SCIENTIFIC NAME: Micropterus henshalli
CHARACTERISTICS: The Alabama bass is a large species of bass with a large mouth, with the upper jaw extending almost to the rear margin of the eye. Long considered a subspecies of spotted bass, it was recently elevated to species status (Baker et al., 2008). The Alabama bass differs from the spotted bass by higher scale counts, including scales along the lateral line (75 vs. 65) scales above the lateral line (8 vs. 7), scales below the lateral line (13 vs. 11), scale rows around the caudal peduncle (29 vs. 25), more rakers on the first gill arch (8 vs. 7), smaller scale width, more narrow skull, and a smaller tooth patch (Baker et al., 2008). Lateral blotches of the Alabama bass do not coalesce into a dark stripe on the caudal peduncle like the spotted bass. Dorsolateral blotches do not touch the first dorsal fin base as in the spotted bass, and these blotches number 10-12 in Alabama bass vs. 7-10 in spotted bass (Baker et al., 2008). The Alabama bass has 9 dorsal fin spines, 12-14 rays (usually 13), and the caudal fin has 16-17 rays.
ADULT SIZE: 12 to 17 inches (300 to 432 mm). The state angling record (8 lb, 15 oz) was caught in Lake Lewis Smith in 1978.
DISTRIBUTION: The presumed native distribution of the Alabama bass is the Mobile Bay drainage in Alabama, Georgia, and Mississippi. Both Alabama bass and spotted bass occur in the Chattahoochee River system (Baker et al., 2008).
HABITAT AND BIOLOGY: Similar to spotted bass habitat, Alabama bass typically occur around aquatic vegetation, submerged logs and rock or riprap walls in small to large flowing streams, rivers, and reservoirs. Spawning occurs in April and May, often in the mouths of tributary streams. The male guards the nest until the fry have hatched. Food items include small fishes, crayfishes, and aquatic insects. Gilbert (1973) reports that the Alabama bass grows faster than spotted bass, and the life spans vary from four to seven years.
ORIGINAL DESCRIPTION: In 1940, Hubbs and Bailey diagnosed the Alabama bass as a subspecies of spotted bass from the Mobile River Basin of Alabama, Georgia, and Mississippi. Alabama bass were elevated to species status by Baker et al. in 2008.
Micropterus means small fin.
Henshalli is named for James A. Henshall, a bass angler who wrote Book of the Black Bass - Comprising Its Complete and Scientific and Life History with a Practical Treatise On Angling and Fly Fishing and a Full Description of Tools, Tackle and Implements in 1881 bringing bass fishing and bass nomenclature to the attention of the public.
ADDITIONAL COMMON NAMES: In the southeast, anglers also call Alabama bass: spotted bass, Kentucky bass and lineside, according to Cloutman and Olmstead in Fisheries (Vol. 8, No. 2). Alabama anglers frequently refer to them simply as spots.
Note: In Alabama, it is illegal to stock or move a bass or any fish, mussel, snail or crayfish to any public water without a permit.