Smallmouth Bass

Smallmouth Bass

Micropterus dolomieu

Other Names: brown bass, bronze bass, bareback bass, bronze back, and smallie

Smallmouth Bass Micropterus dolomieu

Smallmouth bass is a freshwater species and a popular game fish in North America. Smallmouths are in the sunfish family and one of the six black bass members, which is any of the six freshwater species of elongated fishes in the sunfish family of the genus Micropterus.

This fish is prolific in most tropical and temperate North American regions and can grow up to 12 pounds and 27 inches in length.

The smallmouth bass has been widely transplanted across North America; however, they are not as widespread as the largemouth bass (Micropterus salmoides).

Other smallmouth bass names include brown bass, bronze bass, and smallie.

The smallmouth bass fish is one of the hardest fighting freshwater species, highly sought after by anglers in North America.

Range and Life History

The smallmouth bass fish is native to eastern North America. From Manitoba and Quebec in Canada down to the Tennessee River system and west to Oklahoma. Their native range includes the upper and middle basin of the Mississippi River, the St Lawrence River, the Great Lakes system, and the Hudon Bay basin. The smallmouth bass was introduced outside of its native range and throughout more of the United States with the Erie Canal construction in 1825, which expanded the smallmouth range into central New York. In the 19th century, smallmouth bass was transplanted into lakes and rivers throughout the northern and western United States as far as California.

Appearance and Size

This fish’s appearance consists of an upper jawline that extends to its eye, and there are three brown vertical bands along its black, green, or brownish sides, but it’s rarely yellow. The dark bars radiate from its eye on its cheek and gill cover. The upper jaw on a smallmouth extends back to the midpoint of the eye. The dorsal fin of smallmouth bass is not as profoundly notched as that of largemouth bass.

Smallmouth bass females are commonly larger than males, ranging in weight between two to three pounds instead of four to seven pounds for their mates.

Depending on their habitat, smallmouths will grow up to 30 inches long, depending on how long the weather holds for them to feed.

The smallmouth bass habitat affects their weight, shape, and even color, seeing as lakeside species are more oval-shaped than river water fish, which tend to be torpedo-shaped. While the stream smallmouth is a darker brown, the lake or reservoir fishes are lighter, almost yellow-brownish, as this is effective for hunting.

Habitat and Habits

The smallmouth bass can withstand relatively strong currents and prefer clearer water than its largemouth bass cousins. You’ll come across smallies in streams, reservoirs, lakes, rivers, and ponds with rocky areas and cooler temperatures.

While it can live on both still and running waters, the smallmouth bass doesn’t tolerate pollution well, and they are indicators of an environment that’s healthy. This predatory fish can adjust to conditions better than trout species.

Smallmouth bass also migrates when the water temperatures drop below 60 degrees, and they’ll seek deeper pools where they go into a semi-hibernating fugue. At this time, they feed rarely and will school together or move sluggishly in groups at the bottom of rivers, lakes, or ponds.


Smallmouth bass is a predator and a carnivore, eating any small enough creature found in their habitat that they can swallow. This species is a daytime feeder, and it’s incredibly voracious early in the morning and at dusk, but during the summer months, they’ll hunt at night.

The availability of food, its size, season, water temperature, and the fish’s age or size will determine what smallmouths will eat. Young fry starts off eating crustaceans, aquatic insects, zooplankton, and small organisms.

As they grow, smallmouth bass becomes active predatorily, hunting sculpins, threadfin shad, crayfish, and minnows. Any insect unfortunate enough to land on the surface is eaten by smallmouths, alongside amphibians such as frogs and lizards. Bass are also fond of insect larvae and known to eat all sorts of larvae around the fishery, such as mosquito, mayfly, stonefly, and dragonfly larvae. The fry of smallmouths prefers insect larva or zooplankton, while adults will often cannibalize the young of other couples.


Smallmouth spawning occurs as water temperatures reach 60 degrees Fahrenheit in late May and June. Like largemouth bass, male smallmouths attract the females by building a nest on the gravel, sand, or rubble bottom in the shallows of lakes and rivers. Typically nesting sites are built within 150 yards from the nest of the previous year. They nest and spawn in water depths anywhere from 5 to 20 feet, depending on the water clarity. Females can lay more than 20,000 eggs in a season. The males are responsible for guarding the nest and fry.


You can find smallmouth bass in habitats that range from streams, rivers, lakes, and reservoirs below the Mason Dixon line. While many fisheries will contain large smallmouth bass populations, individual water bodies tend to harbor significantly larger fish than the others. One of the top fishing tips for smallmouth bass is to fish near cover. Smallmouth bass prefers areas with heavy cover such as weed beds, rocks, and tree shelter.

Smallmouth bass is known to attack anything that moves voraciously. Many anglers use standard casting gear and a large magnum-sized lure for smallmouth fishing

You can use lures that imitate minnows and crawfish for stream smallmouth. Select colors like brown, silver, chartreuse, and white. 6-inch plastic worm. Soft lures such as 1/8 or ¼ once rigged jig heads, jerk baits, and tube baits will complement ¼ ounce buzz baits and spinners for stream or river smallmouth bass. 

Heavyweight smallies on larger waters such as natural lakes or reservoirs will strike spinners, and the most preferred is either ¾ or 1-ounce jigs with willow leaf blades. You can also tip jigs with 5 ½ inch stick baits, Zara Spooks, or deep diving crankbaits, as well as 5/8 ounce buzz.

Anglers catch smallmouths using conventional baitcasting, fly fishing, or spinning gear, presenting one of the toughest freshwater fish to catch for bass tournaments. Smallmouths are highly regarded for their topwater fighting capabilities when hooked.


The angling record stands at 11 pounds over in Kentucky’s lake dale hollow. A much sought-after sport fish, the smallmouth all-tackle world record is maintained by the David Hayes catch of 11 pounds and 15 ounces in 1955. Hayes reeled in this monster on the Tennessee-Kentucky border in the dale hollow reservoir.


Smallmouth bass is good for eating and very tasty. It has firm, mild-tasting meat that is easy to cook. You can use this fish in versatile recipes, and to water down the fishy flavor, you can marinate your smallmouth in milk before cooking.


Fun Facts:

  • Bass can eat prey up to 35% of their body length
  • Average life span is 10-16 years
  • Two world-record bass were caught and declared a tie weighing at 22-pounds, 4 ounces.
  • Largemouth bass use scent mainly to attack and ambush prey
  • Females can lay a large number of eggs between 2,000-40,000 eggs


  • Tennessee:11 lbs 15 oz on Dale Hollow Lake in 1955
  • Alabama: 10-pounds, 8 ounces on Wheeler Dam tailwater, 1950
  • Texas: 7-pounds, 14 ounces on Lake Meredith, 1998
  • California: 9-pounds, 13 ounces on Pardee Reservoir, Sacramento, 2007

Fishing Techniques:

  • Light Tackle
  • Heavy Tackle
  • Livebait
  • Fly Fishing
  • Artificial Lures

Fishing Equipment:

  • Spinning Rods
  • Baitcasting Rods
  • Left & Right Handed
  • Fly Rods (request only)
  • Braid & Mono Line