Fish vision: what you see is what you get

Look at that bass. Can't see it? Even when you are perched high atop the front deck of your bass boat wearing polarized sunglasses? You can bet that it sees you (or at least the submerged parts of your boat). And knowing what a bass sees can be valuable information when it comes to bait and color selection, helping to level the playing field for anglers — even when the fish sees the angler first.

What bass see and how they see were once a source of contention amongst those in the fishing and scientific world. Anglers, in attempts to give themselves an edge over this prolific predator, wanted to know what colors, shapes and sizes to use and when to use them. Thanks to research done in the late 1970s and early 1980s on fish and color preference plus the on-going research at the Berkley, we now have a better understanding of what the world looks like through the eyes of a bass.

When comparing a bass's vision to a human's, we know that these fish have the same rods, cones and depth perception as we do and that their night vision — much like ours — is largely black-and-white. We also know that bass can see colors — even different shades of colors — and that variables such as water clarity and sunlight can help or hinder how certain colors are perceived. Silhouettes, brightness and flashes (like those on the blade of a spinnerbait or on the side of a crankbait) also peek the interest of bass. Think about watching a TV commercial: shapes, contrasts in colors and movement all catch the viewer's eye. Bass are opportunistic hunters who look for the same things when they are in a feeding mode and interpret things like the distinctive flutter of a Berkley Gulp! Sinking Minnow or the wiggle of a Power Worm as a food source.

But whereas anglers might struggle spotting fish in the water due to glare, refraction and other factors, bass's vision has adapted in that environment making them as adept at seeing underwater as we are on land. Bass have also evolved heightened senses to minimize the negative effect of their blind spots.

Unlike most terrestrial predators that have forward-facing eyes, bass have eyes on opposite sides of their head causing blind spots immediately in front of their face, underneath their bodies and directly behind the eye — all up to certain degrees of angle. To make up for these blind spots, bass will use other senses like scent and their lateral lines to detect potential meals and potential danger, so there's no fear that bait will be passed up because a bass "didn't see it." If it is time to eat or to protect the nest, rest assured a bass will eradicate the area of the intruder — provided that the intruder is not too big.

When developing a pattern for bass, keep in mind how bait looks in the water. If the shape, color and action don't catch the eye, chances are it won't catch the eye of a predatory bass, either.