Why Do Bass Jump Out of the Water? Jumping Bass Explained

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Fishing on a calm lake at dawn, under a blue sky, trying to catch a big, large-mouthed bass.

Bass jump out of the water when they’re feeding, escaping predators, getting oxygen, and trying to shake your hook. Breaking the surface of the water is a survival instinct for all types of bass, but it’s not often that you’ll see them do it.

The pure aggression and force that bass put into every fight make them one of my favorite fish to catch. As bass leap several feet out of the water and try to throw the hook, it’s hard not to be in awe of their physical abilities. Escaping your hook isn’t the only reason why bass break the water’s surface.


Whenever I fish for bass, I do my best to get to the water before sunrise to try and catch bass that are feeding on the surface. The water is usually calm in the mornings, and bass can use the low light to their advantage.

They can be bold with their feeding tactics and feel free to leave the structure and cover they’re hiding within. Whether they’re looking for bugs, frogs, birds, or smaller fish feeding near the surface, I want a chance to have a bass break the surface and take my lure.

Casting a topwater lure near vegetation or heavy cover areas in the mornings is a great way to see if bass will break the surface and go after what’s on top. Even if the water is muddy, fish will still eat a buzz bait or spook on the surface.

On especially calm mornings, you can often hear large slaps on the surface from across the lake. Those slaps are bass leaping and feeding, and bass always aggressively attack their prey. 

So, if the food they want is near the surface, they will swim full speed under it to ensure it doesn’t get away. The result of their swimming at full speed is an acrobatic leap several feet into the air.

Bass will also feed on the surface at sunset when the low light returns, and they become more willing to venture out into open water for food.

Escaping Predators

Another common reason bass jump out of the water is that they’re trying to escape larger predators. Bass predators include pike, musky, and even larger bass. The dominant bass in the area do not fear eating smaller bass swimming nearby.

Leaping out of the water is the next best option if cover and structure aren’t reachable during their escape. It can buy them a small amount of time to try and escape. Generally, it’s a last-ditch effort, but when survival instincts kick in, bass will do whatever they can to stay safe.

Pike, musky, and larger bass are all impressive hunters, so there rarely is enough time for them to do anything besides jump out of the water and continue swimming.

They’re Trying to Shake Your Lure

Fighting an acrobatic bass is thrilling. When you hook into bass, they first try head shakes and diving into cover and structure to try and throw the hook. If this doesn’t work, they’ll use more aggressive methods like leaping out of the water and aggressively shaking their heads.

Most bass anglers have horror stories of seeing their lure fly 10-20 feet into the air after a bass leaped and shook it free. It’s a defeating feeling for an angler, but the method has proven effective, so bass will continue to do it.

One of the easiest ways to prevent bass from leaping and throwing your hook is to keep your rod tip low. Pulling the line slack and dropping your rod tip as they head toward the surface forces them back underwater. This method prevents many fish from being lost.

A big fish leaps out, struggling with a lure, while a patient angler holds tight to the line.

Getting Oxygen

One of the final reasons bass jump is because they’re trying to get oxygen. If the dissolved oxygen levels in the water are low, bass will break the surface in hopes of finding a better place to breathe.

Water that has low oxygen is usually stagnant and filled with algae and other vegetation. While bass are hearty and can survive in challenging conditions, they need decent oxygen to thrive.

Like the other methods mentioned, bass jumping out of the water for oxygen is a survival tactic. They don’t know what else to do, so they think breaking the surface will give them what they need.

Bass swim in lake, big and wide!

What Baits To Use When Bass Are Jumping

When bass break the surface to feed, take advantage of it. Topwater lures like poppers, frogs, and spooks do the job because they entice the fish looking to feed on something swimming on the surface. They’ll aggravate those non-biting bass enough to get them to strike.

Lipless crankbaits that sink quickly can work well when fish are jumping. As your lure hits the water, begin the retrieve. Your crankbaits will sit below the surface, perfect for a bass willing to leap out of the water. They’ll swim as fast as they can from under the lure and grab it while jumping.

Whatever you use, ensure it stays near the surface and makes for an easy target. I like to throw these baits near lily pads, weed lines, and other areas with heavy cover.

While bass are willing to venture out when they’re topwater feeding, they’re most inclined to jump if they break the surface and immediately swim back toward cover.


A jumping bass can be easy to catch, and any bass willing to jump is in an aggressive mood and more likely to feed. Get to the water during the prime feeding times, and throw on a topwater or subsurface lure and see what happens.

You’ll want to vary your retrieve to determine what tempo the bass wants, but as soon as you do, you’ll experience some of the most exciting bass fishing possible. Jumping bass always lead to some of my most memorable days on the water.

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