Ounce for ounce smallmouth are considered one of the toughest bass around. These scrapers are typically greenish-bronze in color with dark vertical banding, rather than the horizontal band of largemouth bass. Their eye is frequently red, and the upper jaw never extends beyond the eye. Most smallmouths are in the 8-15 inch range. The world record is just shy of 12 pounds.
Smallmouth bass prefer large clear-water lakes, reservoirs, and cool, clear water streams with a gravel substrate. Generally, they favor structures as rock outcrops, logs, treetops, and riprap, such as dam faces. However, they will occasionally form schools to chase pelagic baitfish.
Preferred water temperature is 68-70 degrees. Smallmouth feed primarily on small fishes, crayfishes, and insects.
Spawning usually occurs when water temperatures reach the low 60’s. Males build their nests in quiet water in moving water and gravel substrate in lakes or other hard surfaces. Once the eggs are laid and fertilized, like other bass, males guard the nest for a couple weeks or so until the eggs hatch and the fry leave the nest. Smallmouth bass mature by age three or four, and can live upwards of 12 years.
Smallmouth bass originally ranged north into Minnesota and southern Quebec, south to the Tennessee River in Alabama and west to eastern Oklahoma and southwestern Arkansas. Today there are few states, east or west of the Rocky Mountains, where populations have not become established.