass and large bass are typically going to require two separate approaches, and we’ll cover them separately in a minute, but the basics are the same for each.

First, make sure you have proper footing and you’re as balanced as possible. Whether you’re standing on a boat or fishing from a rocky bank, a fall can be dangerous. If you start to lose your balance and fall, divert your focus to correcting that. It’s tempting to land the fish at any cost, but that’s not going to be pleasant if you fall onto a bunch of rocks, sandwich the fish between you and some rocks, or go overboard without a life vest.

Then, you should never drag the fish through the environment. Sometimes, you’ll be fishing in a spot where you can’t be right up on the water to lip or net the bass, and it might seem as if you are stuck skimming it through the grass or rocks until it gets to you. That’s not an ethical way to land the fish, can cause undue harm to it, and is completely avoidable with an extended net handle or properly using your rod to lift the fish to you.

Regardless, this is also the first time in the encounter you will be putting your hand in the fish’s mouth. So, do bass bite? No, not really. If they bit down like alligator gar, you wouldn’t see fishermen sticking their thumbs in their mouths or digging hooks out with their bare hands. So, you don’t need to worry about getting bitten.

However, bass do have plenty of small teeth that almost feel like sandpaper, and if you let them thrash around in your hand, you can get a minor cut or abrasion. It’s typically nothing to write home about, but if it’s an issue, we recommend wearing some thick gloves while handling the fish. They can’t chomp down, and those sandpaper-like teeth won’t be able to abrade your fingers.

Small Bass Landing Techniques:

With small bass, there is rarely a reason to bust out the net and attempt to scoop the fish up. The vast majority of rods are more than capable of "airlifting" the bass out of the water and to you without the fish scraping along the ground. This is typically how you’re going to get all your small bass to you whether you’re on the shore or in a boat.

Once the fish is close enough for you to grab it, stick your thumb in its mouth and grab a hold of its lower lip to lift it to you and start the next phase of handling. With smaller bass, you won’t harm the fish. Just be reasonably gentle. It is a living creature you’re dealing with. You don’t have to manhandle it.

Large Bass Landing Techniques:

When fishing large bass, and this includes your average-sized four and five-pounders, you have to make a judgment call and take some things into consideration.

First, if it’s a very large bass, it might be beneficial to use a net. Plenty of anglers don’t use one, but it can help a beginner control the fish. Especially since it usually has plenty of fight left in it when it gets to the shore.

For this technique, simply control your rod with one hand, and get the net in front of the bass until you can scoop it up in a controlled fashion. Then, lift it out of the water, sit your rod down gently, and start the next handling phase.

However, if you don’t have a net or don’t want to use one, you can still lip the bass. With large bass, it’s not optimal to just muscle them out of the water and dangle them around on the end of your rod. Their weight can damage your rod, snap your line, or pop the hook out of their lip. In any of those situations, you have lost the fish and probably damaged your kit.

Instead, you want to wrestle the fish all the way to the bank, lift it just enough so its face is out of the water, and lip it you can then use your rod and your hand to safely lift the bass out of the water. Once you’re away from the edge and have control of the fish, prop your rod up so the line has slack, and move on to the next phase.

De-Hooking the Bass

Again, bass don’t bite, and by now, you should be in a position that is far easier to balance in. So, the only dangers you face are letting the fish thrash until it abrades your thumb or potentially letting a hook fly out of its mouth uncontrollably. The hook is a much bigger issue.

With small bass, this is an easy process. You can keep the bass lipped with one hand, prop your rod up against you until the line has slack, and quickly remove the hook. Keep the bass lipped, and keep your de-hooking fingers on the lure at all times. Once the lure is removed, carefully secure the lure on your rod or the ground. This is why you want to have slack on the line. If you pop that lure out and let go while it’s under tension, the lure will get flung around randomly, and it might catch on your face, hand, or anything else. There are plenty of ER stories to be told regarding treble hooks caught in reckless anglers’ eyes and scalps because of this mistake.

With larger bass, this phase is a bit more complicated. For your typical 4 and 5-pounders, the small bass method still works. Just be mindful of the effect it’s having on the fish, and if the fish is thrashing, you might need to sit the fish and your rod down so you can use both hands to control the fish’s body.

However, with very large bass, it is not okay to just keep the bass lipped while you snap your photo and get it de-hooked. The weight of the bass can cause fatal jaw injuries if you just hang the fish from its lip like that. Instead, lip the bass, set your rod in a way that puts slack in the line while freeing up your rod hand, and then grab the fish’s belly with your free hand. This will give you more control during your impromptu photo op, and it will relieve stress on the jaw of the bass. To de-hook the bass, it is usually beneficial to lay it gently on the ground or your boat’s hull while you remove the hook. This prevents you from swinging it around by its lip while you fight with the hook. This method can also be used for small bass, but it’s not really necessary.

Releasing the Bass

Finally, we’re at the last part of your experience handling a bass. Most beginner anglers, or anglers without respect for the fish, think it’s enough to just toss the fish back into the water like you’re skipping rocks.

That is not the proper way to do it, it can result in the fish smacking a rock and dying or might not let the fish recover enough to survive more than a few minutes after the catch.

Luckily, this is super easy. You already have the hook out of the fish's mouth, it’s probably too tired to be thrashing around at this point, and the only real danger you face is falling. You will be kneeling back down to the water, and on some surfaces, you might slip if you aren’t paying attention.

First, carry the bass back to the water after you get your photo. You don’t want to keep the bass out of the water longer than you need to. You dramatically decrease its ability to survive when you keep it on land for too long. You can keep it lipped, but we recommend holding its belly to support its weight. This is especially necessary with larger bass.

Now, kneel down to the water, and gently hold the fish in the water while stabilizing it. You’re essentially helping the fish rest and get its energy back, and it’s the least you can do after beating it in an honest fight. This might take a minute. Just hold the fish in the water and make sure it doesn’t go belly up. It’s likely tired, in shock, and generally not fit for survival.

You don’t have to do anything beyond that at this point. When the fish is ready to go, it’ll swim away quickly. Just don’t keep the bass lipped while you’re stabilizing it.

Sometimes, the fight is just too much. That occasion is always disheartening, but luckily, it’s rare. It usually happens when the fight is too hard, the fish isn’t returned to the water quickly, or something happened that traumatically damaged the fish. So, it’s usually avoidable.

Now, in some situations, you might be forced to just toss the fish back. For example, if you’re pier fishing on a long pier, you can’t take the time to walk all the way down the pier, get to the edge of the water, and release it properly. That takes too long. If that’s the case, it’s important to make sure you get it past any rocks, debris, or hazards, and preferably, make the drop as small as possible. At no point should the bass be flung through the air like a frisbee for your own enjoyment. Minimize the stress on the fish as much as possible.

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If you follow all these guidelines, you’ll play a major part in preserving the bountiful bass population for generations to come, and your grandchildren’s grandchildren will be able to enjoy the sport to its fullest. When these guidelines aren’t followed, and the fish are disrespected, the quality of the experience diminishes with every bass that doesn’t make it back into the wild safely. That’s why the CPR approach to bass fishing is absolutely crucial; to preserve the country’s top game fish.

Hopefully, we’ve guided young or new anglers toward handling bass properly and not only preserving their own safety but also preserving the sport. If a few experienced anglers learned to stop some old bad habits, that’s even better.

We also recommend reading the Ultimate Guide on Fishing Bass for more useful advice and information.

If you’d like to improve your bass fishing experience, whether you’re brand-new or have been fishing for decades, check out the BassForecast Fishing App.