Spotted Bass Basics
Spotted Bass (Micropterus punctulatus)
Spotted bass can be easily confused for largemouth bass due to the two fish’s coloration. However, they do not have the same capacity for size, with a typical spotted bass weighing only 3-4 pounds. The current world record for a spotted bass is a mere 11 pounds.
Also Known As
Spotted bass are commonly referred to as “Kentucky bass”, “spotty”, or “spots”. The latter two arise from the black spots that adorn the side of the fish, and the former comes from the home waters, where spotted bass are more commonly found.
LC – Least Concern
The spotted bass is a member of the Centrarchidae family; it presents a cylinder-shaped body that is light green to light brown, a coloration that it shares with the largemouth bass. The spotted bass boasts characteristic dark spots across the lower sides of its body, hence the name.
The spotted bass is easily confused for largemouth bass due to their shared coloration. However, several key differences exist between a spotted bass and a largemouth. Firstly, a spotted bass has a much smaller mouth due to its hinged jawbone. Secondly, the spotted bass sports a connected dorsal fin, unlike largemouths with two distinct dorsal fins. Thirdly, spotted bass have scales on the base portion of their second dorsal fin. So when asking what does a bass fish look like, don’t get confused between largemouth and spotties.
A Note on Spawning
Spotted bass spawn much in the same way and the same time as other bass fish species. It occurs typically late in the spring, as the water temperatures rise. Females make a nest, lay their eggs, and then the males stand guard over them until they hatch. This is a prime opportunity to throw jigs into the nest, to elicit a reactionary bite from the male.
A spotted bass falling to a spinner bait
How to Catch Spotted Bass
Spotted bass inhabit many different locations throughout the United States, Mexico, and South Africa. They prefer rivers, especially those with clear, cool, moving water and rocky bottoms. An angler can do no wrong by concentrating their efforts around submerged and exposed rock formations that offer the bass concealment, thermogenic benefits, and a home for aquatic life they can feed off of. Spotted bass will also hang around trees, stumps, or other such structures, cruising around these areas in search of aquatic life to prey upon.
Favorite Feeding Spots
The ideal feeding spot for big spotted bass is a rocky river bottom peppered with various grass or weed. Plantlife oxygenates the water and provides food and shelter for many aquatic herbivores; these animals draw in baitfish, which ultimately results in the presence of our predator friend, the spotted bass. Cool, slow-moving stretches of rivers that produce deep pools tend to present all of these elements in one place.
Spotted bass enjoy fast-moving waters, especially those with rocky bottoms. Spotted bass seek warmth during the winter months, like all other fish. The fish will cling to rock formations and cliffs exposed to the sun that channel heat down into the water. Fishing slow-moving baits near these structures will yield positive results during the winter months.
As winter yields to spring, higher water levels and temperatures force the spotted bass out of the main channels and into deep holes and shallows. The increased water temperatures also open up possibilities for anglers who want to throw fast-moving lures like crankbaits and spinnerbaits.
With the onset of summer, big bass fish are plagued with water temperatures that are above optimal. This forces the fish into deeper areas and holes, where cooler water with a higher oxygen saturation can be found. As anglers, these pockets are always to be sought out along a waterway. Running crankbaits through these holes or jigging the hole will yield impressive results.
As Fall comes into season, the spotted bass has to contend with lower water levels, leading to a higher concentration of other fish. This ultimately means less food is available, with more fish in the same area competing for it. Additionally, water temperatures begin to drop, forcing the fish to adopt efficient calorie management. In the Fall, spotted bass move closer to structures that are exposed above water. You can land spotted bass during this period, but it is not always straightforward and requires you to tailor your approach to the situation.
The spinnerbait is the classic bait for catching spotted bass, especially in typical river conditions. Bearing in mind the high light penetration of most rivers, the angler should stay close to white and blue baits with long, silver, willow leaf blades. When presented slowly, this bait will represent a small school of baitfish, the primary food source for spotted bass.
The fluke is a lesser-known option for catching spotted bass but a highly effective one. In river fishing, many fish simply don’t hunt. Instead, they point themselves upstream and let the current bring food to them. The fluke takes advantage of this as it imitates a dead or dying baitfish. Using a fluke with a level of reflectivity and a dash of red somewhere on it (to represent injury) will be highly effective.
Generally speaking, jigs offer the angler many different options to present a bait to spotted bass, with the ability to be presented to a particular area and in an inherently slow manner. In especially cold conditions, when the fish’s metabolism has taken a hit, this slow approach affords the spotted bass a chance to take it. Baits that imitate smaller crustaceans are essential here, as the spotted bass that takes a jig will most likely be cruising rock formations or the bottom in search of crawfish.
The spinnerbait, a classic for landing big spotted bass
Top Tips for Catching Spotted Bass
The most popular methods for targeting spotted bass are presenting jigs, crankbaits, and spinnerbaits to river rock formations during the summer. Casting a crankbait beyond rocks to an area with an underwater overhang can elicit an almost magnetic force on the fish. Spotted bass are ambush predators and will be looking to feed on unsuspecting prey that wander into their strike zone. Leveraging this fact will ensure success.
Tip 1: Slack Water
Unlike salmonids, spotted bass do not need the current to help them breathe. This means they inhabit areas of rivers that flow slowly, where they wait for the river to bring food to them. Targeting areas in a stretch of river where the water comes to a near halt present an opportunity to cast baitfish imitators such as a white fluke, spinnerbait, or a slowly retrieved crankbait, to great success.
Always look for the slacker waters, especially on rivers
Tip 2: Use Baitfish Imitators With Red
The spotted bass is a schooling river fish at heart. When selecting a lure, it is essential to keep this in mind. Spinnerbaits, flukes, and crankbaits can be highly effective when adapted to the color of the water. If you’re fishing in muddy water, lean toward earthy tones, whereas if you’re in clear water, you should gravitate to the whites, blues, and reflective colors.
Regardless of the water’s color, try to select a lure with a slight tinge of red somewhere on the lure’s body and then fish them as if injured. To spotted bass, this will represent a cheap and easy meal.
Rocky bottoms, aquatic plants, and a slight current is what the spotted bass dreams of
Tip 3: Clouser Minnow
What is the spotted bass’s weakness? Small baitfish. An underutilized method to land more spotted bass is to borrow a jig-like bait from the world of fly fishing. Clouser minnows are a staple in the fly fishing community but have never made their way into the greater fishing community. However, an ultra-light rod set up used to jig a Clouser minnow in a hole for spotted bass can be highly productive.
What is a bass fish’s weakness? Small, injured baitfish. The Clouser minnow capitalizes on that