How to Fillet a Largemouth Bass


Prized for its fighting ability, the largemouth bass is the most popular gamefish in North America, according to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission. Largemouth bass are also held in esteem for the way they taste. The easiest way to prepare them for your dining table is to fillet them. That way you'll avoid the mess of gutting and cleaning the fish and you won't have any bones to contend with, either. A freshly sharpened fillet knife will be your best friend for this task.

Things You'll Need

  • Fillet knife
  • Cutting board
  • Wash the bass in cool, clear water to remove as much of the slippery slime as you can, then place it on its side on the cutting board.

  • Grasp the fish and make a vertical cut with the fillet knife into the side of the bass just behind the gill. Make the cut at a slight diagonal toward the head to include additional meat along the upper back of the bass. Make the cut carefully and stop when you feel the backbone; don't cut into it.

  • Hold the fish's head with your hand and twist the knife blade both 90 degrees and horizontal, so it faces the tail of the fish. Slide the blade down along the backbone, sawing gently as you go, until just before you get to the tail fin. If you prefer, you can cut carefully all along the backbone to the tail of the fish before making this cut, pulling the meat away from the backbone as you do. This helps ensure you don't get any rib bones in your fillet.

  • Turn the freshly cut fillet over, still attached by the skin to the tail, so the fish is butterflyed on the cutting board. Insert the knife blade between the meat and the skin. Carefully cut the skin off by sliding the knife blade, held flat and horizontal, toward the front of the fillet. Place the fillet aside.

  • Flip the fish over and repeat the procedure to remove the second fillet.

Tips & Warnings

  • If you really want to maximize the amount of meat you get, cut carefully in a semi-circle around the gills when making the initial cut into the side of the fish.
  • Cut off any pieces of gray connective tissue you find on the inside of the fillets once you've cut them out.
  • Filleting the fish reduces the levels of contaminants by removing the bones and fatty tissues, notes a Fish Advisory produced by the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services. For the same reason, the department advises baking, broiling or grilling the bass so the fat-laden juices will drip away.

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