Whether interested in stocking a freshwater pond, lake, or aquarium with largemouth bass, you’re most likely curious as to how quickly these fish will grow and the factors that will affect their size over time. This is not only logical to ask when populating any fishery but is also essential to maintaining a balanced habitat that is ideal for survival. As this king of American sportfish is not an inexpensive species to come by, it is important to be prepared for other fixed costs and the common challenges of raising them as well.
So how fast does a largemouth bass grow? After two years, most largemouth bass reach full sexual maturity, weighing at least 1lb and measuring over 9 inches long. There are two regions of bass to consider when answering this question (northern and southern), because the different climates in each heavily impact growth rates later on in life. Most southern largemouth will continue to gain at least 1lb/year and can weigh up to 20lbs towards the end of their life. Northern species rarely grow larger than 10lbs.
Continue reading to learn just how many things impact the growth rates of these sportfish. Also, observe as we cover the range of habitats, conditions, and environments in which largemouth bass are commonly found, and how these influence the size of their species over time.
What Factors Affect Largemouth Bass Growth Rate?
1. Location and Habitat
On average, most bass, both northern and southern, grow at a more rapid rate in ponds than in lakes. This is due to the concentration of life and forage that is typically present and also to the unique habitat a pond is able to provide. Not to mention, smaller bodies of water take less time to warm than larger bodies (i.e. lakes) – which we’ll cover in further detail below.
Water quality and conditions also have a major impact on the development of these fish. Oftentimes, in ponds, the oxygen levels are higher, and it is easier to control various levels of toxins and/or nutrients in the water. In addition, the natural underwater conditions tend to be more static, providing a stable environment for bass to grow.
Lastly, the sizes of ponds vary greatly from large fisheries to small personal ponds. The potential weight of a largemouth relies heavily on the size of the body of water in which it lives; therefore, the smaller your pond, the smaller your bass will be. This is strongly connected to competition from other species which could be more concentrated if in the same pond environment.
In Lakes, largemouth bass will have a larger biome to explore, providing them with potentially many more resources for food, spawning, and shelter than a pond would. However, they may use more energy while hunting the larger area for food than they would in a smaller pond.
Water quality and conditions in lakes vary, but it is much more common for them to be contaminated with waste from humans or other animals which will negatively impact the lifecycle of any largemouth bass. What’s more, moving water (currents) that may be present in larger lakes (or in tidal waters) will also stunt the growth of bass, as the need to swim constantly burns more calories than a bass living in a pond or lake with no currents.
The larger environment will serve to minimize competition among species, as the bass have more options for food and feeding locations.
Temperature changes in lakes are more moderate as larger bodies of water maintain their temperature for longer periods of time. The larger area allows the bass to grow much heavier over time as their weight correlates directly to the size of their environment.
If you’re considering raising largemouth bass in a tank or aquarium, it is important to remember that bass growth is determined by the available area (i.e. # of gallons in the tank). Therefore, the larger your tank, the more likely of a chance you have at growing trophy-sized bass. Under proper conditions, a bass in an aquarium can grow at the usual rate of around 1lb/year – for the entirety of its lifespan. It is also possible to accelerate the growth rate of bass in a tank as you’re able to have more control of the climate and factors of the environment.
2. Region and Climate
When analyzing the growth rates of bass in northern states, it is obvious that they tend to be much slower as the colder temperatures encourage dormancy and prevent such frequent feeding as observed in southern states.
In more extreme winter seasons, as the temperature fluctuates the bass will look for shelter rather than food. This prevents them from growing as large as quickly as southern bass although they continue to age at similar rates.
For instance, a 5-pound northern bass would be much older than a bass in the south of the same weight.
In comparison to northern states, the water temperatures in the south are much more consistent year-round, resulting in longer growing seasons and higher metabolic rates (i.e. more feeding) for largemouth bass.
This causes younger bass to weigh more and increases their likelihood of being caught at a young age as they continue to feed throughout the year. For instance a 10lb. bass in the south could be as young as 5 years old, as they are able to gain weight in less time than their northern counterparts.
Interestingly enough, raising northern bass in a southern climate could result in much higher growth rates as these bass are prepared for freezing temperatures and have more aggressive feeding cycles.
3. Vegetation and Diet
Vegetation is a key factor that, if in abundance, allows younger bass to grow more rapidly, providing the minnows they feed on with a place to live. It also impacts oxygen concentration, as water with little plant life leads to less dissolved oxygen in the water. However, vegetation varies largely due to water temperatures and climate.
Warmer water temperatures are much more favorable for aquatic plants, meaning they are much more common in warmer southern climates. This vegetation also has a strong correlation to the diets of largemouth bass.
While some baitfish can survive across multiple climates, many of them depend on the availability of plant life in the water. While bass feed on a number of different species, they will grow most rapidly from shad as they provide more nutrients than bluegill or crawdads.
In order to survive, the shad, in turn, rely on the plankton that thrives in such underwater vegetation. It is this circle of life that ultimately determines how quickly bass will grow in any environment.
Conclusion: How Fast Does a Largemouth Bass Grow?
Looking back, there are so many factors that determine the growth rates of a largemouth bass:
Generally, the average growth per year is about 1lb, varying slightly based on each of these factors. Southern bass grow much more rapidly than the northern species, as warmer temperatures allow for longer feeding seasons and prevent the need for dormancy.
As is the case with most fish, largemouth bass will continue growing as long as ample space is available. Therefore, ponds and lakes provide the ideal environment for unhindered growth. Tanks, however, when closely monitored can also provide a very beneficial environment if maintained properly.
By the age of full maturity (2-3 years on average), most bass will already weigh at least 1lb, and will continue to grow 1lb/year for at least 7 more years! With such a complex lifecycle and variable growth rate, it is important to know the most impactful factors that will generate the fastest possible growth for this fascinatingly elusive species.