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.
Smallmouth Bass in Texas
The smallmouth bass is generally green with dark vertical bands rather than a horizontal band along the side. There are 13-15 soft rays in the dorsal fin, and the upper jaw never extends beyond the eye. Known maximum size in Texas exceeds 7.5 pounds. Micropterus is Greek meaning "small fin" [see Guadalupe bass for further explanation]. The species epithet dolomieu refers to the French mineralogist M. Dolomieu.
In small streams a fish's activity may be limited to just one stream pool or extend into several. Spawning occurs in the spring. When water temperatures approach 60°F males move into spawning areas. Nests are usually located near shore in lakes; downstream from boulders or some other obstruction that offers protection against strong current in streams. Mature females may contain 2000-15,000 golden yellow eggs. Males may spawn with several females on a single nest. On average each nest contains about 2,500 eggs, but nests may contain as many as 10,000 eggs. Eggs hatch in about 10 days if water temperatures are in the mid-50's (°F), but can hatch in 2-3 days if temperatures are in the mid-70's (°F). Males guard the nest from the time eggs are laid until fry begin to disperse, a period of up to a month. As in other black bass, fry begin to feed on zooplankton, switching to insect larvae and finally fish and crayfish as they grow.
Smallmouth bass prefer large clear-water lakes (greater than 100 acres, more than 30 feet deep) and cool streams with clear water and gravel substrate.
Courtesy of Texas Parks and Wildlife Department