Identifying Bass – Characteristics of Various Bass Species

The angler anchors over underwater structure that shows up clearly on the sonar screen. He throws a favorite lure and brings it back with a slow retrieve that takes it right over a hidden ledge. Pow! He feels the fish strike the lure and power its way toward the lake bottom. Skillfully, he plays the fish until it breaks the water with a dramatic leap. He sees the wide, gaping mouth and readily identifies his catch as a Largemouth Bass.

Largemouth are extremely popular game fish, but there are a number of other bass species that also offer good sport fishing. Among these are the Smallmouth Bass, Striped Bass, Spotted Bass, and Redeye Bass. Each of these species is differentiated by easily identifiable characteristics.

Largemouth Bass

largemouth bass

Photo: Wikipedia

The Largemouth Bass is named for its proportionally wide mouth. The jaw of this fish extends to below the eye. Largemouth grow quite big. The record is 22 pounds, 4 ounces. Largemouth are voracious feeders, eating insects, larvae, crayfish, smaller fish, and other small creatures. They are often found in freshwater lakes and ponds, and will grow to prodigious size in deep water with plenty of food.

Smallmouth Bass

smallmouth bass

Photo: Wikipedia

The jaw of the Smallmouth does not extend as far as that of the Largemouth. Smallmouth like clean, clear water with rocky or gravelly bottoms, and current flow. This fish prefers to feed on minnows and crustaceans.

Striped Bass

striped bass

Photo: Wikipedia

Striped Bass tend to move about in schools, seeking congregations of bait fish. While there are very large salt water fish known as Striped Bass, the fresh water Striped Bass is much smaller. They are distinguished by the striped horizontal markings on their sides. The mortality rate for large fresh water Striped Bass that are returned to the water is high, so anglers are encouraged to keep Striped Bass over 15 inches and to stop fishing once they have reached the limit.

Spotted Bass

spotted bass

Photo: Wikipedia

Spotted Bass, also known as Kentucky Bass, prefer clear, rocky streams as do Smallmouth. They have spotted coloration on their sides. Spotted Bass feed on surface insects, crustaceans, and small baitfish. The eyes of male Spotted Bass are red during the breeding season. There is a distinctive rough spot on the tongue of this bass.

Redeye Bass

redeye bass

Photo: Wikipedia

The Redeye Bass closely resembles the male breeding Spotted Bass. However, the habitat range of this fish is more southerly than that of the Spotted Bass. Redeyes are generally found in Georgia, Alabama, and Tennessee, while Spotted Bass are found in the Ohio River basin. The Redeye Bass feeds on insects and crustaceans. It is the smallest and slowest-growing bass, topping out at around 8 pounds.

Fishermen seek Largemouth Bass with spinning lures, stick baits, jerk baits, rattling lures, soft plastics, and good, old-fashioned night crawlers. Striped Bass are after baitfish, so live minnows and minnow-like lures are a sure bet for these fighters. Spotted Bass and Smallmouth will hit surface flies that imitate insects and terrestrials, as well as crayfish lures and streamers fished under the surface with a stop-and-start retrieve. Redeyes will also respond to surface flies and crayfish patterns. Whatever the species, bass put up a fight. A one-pound bass in a running stream provides a lot of fun for the fly fisher with a light rod, while the fisherman with heavier tackle will find few thrills like that of landing a Largemouth lunker.