A member of the Black Bass family, Smallmouth Bass are an aggressive freshwater gamefish found predominately in Northern America. Whilst they are a little smaller than their Largemouth ‘cousins’, they are just as popular for fisherman due to their ultra hard fight for their size. They can be found in faster running and clearer water than the Largemouth however in lakes will often share spawning zones.
Smallmouth Bass are recognized by two different subspecies:
- Northern Smallmouth Bass (Micropterus dolomieui dolomieui)
- Neosho Smallmouth Bass (Micropterus dolomieui velox).
Native to the eastern half of the U.S.A. and southeastern Canada, from Manitoba and Quebec south to the Tennessee River system in Alabama and west to eastern Oklahoma. They have also been introduced to other areas as well including England, Europe, Japan, Russia and into Africa.
Smallmouth Bass are distinguished by their slender appearance, connected dorsal fins and bard stripes across the eyes. They are typically brown, bronze, or tan in color with dark vertical bars which are usually green or gray.
Females are generally larger than males with an average weight of 3 – 6lb (males around 2lb) at a length of 12 to 16″.
Average 10 – 20 years
Spawning occurs April in southern areas through June in northern areas when water temperatures range from 58 to 70o F. Smallmouth bass are nest builders with the males building saucer shaped nests in sand, gravel around boulders or under overhead limbs, logs, stumps, or amongst the Largemouth in lake banks as well.
Smallmouth Bass, like many fish, are carnivorous and feed on the options available to them within their immediate habitats. This can include:
- Baitfish (Minnows, Madtoms etc.)
- Other Smallmouth
Juvenile Smallmouth feed on plankton and immature aquatic insects.
World Record Size
The oldest reported age for Smallmouth Bass is 26 years. The world record stands at 11 pounds 15 ounces by David Lee Hayes on 9 July 1955.
Smallmouth Bass Seasons
Smallmouth Bass can be caught all year round as follows:
- Winter – As they are cold-blooded, Smallmouth Bass don’t feed as often and will do whatever they can to keep warm. The best time for fishing here is different to summer in that mid-afternoon tends to be better as the sun has had the opportunity to warm the water a little. They will go deeper early when the top is cold (or icy) and come in shallower if the water is warmer there (as that is where the baitfish will go too).
- Spring – Spring is for spawning and feeding. As the water temperature increases after winter, Bass will start to actively feed and guard territory in the shallows as they prepare for the spawn – often called pre-spawn. After spawn however, Bass do not tend to feed as much as they are busy protecting their ‘nests’. All in all, many Bass ‘experts’ call the spring pre-spawn season as the best time of year to fish.
- Summer – The general rule of thumb for summer is that Smallmouth Bass tend to either go deeper to cooler water or in shallower lakes, will seek structure such as drops or humps. Fishing is usually better early morning, late afternoon or at night when the water is a little cooler as well. If you are fishing in the daytime, leave the surface lures at home.
- Autumn – Autumn is considered another great period for Bass fishing for a number of reasons. Firstly, the water is cooling after the summer heat bringing the fish out of the depths and secondly, they are fattening up for winter.
It should be noted here that many jurisdictions implement seasonal restrictions and well as licensing and bag limit regulations as well.
Best Gear for Catching Smallmouth Bass
Many Smallmouth Bass fishers use both spinning and baitcaster reels effectively and successfully – whilst others like to fly fish for them due to their penchant for taking insects off the surface. In general, to catch Smallmouth Bass you will need
Rod – around 7ft and matching of reel size
Although not as common as many saltwater species, Smallmouth Bass is a popular table fish with a white flesh and a clean taste. Some even prefer them to other freshwater species as they tend to inhabit cleaner, faster running water meaning they are less susceptible to being found in dirty, murky or contaminated water.
As per most white meated species, they are best eaten by filleting and then:
- Pan frying
- Deep frying
- Baking (whole)
They cannot however be eaten raw.
Check out some more information in regards to eating Smallmouth Bass here.