Smallmouth Bass

If you’re looking for the thrill of a tough top-water fight, go for the smallmouth bass.

Other Names: brown bass, browny, bronzeback, green trout, trout, river bass, redeye, jumper¹

Characteristics: The dorsal fin on the smallmouth bass is distinctly separated and contains nine to 11 spines and 13 to 15 rays. The mouth is relatively large, with the upper jaw almost reaching the rear margin of the eye. The eye may have a reddish tint.

Adult Size: 15 to 20 inches (380 to 508 mm)

Distribution: Smallmouth bass are native to the Tennessee River drainage.

Habitat and Biology: Smallmouth bass inhabit clear, small- to medium-sized streams, rivers, and reservoirs. They favor such underwater structures as rock outcrops, logs, treetops, and constructed riprap walls. Spawning usually occurs in April and May, when water temperatures reach 59º to 63ºF (15º to 18ºC) (Hubbs and Bailey, 1938).

Smallmouth feed primarily on small fishes, crayfishes, and insects (Hubert, 1977). Carlander (1977) reports life spans of six to 14 years in southern and northern populations.

Fish Facts: The tailwaters area below Wheeler Lock and Dam is one of the premier smallmouth fishing areas in North America, and several world line-class records have been set there in recent years. Most anglers fishing the tailwaters either drift or anchor below the dam while using live bait or bouncing artificial jigs along the bottom. The lower part of Wheeler Lake is also developing into a good smallmouth bass fishery. Live shad or other fish or crayfish often are used for bait. Hair jigs, plastic grubs and short-armed spinnerbaits are also popular. During mayfly hatches, fly-fishing is excellent.

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