Types Of Bass: Positive Identification and Species Information

Different types of bass

Learn the differences between different types of Bass. Anglers often think either smallmouth or bigmouth when they hear the term “bass”. This makes sense, as these are the species most commonly caught by fishermen in the United States. The bass family, which includes the genus Micropterus as well as Morone, is much more than that.

There are actually 14 species of Micropterus. Depending on where you fish you may have caught more than one. You want to find out what species you are catching? Are you curious about the differences in the species and how they are identified?

Continue reading!

Many fish are called “bass” so we have to draw a line. In this article, we will be focusing on the salt. We will be focusing on freshwater species only, such as white bass (Morone.chrysops), and not saltwater game fish like the Morone.saxatilis.

Types of bass

Black Bass – Genus Micropterus

Largemouth bass (Micropterus salmoides)

Our list will begin with America’s most sought after game fish, the largemouth bass. They’ve been written about before, so it shouldn’t surprise that we have. And if you want to learn more, we’ve got your back!

Micropterus Salmoides, a perennial favorite on lakes, slow-moving streams, and rivers from Quebec to Mexico and Virginia to California is the largest black bass genus.

These brutes can grow to 29.5 inches in length and weigh a little over 25 pounds. They prefer sub-tropical climates. Warm water is preferred by largemouths. They can tolerate temperatures between 41 and 90 F. The ideal water temperature for growth and feeding is between 81 to 86 F. Largemouth like clear water, sandy bottoms, and lots of vegetation.

The color of the fish can range from olive to dark green, and pale yellow to light brown on the stomach. You’ll often see a dark, prominent line of splotches from the tail to the gill plate.

The largemouth, as it is known, is named after its enormous expanding mandible. However, if you aren’t sure of what you caught, keep your eyes closed.

This species can be easily identified by a protruding mouth and clearly distinct sets of dorsal fins.

You’ll find 9 to 11 spines on the first dorsal fin; 12 to 14 rays on the posterior. You should count them all carefully and then look for the long line that runs from the tail to the gill.

Smallmouth bass (Micropterus dolomieu)

The smallmouth bass ( micropterus dolomieu), one of my favorite predators, is an aggressive predator that has a strong appetite and a tendency to strike topwater flies with extreme prejudice. I remember fishing smallmouth on Virginia’s upper James River.

Smallies can grow to an amazing 27 inches and 12 lbs. Most smallies are between 15 and 20 inches. Smallmouth prefer clear water with sandy or rocky bottoms. They are more likely to be found in streams, creeks, rivers and lakes than in ponds or lakes. They prefer water that is a little cooler than largemouth and don’t mind the current. You won’t find them living together.

Smallies are more evenly colored than largemouth. They often have a pale yellow-green color with speckled scales and sometimes form vertical lines. They can be difficult to spot depending on where they are located, the season and sex. You won’t see a row below the lateral line like you would with other species. This can help you to make a positive I.D.

Expect to see 9 to 11 sharp spines, and 13 to 15 soft Rays. There will be 3 spines on the anal fin.

With the mouth shut, the upper jaw of a smallmouth will not extend beyond the rear end of the eye. This is a sign that you can tell if it’s different from other look-alikes.

Alabama bass (Micropterus henshalli)

It can be difficult to tell the Alabama bass ( Micropterus Henshalli ) from its closely related, the largemouth. It is only found in Alabama, Georgia, western Mississippi. It was originally a subspecies for spotted bass but has now been given its own place.

Their size can reach 24 inches and their rarity makes them an accidental catch rather than an intentional one. You can catch them in streams and ponds, but they prefer larger currents than largemouth.

The bad news? The bad news? According to scientists, the fish is similar to micropterus, but they can be distinguished by having 68-84 pored lateral-line and 27-plus scales around the caudal-peduncle, black spots along the upper back that do not reach dorsal fin base, and blotches on the midside that don’t coalesce into a black stripe at caudal-peduncle.

However, there are some tips that can help. Heath Anderson explained that the Alabama bass’s mouth won’t extend beyond the rear end of the eye if it is closed. Largemouths have a wider mouth. The largemouth will have a separate dorsal fin that connects to the head, while the Alabama bass will have a space between the front dorsal and rear fins. The Alabama has a more rough tongue and smaller scales on its cheeks than anywhere else on its body.

