Fish Sense!

By Garry McCollum

It seems to me that there’s an extreme amount of debate among anglers surrounding the “actual” senses of fish and what they can perceive. I’ve found that although fish live in an entirely different atmosphere than we do, they still maintain similar senses and characteristics. To survive in any situation, a fish relies on its ability to acquire information from its environment through its senses.

Fish can see, smell, touch, feel, and taste. They’ve developed some senses we don’t have, such as electroreception.

Fish can sense light, chemicals, vibrations, touch and electricity.

Fish have a very keen sense of vision, which helps them find food, shelter, mates, and avoid predators. A bass can see in color, and can see in extremely dim/turbid water or light. The eyes of fish have perfectly spherical lenses, which allow them to see underwater.

Smell and Taste: 

Chemoreception is well developed in predatory fish, that use it to detect their prey. Fish have two nostrils on each side of their head although there is no connection between the nostrils and the throat.

Fish have have taste buds on their lips, tongue, and all over their mouths. Some fish, such as catfish, have barbels, whiskers with external taste buds on them. This allows the fish to actually taste something just by rubbing against it with one of their barbels. (Would make a great diet program, tasting without eating!)

Hearing and Touch:

Have you ever seen a fish’s ear? I never have, but they have them. They’re located within their bodies as well as a lateral line system that actually lets them feel their surroundings. Sound vibrations transmit from the water through a fish’s body to its internal ears. The ears are divided into an upper and lower section.
The upper section gives the fish its sense of balance. The lower section gives the fish its ability to hear.

Do fish attractants work? The answer is a definitive YES! How can I be so sure? I have caught fish just as each and every one of you has.
Fish are attracted to the things that their senses tell them may be food.
Eyes: The flash of a spinner, the profile of a bait, the color of a jig,
Ears: The vibration of a rattle, the thump of a Colorado blade.


Bass have no hands to touch with and will “pick up something” with their mouths to determine if it’s food or not. The taste or smell of an attractant (shad/garlic/anise/crawfish/pheromones) and touch (plastic worms/pork/jig trailers) may help a fish hold onto the lure just a moment more.

To decipher what a winning pattern is, you first must understand what senses a bass utilizes. If you think like a fish will you catch more fish? I can’t say, but if you understand what a bass uses to define its world, you’ll be on your way to eliminating the things that will not attract a bass and increase the things that will.

Be Safe, Tight Lines.