How to Identify Spotted Bass

How to Identify Spotted Bass

The Spotted Bass.

‘ol Meanmouth.

At first glance, the spotted bass looks somewhat similar to a largemouth. However, the coloring is a bit different… so is the body shape… and the size of the mouth… not to mention the aggressive nature…

Spotted Bass Illustration

Spotted bass (Micropterus punctulatus) are actually quite genetically close to smallmouth bass, and they may even hybridize with them – but they look more like largemouth. Many anglers argue that pound for pound, this is the “sportiest” of the 3 main black bass species.

Ultimately this is subjective and comes down to your personal preference.

3 subspecies are recognized: The Alabama spotted bass (Micropterus henshalli), the northern spotted bass, and the Wichita spotted bass.

Alabama Bass Illustration

Interestingly, DNA analysis has led some geneticists to conclude the Alabama spots are a different species, more closely related to redeye bass than northern spotted bass.

Also called “spots” or “Kentuckys”, spotted bass are an important gamefish in many areas. These fish usually use deeper water than largemouth, and they are identified in the field by a line of irregular dots just below the lateral line.

Spotted bass also have a tooth patch on the tongue – it’s a dark, roundish blob in the center that feels like sandpaper.

Spotted Bass Tongue Patch Brown Teeth

The upper jaw does not extend beyond the back of the eye, and there is a shallow notch between the dorsal fins.

The Wichita subspecies of spotted bass, feared extinct by some ichthyologists, occurred only in streams of the Wichita Mountains of Oklahoma. The Alabama subspecies inhabits the Mobile Bay drainage in Alabama, Mississippi, and Georgia. The northern subspecies or “Kentucky bass” is most widespread.

Steve Quinn, In-Fisherman

Spotted bass originally occurred in waters from east Texas to western Georgia, and as far north as Ohio. Spots have been successfully stocked in several areas – even African countries.

Known Range of Spotted Bass in The United States
Known Range of Spotted Bass in The United States – Visit USGS.gov for current information
Known Range of Alabama Bass in The United States
Known Range of Alabama Bass in The United States – Visit USGS.gov for current information

The world record spot – held by a pair of 9-pound 4-ounce fish taken from Lake Perris, California in 1987 – has been recognized by The International Game Fish Association for some time. This is the strictest record-keeping organization. However, in 2015 and again in 2017, new world record spots were recorded:

It’s official, the 11-plus pound spotted bass caught by California angler Nick Dulleck is now a world record. Dulleck, who caught the record Feb. 12 on New Bullards Bar Reservoir in Northern California, is now recognized as the all-tackle world record-holder by the International Game Fish Association. His catch weighed 11 pounds, 4 ounces and beat the previous record (10-6, Timothy R. Little, Jan. 12, 2015) by almost 2 pounds. Little’s record was also caught at New Bullards Bar.

Scott Bernarde, Game & Fish Magazine
World Record Spotted Bass: 11 Pounds 4 Ounces by Nick Dulleck
World Record Spotted Bass: 11 Pounds 4 Ounces by Nick Dulleck

Holy spot.

On a personal note, as my family prepares to make the transition south to a reservoir that contains all 3 of these primary black bass species, I couldn’t be more excited. Intimidated as well. I’m going from fishing 10-acre ponds on foot, to 50 acre lakes in my jon boat, to a 45,150 acre reservoir with an average depth of 75 feet.

… but I’m ready to hunt some spots, and you should be too… so let’s get on with it!

Tight lines!

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