Have a close look. There will be some differences.

Cahaba bass (Micropterus cahabae)

The Cahaba bass ( micropterus cahabae) is unlikely to be seen if you aren’t fishing in the Cahaba river system in central Alabama’s Piedmont region. This species is extremely rare and has only been caught in a few cases.

The Cahaba was previously considered a subspecies ( micropterus coosae). It was only when genetic testing proved it to be a distinct species that the Cahaba became independent.

Without a laboratory, it is difficult to distinguish the redeye from the redeye. Expect red eyes, 10 to 12 dorsal spines and 11 to 12 soft Rays. There are also 3 anal spines. It will have 6-12 vertical blotches from the tail to the gills, but no red fins, which could make it different from its closest relatives.

The Micropterus Coosae complex recently featured this species. Like their close relatives, the Cahaba Bass has dusky bars along their sides and a bright red eye. It shares the cheek stripes with the smallmouth.

Chattahoochee bas (Micropterus Chattahoochae).

You might encounter the Chattahoochee Bass ( Micropterus Chattahoochae) while fishing in the Chattahoochee river system of western Georgia. It is a native species, and only here. There are subtle signs that will help you distinguish it from closely related Redeye bass ( micropterus coosae).

You will find 10 dorsal spines and 11 to 14 dorsal Rays. There are also 3 anal spines and 10 to 11 soft Anal Rays. Expect redeyes, cheek markings similar in appearance to smallmouths, and blotchy markings which are often darker at the top. The orange-red color around the tail and rays is a good indicator.

Choctaw bass (Micropterus Haiaka).

The rivers and lakes of southern Alabama and Florida have been hiding the Choctaw Bass ( Micropterus Haiaka), which is almost identical to the largemouth. Genetic testing proved that this fish is a distinct species.

It is still disputed whether Choctaw’s unique DNA makes it a distinct species. One thing is certain: DNA testing is required to confirm that this man can be distinguished from a largemouth.

Florida bass (Micropterus salmoides floridanus)

The Florida bass ( Micropterus floridanus ) is not a fish that you will catch often. Without a scientist helping you to sample and sequence its DNA, it’s likely you’ll mistake it for a largemouth.

They are a subspecies Micropterus Salmoides. I don’t know how to distinguish them in the field.

Guadalupe bass (Micropterus treculii)

You have the chance to catch the endangered Guadalupe Bass ( Micropterus trekulii) if you are a bass angler in Texas. This species is found in “the northern and east Edwards Plateau, including headwaters at the San Antonio River, Guadalupe River over Gonzales, the Colorado River north from Austin, and portions the Brazos River drainage”, and can also be found in the lower Colorado River or Nueces River systems.

This rare look-alike prefers placid water to faster-moving rivers, unlike largemouth. It can also breed with Spotted bass ( micropterus punctulatus) and largemouth, complicating its identification.

Texas Parks and Wildlife states that the Guadalupe is generally green and can be distinguished from other Texas species in that it does not have vertical bars, like smallmouth bass. Its jaw does not extend beyond the eyes, and its coloration extends lower on the body than in the spotted bass.

Redeye bass (Micropterus coosae)

Redeye bass ( Micropterus Coosae), is a native of the Chattahoochee and Mobile Bay basins in Alabama, Georgia, Georgia, and Tennessee. This species of black bass is smaller than the largemouth and was split into five new species in 2013.

Like the other four new species, you should first look out for distinctively reddish eyes. There will also be 10 dorsal spines and 12 to 14 dorsal Rays. You can also find 3 anal spines and 10 to 11 anal radiations. Red markings on the fins, rather than orange, can be used to distinguish the Redeye from the Chattahoochee. Redeyes may have a few markings along their sides from time to time, but they will not exceed 6.

You can also examine your tongue for rough patches of “teeth”.

