Lakecaster Online Archives - Mar 2003

Black Bass 101

By Todd Driscoll
Texas Parks and Wildlife Department
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Depending on whom you are talking to, the "black bass" name might mean a couple of different things. Most often, I find that when anglers refer to black bass, they are specifically referring to largemouth bass. However, from a biology perspective, the phrase "black bass" is actually a group that includes seven closely related species classified by the scientific genus Micropterus. In other words, although a largemouth bass is a black bass, so are spotted bass, smallmouth bass, and four other similar species.

Backing up the classification ladder a couple of steps, black basses are part of another group of fish referred to as the Perciformes. The Perciformes is actually a large, diverse group of fishes and includes freshwater species like walleye and sauger (perches), white bass and striped bass (temperate basses), and crappies and sunfish (centrarchids). Although black bass are distant relatives of all these species, they are close cousins to crappies and sunfish and are grouped with them in a classification called Centrarchidae.

As I mentioned above, black basses include seven Micropterus species. Most anglers are probably familiar with only 3 or 4 of them, as the others are not present in Texas. Obviously, the most common black bass is the largemouth bass (Micropterus salmoides). Although originally native to the central and southeastern U.S. and northern Mexico, largemouth bass have been introduced into every state but Alaska and have been widely stocked in Mexico, Central and South America, Europe, and Africa. There are two largemouth bass subspecies: northern largemouth bass (M. salmoides salmoides) and Florida largemouth bass (M. salmoides floridanus). The Florida subspecies is originally native to Florida and southern Georgia, but has been widely distributed throughout the current largemouth bass range, including Texas. Generally speaking, Florida largemouth bass attain a greater maximum size than northern largemouth bass. The world record is a 22 lb. 4 oz. Florida strain fish caught in Georgia in 1932.

The three other black bass species found in Texas include the spotted bass (Micropterus punctulatus), smallmouth bass (Micropterus dolomieu), and the Guadalupe bass (Micropterus treculi). Spotted bass are native to the central and southern Mississippi River and Gulf Coast drainages. There are two subspecies of spotted bass and include the northern spotted bass (M. punctulatus punctulatus) and Alabama spotted bass (M. punctulatus henshalli). The northern spotted bass is native to Texas, but these fish rarely exceed 3 pounds. In an attempt to improve spotted bass size, the Alabama subspecies has been introduced in west Texas on an experimental basis. The success of this stocking has yet to be determined. The world record spotted bass was caught in California and weighed 10 lb. 4 oz.

Smallmouth bass are native to the northcentral and northeastern U.S. Although smallmouth bass have been widely stocked, they prefer rocky habitats and cooler water temperatures. There also are two subspecies of smallmouth bass: the common smallmouth bass (M. dolomieu dolomieu) and Ozark smallmouth bass (M. dolomieu velox). They have been successfully introduced into Texas, primarily in north to south-central rivers and reservoirs. The world record was caught in Tennessee and weighed 10 lb. 14 oz.

The Guadalupe bass is only found in Texas and it is recognized as the official state fish. This species prefers flowing waters associated with riverine habitats. It is primarily found in the San Antonio, Guadalupe, and Colorado rivers and portions of the Brazos River drainage. Guadalupe bass are relatively small members of the black bass group, with the world record at 3 lb. 11 oz.

The other less abundant black basses include the redeye or Coosa bass (Micropterus coosae), shoal bass (Micropterus cataractae), and Suwannee bass (Micropterus notius). All three species are native to streams in the southeastern U.S. The shoal bass world record is 8 lb. 12 oz., whereas the redeye and Suwannee world records are only 3 lb. 3 oz. and 3 lb. 14 oz., respectively.

Feel free to contact the local Inland Fisheries office with questions regarding this article or area fisheries by phone (409-384-9572) or email (todd3d@jas.net). Good luck and good fishing