Answering the question “how long do bass live” can be a little challenging, considering there are dozens of types of bass existing in hundreds, if not thousands, of diverse fisheries. 

When it comes to largemouths, the short answer is, bass live about 5 to 10 years, though they can live upwards of 20 years. And their life expectancy can be cut drastically short by a whole host of variables. Let’s take a look at some of those variables now in trying to better answer the question: how long do bass live?  

How Long Do Bass Live: Table of Contents

  • Why Some Bass Live Shorter lives 
  • Why Some Bass Live Longer Lives  
  • How Long Do Bass Live Out of Water? 
  • Frequently Asked Questions 

Why Some Live Shorter Lives 

There’s a good chance a bass may never live at all. That is to say, the egg laid on a bed by a female bass may never even be able to hatch, as predators begin to terrorize a bass’ bed as soon as the eggs are laid. Bream, bluegill, crawfish, and other predators regularly attempt to feed on the eggs of a bedding bass, while the bass do their best to protect their unborn offspring. 

Once the eggs are fertilized by the male and hatch, the fight for survival is far from over. These small bass, commonly known as fry, are now tasked with swimming for their lives, as the bream, bluegill, and other small fish continue to attack them. And there’s a new threat now, as the mother of these babies often turns cannibalistic and tries to feed on her own young. The male bass typically sticks around to “guard the fry” against threats, both foreign and domestic. 

Though female bass lay tens of thousands of eggs at a time, it’s likely that only a handful of the bass from each spawn reach a year of age. Those that do survive to this stage of life begin to spawn themselves, doing their best to beat the odds and further the species. 

Why Some Live Longer Lives  

Bass that survive the gauntlet of the first year typically have a good chance to survive and thrive. Sure, some may get pulled from the water and tossed in the frying pan by a meat fisherman, but otherwise bass are pretty resilient and grow quickly to be one of the more dominant species of fish in their particular habitat. In a small creek, a bass may not reach a pound by the end of the first year, and top out at 2 pounds late in its life. In a southern fishery with a warm, long growing season, a bass may reach 2 pounds in the first year of its life and pack on multiple pounds of meat year after year. 

Though bass grow faster and larger in warm water, they live longer in colder water. A 6-pound bass in the southern US may be only 2 or 3 years old, where a 6-pound bass in the northern US or Canada may well be 15 years old. The cooler waters are less stressful on the bass’s system, and the slow growth is more sustainable. 

How Long Do Bass Live Out of Water? 

How long do bass live out of water? Many anglers would like to know this so that they can ensure the fish survive the gauntlet of being caught, photographed, and/or weighed. 

Research has shown that bass can survive out of the water for more than 10 consecutive minutes. And if you’re wanting to successfully practice catch and release, this is great news, since there would never be a reason to keep a fish out of the water even this long, much less any longer. 

However, it is worth noting that there are several variables that could make survival less likely. If, for example, the water is hot (over 80 degrees) and the bass was caught deep (more than 10 feet), you’ll want to get the fish back into the water as soon as possible. 

Pulling fish up from deep, cool water into the hot water along the surface and then exposing them to even hotter air temps above the water can shock the fish’s system and make survival difficult if the bass is kept out of the water for an extended period of time. Best to snap a pic if you’d like and then slip the fish back into the water (or into an adequately insulated and aerated livewell if you’re competing in a tournament), to increase the odds of the bass surviving the ordeal with minimal ill effects. 

Bass survive the longest when: 

  • The water temperature in the fishery never exceeds 80 degrees 
  • Oxygen levels are high, typically due to current or vegetation being present
  • They are the largest predatory member of the food chain 
  • The fishery doesn’t suffer from overfishing by anglers 
  • The fishery doesn’t suffer from overpopulation of bass
  • The bass do not remain out of water for more than a few minutes 
  • Food is plentiful 
  • Cover is plentiful 
  • Water clarity is good 
  • Water quality is good 

Frequently Asked Questions 

What is the biggest type of bass? 

When it comes to black bass, a largemouth bass is typically going to be the largest in the area.

What is the biggest bass ever caught? 

The world record largemouth is the subject of much debate, but it’s widely considered a tie, at 22 pounds, 4 ounces, one of these bass being caught by George Perry in Georgia in 1932 and the other being caught out of Lake Biwa by Japanese angler Manabu Kurita in 2009. 

How long do bass live in Florida? 

Most bass in Florida can live to a maximum of about 10 years, often exceeding 10 pounds when reaching this age.