Why Do Bass Change Colors? 4 Reasons

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In case you did not know, yes, bass fish can change their colors. Now, with that being said, the camouflage isn’t quite as active as with octopi or chameleons, a bit slower and less colorful for sure, the simple reality is that bass can change their colors. So, why do bass change colors?

Bass change color is due to the environment they live in for camouflage, both to help protect them from predators and to make hunting easier. Bass color changes also have to do with age, stress, and the general health of the fish. For the most part, it’s generally due to age just like we humans where our hair turns grey as we get older. 


Can Bass Change Colors?

The simple reality here is that yes, bass can change their colors. Now we can’t really look into the minds of fish. Heck, we barely know what is going on with human brains.

This therefore means that it is pretty hard to figure out exactly to what extent bass are aware of what is going on.

Whether or not this color changing is a conscious decision where the fish sees its surroundings and then consciously changes its color, or it’s just more of an instinctive reaction to its surroundings, is really not known.

With that being said, it is fair to say that fish are not very smart, and their brains are quite small, so chances are pretty big that it is definitely more of an instinctive or reaction to their surroundings as opposed to a conscious decision to change their colors.

Although both bass and chameleons can change their colors, it does appear as though chameleons are much more advanced in this regard, which can also be said for the color range.

However, the bottom line here is that yes, bass can change their colors, and they can actually happen pretty quickly too. In other words, this is not something that happens over the course of several years, but over the course of a couple of minutes.

However, what you do also need to be aware of is that this color change can also happen over the course of years, but in this case it’s not camouflage, just age related. Bass tend to get darker over the years.

On a side note, something that we will talk about in greater detail below is that stress can also cause color changes in fish, particularly in bass.

What Color Is A Healthy Bass?

The thing you need to be aware of here is that there are quite a few species of bass, and no, they don’t all have the exact same coloration.

That being said, when it comes to largemouth bass, a healthy one should have a dark/olive green, maybe even brown coloration along the top of the back, with the green slowly getting a bit lighter as you move down towards the stomach of the largemouth bass, with the stomach usually being the palest, a nice light green.

Bass usually have black tails. Keep in mind that when bass are alive and well, they generally have very dark colors along the lateral line that looks almost like a stripe running down the back.

The bottom line is that a healthy bass should have a healthy dark olive green color on its back, and slowly get a bit paler as you move down to the stomach.

However, not all bass are the same, what water they live in can cause differences, and the geographical area matters too. The description of a healthy bass we have provided you with here is a good starting point, although not the case 100% of the time.

Why Are Some Largemouth Bass Darker Than Others 

There are a few different reasons as to why some largemouth bass may be darker or differently colored than others, so let’s take a look at the main ones right now.


OK, so this color change is not one of those instantaneous or near instantaneous ones that you might be thinking of, but rather it happens over the course of many years.

Simply put, bass will become darker as they age. Generally speaking, their bright greens get much darker as the years go on.

In a sense, this is really no different than human hair turning grey as they age. It’s just something that happens naturally with age.

Stress & General Health

Another thing that can cause a change in color rather quickly is stress and general health concerns.

Fish that are very unhealthy and stressed out often lose a lot of their color and become much paler. If you find the best, that is extremely light green or even white, then chances are that something is wrong with it.

Fish in general should be quite brightly colored, and those fish that are very green or dark green, but are now pale, are definitely not healthy.

Protection from Predators

What is important to note here is that when bass live in very clear water, or if the water has plenty of weeds and cover, then they’re usually much darker with very clear markings.

However, when bass live in deep water or in muddy waters, then they generally become much paler and faded.

The reason for this is quite simple, camouflage. It’s all about blending into their surroundings so that they don’t get eaten by other fish.

It’s a fish eat fish world out there, and bass definitely don’t want to get eaten, thus making this active camouflage an awesome tool to stay alive.

An Ambush Tool for Hunting

Just like bass use this active camouflage to keep themselves hidden from predators. They also do the same in order to assist them when hunting for fish.

Bats really like to ambush other fish, or in other words, they like to hide in the weeds and then jump out to strike another fish.

Therefore, Bass will camouflage themselves to match their surroundings so that their prey cannot see them until it is too late.

Why Do Bass Turn Black?

Generally speaking, bass turn black with age, and the older they get, the blacker they get.

Yes, bass may also turn much blacker as they are actively camouflaging themselves to either hide from a predator or to catch prey, but generally speaking, when people think about last turning black, the issue is age related.



There you have it folks, everything you need to know about why bass change colors, both over the short run and the long run.

It’s definitely pretty interesting to think that there are so many cool animals out there that have this ability to use active camouflage to help make them better hunters and to keep them from being hunted.

Jason Downs

I created Fishtackly to share my 30 years of fishing experience and knowledge with others with the aim to help, and hopefully get more people involved and educated in this fantastic hobby that I love.