Why Do Bass Have Red Lips? [Explained Simply]

Many anglers believe they know everything there is to know about species like Bass. However, there are still a few mysteries about Bass that haven’t been solved, and one of those mysteries is why Bass have red lips. 

So, why do Bass have red lips? Bass has red lips because of the water temperature where they usually reside. Fish that live in low temperatures tend to have similar red lips. Bass might also have red lips because the pigmentation in the crawfish they eat will stain their lips.

Keep on reading to learn more of the reasons why Bass have red lips!

Why Do Bass Have Red Lips? 

a photo of bass to show why bass have red lips

Many anglers, especially beginners, would think that a fish having red lips is a hoax. Some also believe it’s an indication of a terrible disease or an injury.

However, it’s a common and natural occurrence in some fish species, such as Bass, and not many know the real reasons behind it.

So, here are the real reasons behind the unique color of the Bass’s lips:

Water Temperature

The temperature of the water where Bass reside can affect the color of their lips.

If the water temperature drops, their lips will become red. However, the coloring isn’t always permanent, as their lips will return to the normal color once the water temperature rises again.

Keep in mind that the red color on the fish’s lips is not related to its well-being; it doesn’t indicate that the fish is sick with any disease.

Crawfish Consumption

The diet bass fish eat can also affect the color of their lips.

Bass fish are known to feed on crawfish, which contain a red pigment. This pigment will stain the Bass’s lips upon consumption.

The coloring is not permanent and will go away once the bass fish are done eating.

Change in Pressure

Another reason is that the red color is caused by pressure change when the Bass migrates from deep water in wintertime and springtime to shallow water.

Some believe that being in deep water causes the red color because of the increased pressure. Others believe that the transition to shallow water and the pressure change is what causes the lip color change.


Another claim is that going through the spawning period causes Bass to have red lips.

During spawning, bass move to shallow regions to reproduce and build nesting beds for females to lay eggs. 

They tend to clean the area where the females will lay eggs using their bodies, so they might get injured during the process, causing some bleeding that will stain their lips.

However, there isn’t a lot of scientific proof for this claim as many bass fish are going through spawning, but they don’t have red lips.

What Do Red Lips on Bass Mean?

Upon reviewing the previously listed reasons, we can sum up that the red lips on bass might mean one of two things. 

The first thing it means is that bass might be living in a low water temperature. As a result, you’ll see similar changes in fish that live in colder water. 

The second thing it means is that the bass has been feeding on crawfish. It appears that crawfish have a reddish pigment (carotenoids), which causes the fish’s lips to be coated with this color when consumed.

The more agreed-upon explanation is the cold water theory. For instance, our mouths get pink when we drink chilled water. It must be possible to make the mouth of a fish red to a certain degree if it can turn our lips red.

 We have no option but to persist with it until a more solid scientific theory emerges.

Do Bass Have Any Other Unique Characteristics?

Aside from having red lips, bass fish might have other unique characteristics that cause a lot of wonder among anglers.

So, let’s take a look at some of these unique characteristics in more detail:

Red Eye Bass

Some types of bass are characterized by having red eyes. It’s commonly assumed that these red eyes are a result of their adaption to nature, as they might help them see better in the dark and in deep waters. 

Red eyes in bass might also be caused by other reasons such as genetics and pigment discoloration.

Red Tail Bass

During the springtime, male Bass commonly develops red tails. Their dorsal, pelvic, and pectoral fins will also turn red, but there will be no bleeding.

The reason they do this is to attract female bass during the spawning season.

Black Lip Bass

Some types of bass have black lips instead of red lips.

This is caused by a condition known as Melanosis. Keep in mind that it is not the same as melanoma, which is a type of human skin cancer. 

Melanosis is a skin cell irregularity in which, for some reason, the cell is unable to regulate pigment production.

Related Questions 

Why Are Bass Mouths Big?

Bass mouths are big to help them feed on larger prey easily and quickly. This is common in largemouth bass, which tends to feed by pursuing their prey, and once they’re close enough, they open their mouth wide open and let their prey come to them.

What Are the Common Types of Bass?

The common types of bass include smallmouth bass, largemouth bass, striped Bass, peacock bass, and sea bass. The most popular among anglers are the largemouth bass and smallmouth bass. All types have different physical characteristics.

What Do Bass Fish Eat?

Bass have various diets. Largemouth bass fish like to eat anything such as shads, bluegills, crawdads, worms, lizards, snakes, and sometimes small turtles. Meanwhile, smallmouth bass fish do not eat anything and they usually eat whatever is small enough to fit in their mouths such as shiners, minnows, crawfish, sunfish, perch, and worms. 

Can Humans Eat Bass with Red Lips?

Humans can eat bass with red lips as the red color on their lips doesn’t indicate that there’s anything wrong with the fish’s health. Bass are generally as they’re rich in nutrients such as omega-3 fatty acids, manganese, phosphorus, vitamin B12, and protein.

Helpful Resources

The Different Types of Bass

Become A Bass Wizard

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