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Smallmouth Bass

Copyrighted smallmouth bass picture from

SCIENTIFIC NAME: Micropterus dolomieu

CHARACTERISTICS: The dorsal fin on the smallmouth bass is distinctly separated and contains nine to 11 spines and 13 to 15 rays. The anal fin has three spines and 10 or 11 rays. The bases of the soft dorsal and anal fins are covered with scales. The complete lateral line has 68 to 80 scales. The mouth is relatively large, with the upper jaw almost reaching the rear margin of the eye. The eye may have a reddish tint. Smallmouth bass lack the characteristic black stripe or jointed, lateral black blotches found on largemouth bass and spotted bass. Instead, the back and sides are bronze to olive green, with many irregularly spaced dark spots. The venter is generally white in small individuals, becoming dusky with age. Young smallmouth bass have several vertically oriented dark blotches along their sides that usually fade with age.

ADULT SIZE: 15 to 20 inches (380 to 508 mm). The state angling record (10 lb, 8 oz) was caught in the Tennessee River below Wheeler Dam in 1950.

DISTRIBUTION: Smallmouth bass are native to the Tennessee River drainage. They have been unsuccessfully introduced into Lake Lewis Smith (Black Warrior River) and the Cahaba, Coosa, and upper Tombigbee rivers. A sub-page shows the Alabama distribution and shows a United States map including only the native range of this species.

HABITAT AND BIOLOGY: Smallmouth bass inhabit clear, small to medium-sized streams, rivers, and reservoirs. They favor such underwater structures as rock outcrops, logs, treetops, and constructed riprap walls. Spawning usually occurs in April and May, when water temperatures reach 59º to 63ºF (15º to 18ºC) (Hubbs and Bailey, 1938). Smallmouth feed primarily on small fishes, crayfishes, and insects (Hubert, 1977). Carlander (1977) reports life spans of six to 14 years in southern and northern populations.

REMARKS: The smallmouth bass is a favorite game fish across much of the eastern United States. The tailwaters area below Wheeler Lock and Dam is one of the premier smallmouth fishing areas in North America, and several world line-class records have been set there in recent years. Most anglers fishing the tailwaters either drift or anchor below the dam while using live bait or bouncing artificial jigs along the bottom.

ORIGINAL DESCRIPTION: Lacepède described smallmouth bass in 1802.

Micropterus means small fin.
Dolomieu recognizes M. Dolomieu, a French mineralogist.

The copyrighted information above is from Fishes of Alabama and the Mobile Basin.

ADDITIONAL COMMON NAMES: In the southeast, anglers also call smallmouth bass : brown bass, browny, bronzeback, green trout, trout, river bass, redeye, jumper, according to Cloutman and Olmstead in Fisheries (Vol. 8, No. 2).

Below Wheeler Lock and Dam (Wilson Lake) and below Wilson Lock and Dam (Pickwick Lake) are exceptional places to fish for smallmouth bass. The lower part of Wheeler Lake (Elk River arm and near the dam) is also developing into a good smallmouth bass fishery. Live shad or other fish or crayfish are often used for bait. Hair jigs, plastic grubs and short-armed spinnerbaits are also popular. During mayfly hatches, fly fishing is excellent, and smallmouth bass may be caught below overhanging limbs and structures.

Daily creel and possession limits have been decreased.  Size limits may also apply, see regulations.

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.

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