There are few better ways to spend a summer day than fishing for bass. Bass are found in bodies of water across the US and are a well loved classic to fish for. But once you’ve finally got a big one on the line, you are faced with another problem: how to safely remove the hook from your fish’s mouth. You may find yourself wondering if a bass has teeth in its mouth, and what would happen if it decided to chomp down on your hand.
Whether you catch a smallmouth, largemouth, peacock, or other bass, its important to know that all bass do have teeth! If you look carefully into the mouth of any bass, you will see a row of small, ridged teeth on both the upper and lower lips. These teeth are small but sharp, and angled back towards the fish’s throat. Larger bass, such as largemouth and peacock bass, tend to have more prominent teeth, while the teeth of a smaller fish like a rock bass may be nearly invisible to an untrained eye.
Read on to learn more about what bass use these teeth for, what a bass bite feels like, and what precautions you should take to protect your fingers while fishing.
What do bass use their teeth for?
Unlike people, bass have no need to chew their food before swallowing. Instead, the fish use their many small teeth to grip onto the slippery skin of frogs, fish, or other live prey.
Most bass are voracious eaters and will attempt to swallow anything that is small enough to fit into their mouths.
Once the bass has bitten down on its target, the inward facing angle of its teeth keep the prey from moving backwards and escaping before the bass can swallow. Despite their impressive mouths, bass only use their teeth to hunt, and are not known to bite people without provocation.
What does being bitten by a bass feel like?
The good news is: no bass can bite hard enough to cause serious harm to your hands. While the teeth of any bass can potentially break the skin, larger bass will have longer, better developed teeth than smaller bass.
Because a bass’s teeth are angled to grip whatever they bite, their teeth do not sink in deeply, and most bites will result in nothing more than a small rash or a few pinpricks of blood. Although uncomfortable, bass bites are unlikely to cause much serious pain, and you should be back to using your hand normally within minutes of the bite.
If a bass does bite you, be sure to remain calm and do not jerk your hand back. This can cause the teeth to push deeper into your skin. Instead, be sure to first move your finger towards the bass’s throat to dislodge the teeth from you finger. You can then remove your hand from their mouth entirely.
Are teeth the only thing to watch out for on a bass?
Besides its teeth, the bass has another surprising weapon: its dorsal fin. The dorsal fin is located on the top of the fish, about midway down its spine. In bass, this fin is protected with several razor sharp barbs which can cut your hands if you are not careful.
If the bass is thrashing on the hook, these barbs can even catch on your clothes and cause rips. Once your bass is out of the water, make sure you remain mindful of where its dorsal fin is facing, and do not grab a bass’ body without making sure the fin is first pressed flat against their back.
Running your hand or another item down the fishes spine from the head towards the tail will push the barbs down and get them out of the way.
How do I safely handle a bass?
- Move quickly! Being out of the water is extremely uncomfortable for any fish. While the bass will be a but stunned when it is first pulled out of the water, they will become more agitated and aggressive the longer they are kept on a line. Try to begin work on freeing the bass as soon as it is pulled out, and place it back in the lake or a cooler of water
- Bring the right equipment. A rag or thick glove can be helpful to hold the fish in place and keep its sharp fins or teeth from making contact with your hands. A needle nose pliers will also be helpful to pull the hook from your bass’ mouth. Not only is a pliers smaller and more precise than your hand, it doesnt matter if the fish bites down on it. Bass do not have a very strong bite compared to people, so anything that provides a barrier between you and the bass’s jaws will likely be sufficient to prevent a cut or scrape.
- be prepared for a bite. before you head out for the day, make sure that you have a first aid kit ready. Isopropyl alcohol or another disinfectant and a bandage should be all you need to treat a bass bite if one occurs. Even though a bass will almost never bite deeply enough to require a visit to the doctor, lake water can potentially be full of infection causing bacteria, especially later in the summer when water temperatures increase. Treating and covering any cuts or scrapes as soon as they occur will ensure that they heal as quickly as possible.
- supervise children while fishing. Fishing with your kids can be an amazing experience for them to learn about the great outdoors. But its important to remember that children have much smaller, more delicate fingers than adults. Although a bass certainly couldn’t remove even the smallest child’s finger, a bite from a large bass could be scary and painful for them. Consider talking to your kids about avoiding bass bites before going out fishing, and be willing to take over if the child is having difficulty handling the bass in a safe way.
Recap: Do Bass Have Teeth?
Although all bass do have teeth, their teeth are small and primarily used to grip onto small prey items like frogs or minnows. Bass do not have particularly strong jaws, and most bites will only result in a minor ‘bass rash’ or small cut. Remember, the barbs on a bass’ dorsal fin are also sharp, and can potentially cause more damage than a bite if you don’t watch out for them.
In order to keep yourself safe and comfortable, be certain to bring a rag or fish glove to restrain your catch, as well as a pair of pliers to work inside the fish’s mouth without endangering your fingers.
A well-stocked first aid kit is also a great idea for any fishing trip. Disinfecting and covering a bass bite with a bandage will ensure that the bite heals quickly and cleanly. Finally, make sure anyone you go fishing with, especially children, understand how to safely handle a bass before you begin fishing.
And, of course, have fun! Fishing for bass is a wonderful way to get out in nature and hopefully even supply your own dinner. With proper preparation, handling bass can be safe and stress free.