Smallmouth Bass

The smallmouth bass inhabits clear, deep freshwater locations in the eastern U.S. and southeast Canada. These fish can be caught by fly fishing, drift fishing, still fishing, topwater fishing, and trolling. Smallmouth bass will hit on a variety of baits and lures.

smallmouth bass in a pond

How to identify Smallmouth Bass

Smallmouth bass are the second largest species of sunfish. They have pale brown to olive green coloration which fades to a yellowish white near the abdomen. Pronounced dark brown vertical bars or blotches mark the length of their body to the caudal (tail) fin. The head has horizontal lines extending from the nose to the posterior of the gill. Smallmouth bass have two doral fins. The first dorsal fin has 9-11 spiney rays. The second fin has 13-15 soft rays.

While similar in appearance, smallmouth bass are identifiably different than their larger cousins the largemouth bass. The biggest identifiable difference between largemouth bass and smallmouth bass is the size of the mouth. The mouth of the smallmouth bass ends before the eye, while the jaw of the largemouth bass extends beyond the posterior of the eye.

smallmouth bass identification diagram

Where smallmouth bass have vertical lines along their back and flank, largemouth bass typically have a dark horizontal line extending the length of their body. The dorsal fins on Smallmouth are separated by a shallow notch. The dorsal fins on largemouth are separated by a deep notch.

Both coloration and size of Smallmouth bass will vary by habitat. Fish that living in lacustrine (lake) habitats tend to have deeper, shorter bodies. Those inhabiting riverine (river) habitats are often more torpedo-shaped and darker brown.

Adult male smallmouth bass average about 2 pounds. Females range from 3 to 6 pounds. Average length of a smallmouth bass is between 10 and 15 inches. The largest specimen on record exceeded 24 inches and 12 pounds.

Identifying characteristics:

  1. Jaw does not extend past eye
  2. Eye is somtimes redish
  3. Pale brown to olive green coloration
  4. Yellowish whiter underbelly
  5. Dorsal fins connected by shallow notch
  6. Vertical bars along sides
  7. Horizontal lines on head
  8. Laterally compressed body

Where to catch Smallmouth Bass

These fish can be found in the eastern U.S. and southeast Canada. Although they aren’t widely distributed like largemouths, smallmouths are found in a lot of countries. They prefer clear, deep water in streams and pooling waters with hard bottoms. Largemouths and smallmouths coexist in some areas. Smallmouths spawn later than largemouths because they select deep, rocky, vegetative conditions with late-stage vegetation growth. Largemouths spawn early in shallow areas because the warm waters promote early vegetation growth. Both species use the vegetation as places to nest.

Range: Midwest, South, Northeast, West
Smallmouth Bass Fishing Map

The following are habitats where you can catch Smallmouth Bass:

How to catch Smallmouth Bass

Smallmouth bass are known to be strong fighters. The best time to catch them is in the spring and fall when they generally stick to open water. They tend to move to deeper waters in the summer and can be harder to catch during this time. The best times to look for them are early morning or late evening when there’s a light breeze and calmer water. A favorite method for catching these fish is by fly fishing. They can also be caught by drift fishing, still fishing, topwater fishing, and trolling.

The following are effective fishing methods and techniques for catching Smallmouth Bass:

Best Lures, Bait & Tackle to catch Smallmouth Bass

Smallmouth bass can be caught using bait, artificial lures, and bass fishing rigs. Effective bait and lure options are jigs, plugs, insects, night crawlers, plastic worms, crankbaits, and spoons.

The following are fishing lures, bait and tackle that can be used to catch Smallmouth Bass: