Redeye Bass Basics
Redeye bass (Micropterus coosae)
Located primarily in the southeastern United States, adult redeye bass typically grow between 14-17 inches (35.6-43.2 cm) in length and weigh between 1-3 lb (0.45-1.35 kg).
Controversy surrounds the world record redeye bass, and the specific specimen is unclear. The former record holder is now confirmed as a shoal bass, and other recorded contenders are not officially recognized as redeyes. The most probable world record was caught in South Carolina at 5 lb 2.5 oz (2.34 kg).
LC – Least Concern
Also Known As
Redeye bass are known across North America by many different names, including Redeye Bass Fish, Coosa Bass, Warrior Bass, Chattahoochee Bass, Tallapoosa Bass, and Cahaba Bass.
As of 2013, the redeye bass family has been split into five main species with very slight differences in appearance. These five species are divided depending on where they are found:
- Micropterus coosae is native to the Coosa River system
- Micropterus cahabae is native to the Cahaba River system
- Micropterus tallapoosae is native to the Tallapoosa River system
- Micropterus warriorensis is native to the Black Warrior River system
- Micropterus chattahoochae is native to the Chattahoochee River system
Therefore, the water system your redeye is caught from dictates which specific species it is.
The various species of redeye bass
The redeye bass is a small member of the black bass family. It generally presents with brown-green sides that are lighter in the center and decorated with vertical stripes. Their backs are bronze to olive in color and have dark green mottling. Their bellies run from a white to a yellow color, and they get their name from their piercing red eyes, although their eyes can appear black in juveniles.
Juvenile redeye bass will have 10-12 dark blotches along their sides that do not join to form a lateral stripe.
The mouth of a redeye extends to, or slightly behind, the rear of the eye. On closer inspection, the dorsal fin contains 9-11 spines, and the area between the two dorsal fins is connected but slightly notched. Similarly, the anal fin is also spiny and includes 9-11 rays with 3 spines. Like many bass species, redeye bass have a tooth patch on their tongues.
The upper and lower margins of the caudal (tail) fin are lined in white. This distinctive feature allows anglers to identify redeye bass from their shoal bass cousins.
During the spawning phase, male fish will develop a light blue-green color on their throats.
A redeye bass caught from a small stream
A Note on Spawning
Redeye bass spawn when water temperatures are between 62-68°F (16.6-20°C). This typically occurs between May and early June across the redeye’s range in the southeastern United States.
Males reach maturity at around three years of age. During the spawning period, mature male fish construct nests over coarse gravel. Female redeyes deposit between 2,000-3,000 eggs in nesting areas, which are then fertilized.
The male fish will protect the nest throughout the development of the fry. During this time, males are particularly aggressive and are known to produce defensive strikes in response to lures.
How to Catch Redeye Bass
Redeye bass are located in a handful of US states – North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Tennessee, and Alabama. Within these states, redeyes are found in the Coosa, Cahaba, Tallapoosa, Black Warrior, and Chattahoochee river systems.
Redeye bass thrive in clear, oxygen-rich water, making river and stream systems the best places to find them. They can be found in lakes, usually in search of temperate water or food. When residing in lakes, redeyes will be located around the inlets or other moving water, again due to their strong preference for oxygen-rich water.
Non-native redeye bass can be found in California, too. The official story is that they were brought into California in the 1950s as broodstock and never intentionally released. However, the redeye bass is responsible for the decline of several native species across Californian water systems.
Favorite Feeding Spots
Redeye bass prefer flowing water and areas with pools or riffles. Like most bass species, they also avoid direct sunlight (especially in summer). Shady areas, overcast days, mornings, evenings, and nights are ideal situations for targeting redeyes.
Fish in areas with merging currents that create whirlpools (eddies). Also, look for rocky spots, holes, or water with submerged trees and brush. Redeyes love to use these features to gain an advantage over their prey.
One of the reasons why areas with rough or fast-flowing water attract redeye bass is because small baitfish are disadvantaged in these waters. Large, mature redeyes will spot a baitfish in trouble, so they are drawn in.