Shoal bass (Micropterus catastrophae)

The shoal bass, a native of Florida and Georgia (Micropterus cataractae), was first described as a new species in 1999. It prefers undammed rivers with substantial current. It is most abundant in the Flint River of Georgia, Blackshear, and West Point lakes. It’s a valuable bass to catch, known for its strength and endurance.

It is closely related to both the redeye and the spotted bass (Micropterus custosae), so it can be difficult to identify.

It can crossbreed with spotted bass. Anglers are advised to release all shoals due to increased competition from this invasive species.Keep it upAll the spotted bass they catch in these waterways.

Shoal bass are red-eyed and have a large blotch that is 50 to 67 per cent larger than their eyes. It can be found near the back of the eye, just behind the gill plate. As is the smallmouth, long, vertical stripes are common.

Spotted bass (Micropterus punctulatus)

The spotted bass ( micropterus punctulatus), a well-known Gulf fish, is an endemic species of the Mississippi River basin. It is similar to its smaller cousin, the smallmouth.

It is named for the dark spots it has below its dark lateral lines. It also has a small mouth which, when closed, doesn’t extend beyond the back part of the eye. It can also hybridize with the smallmouth making identification difficult. It can also be tough to distinguish from Alabama bass (Micropterus henshalli)–that is, unless you’re in Florida, Louisiana, or Texas, where that species can’t be found.

It’s possible for the spots it’s called to form a more continuous line than shown in the above picture. You will notice the three-striped cheeks and connected dorsal fins.

Suwannee bass (Micropterus notius)

The Suwannee Bass ( micropterus) lives in streams and rivers with rocky bottoms. It enjoys the currents and eddies that carry food. It is found only in Florida’s Suwannee River drainage and Florida’s Ochlockonee River Drainage. Because of its small size, it is not often targeted.

It tends to be at the lower end of the genus and can reach maximum lengths of 16 inches and under four pounds.

It is easy to tell if you have caught a Suwanee by looking for a distinct turquoise color in the cheeks, breast and ventral regions. However, this is not always present in mature specimens. The face of many black bass species is striped and has dark vertical patches below the lateral line.

Tallapoosa bass (Micropterus tallapoosae)

The Tallapoosa (Micropterus tallapoosae), like many other members of the black-bass genus, is a close relative to Micropterus coosae. Its closest relative is the Chattahoochee Bass ( Micropterus Chattahoochae), which can be easily confused with this relative.

It is named after the Tallapoosa River, which is located in east-central Alabama/west Georgia.

You will see red eyes and vertical bands of darker color. The fins of the fish will not have orange or red markings. However, it will have a tiny tooth-patch on its mouth.

Warrior bass (Micropterus warrenensis).

If you fish these waters, it can be difficult to identify the Warrior Bass ( Micropterus fighterensis).

Although it does not usually have a rough tongue “teeth”, it may have one, though it will be very small. It will have orange pigmentation at its rear fins and vertical blotches beneath the lateral line.

Biologists use a variety of metrics to distinguish this species, including head width, scale size and number. These distinctions are very fine.

Temperate Bass – Genus Morone

White bass (Morone.chrysops).

The White bass ( Morone Chrysops), a common fish in the Midwest, has a wide range of distribution. It is easy to identify due to its distinctive silver-white color.

It’s a fun fish to catch. Although it can grow to 17 inches in length, it is more common to catch it at 10 to 12 inches using live minnows and lures that look like fish.

Yellow bass (Morone Mississippiensis).

Inhabiting waters from Lake Michigan and down the Mississippi River basin, the Yellow bass (Morone mississippiensis) is sometimes caught by anglers fishing for crappie.

They are dark green to silvery-yellow and easy to distinguish from other species. You will see seven long horizontal stripes. The lower one is usually broken or bent, as shown in the image above.

Last Thoughts

There isn’t much information available for some species, such as the Florida bass. It’s not easy to distinguish them from their close relatives. For most anglers, however, it is easy to distinguish between largemouth, smallmouth and spotted bass.

We hope you find this guide useful. If you have any additional questions, leave a comment below.

Lewis Mark is a vastly experienced fly fisher. His encyclopedic knowledge of fly tying has led to start blog on fishing. He also review Fishing equipment based on his knowledge and experience.