A large portion of the redeye bass’s diet comprises insects, which is why they are a fly fisherman’s dream. Areas that produce large quantities of insects are also ideal places to fish for redeyes.
An ideal spot to find redeye bass
Due to the redeye’s geographical range, it’s possible to successfully target them all year round.
Prime fishing occurs during the summer months when the water levels and temperatures have stabilized. Conversely, winter fishing will provide the most challenge, especially when temperatures are at their lowest and the fish are docile.
When targeting redeye bass during the winter, always search for warmer water. An increase of only a few degrees in water temperature can significantly improve redeye activity. Areas around water treatment plants, field drain tiles, or the point where a stream enters a river can provide that extra degree or two.
During spring, focus on areas that hold plenty of insect life. Spots with low vegetation are preferable to the redeye angler over rocky terrain with limited vegetation. Plants are home to insects, which in turn, draw in hungry redeyes.
In summer, when the hot weather hits, search out cooler water. A favorite technique of mine is to fish overpasses. The shade and pools here provide mercy from the sun while holding plenty of insect life. Just be careful not to pick the same overpass as everyone else: the less human pressure, the better.
In the fall, the same basic principles apply. Find areas with lots of insects and keep water temperatures and levels in mind.
Redeyes can provide great sport even during the winter months
When setting out to target redeye bass, it’s essential to understand their natural diet. Some researchers believe over 50% of their annual diet consists of insects, so fly fishermen, you guys are in luck. Like other members of the black bass family, they also feed on crayfish and smaller baitfish, including shad and bream.
When stepping out with the fly rod, note the insects in the immediate area and match your fly accordingly. Most flying insects have an adult lifespan of fewer than four weeks, so the redeye’s primary food source will constantly change.
Topwater flies work well in early spring and late fall. On hot days between April and October, hoppers and poppers are my preferred choice. They say you can catch redeye bass on any color, as long as that color is yellow. There is no rhyme or reason to it, but the color yellow is a top choice all year, at least on the waters I fish regularly.
If you forgot to pack the fly rod or fly fishing isn’t your thing, try starting with a 3-4 inch rubber worm on a small shakey head. Alternatively, a small minnow bait such as a crank or a spinner can get redeye bass on the bank.
One of the best ways to catch redeye bass is with topwater lures
As mentioned, fly fishing can be very productive and should not be overlooked. Experienced fly fishermen will prefer a softer full flex rod when fishing for redeyes, but even beginners can succeed with easy-to-use poppers or foam floaters.
Remember yellow, yellow, and yellow when it comes to topwater fly color. Redeye bass are small, and a few dragonflies provide a good meal. If the fish are naturally hitting flies on the surface, observe what they are specifically going for and try to match your fly offering accordingly.
Be aware though that redeye bass are very skittish, and are known to vacate the area with just a failed attempt or two.
In addition to fly fishing, redeye bass will hit on leeches, worms, minnows, and most common lure options. If you have a child with you, attach a bobber and give live bait a go. Using a bobber teaches young anglers the importance of line control, rod angle, and timing, in a way that’s easy to understand.
Fishing with an ultralight setup will give you an advantage over a fly rod, as you’ll be able to fish the tight spots where vegetation can obstruct a fly rod cast.
Top Tips for Catching Redeye Bass
Tip 1: Stay Mobile
Redeye bass are skittish by nature. A few misses or catches in a specific area may scare them away. Be prepared to move on to the next spot, and try it again later.
Tip 2: Be Persistent
Recognize what works and what doesn’t. If luck isn’t on your side, try changing something. Time of day, area, lures, sizes, don’t be afraid to change up any of it.
If you live in an area that produces redeye bass, don’t be afraid to leave 30 minutes early for work and throw a few casts. I love doing this before a big fishing weekend because by the time Friday rolls around, I’ll have a general idea of what the fish are hitting on.
Tip 3: Study the Water
Redeye bass are instinctive predators. Take a few minutes to study the river before casting. Hopefully, after reading this guide, you should be able to make an educated guess on where the fish are hiding.