Have You Met The Spotted Bass?
In the bass fishing world, a lot of fishermen look to California as the new frontier. Deep, clearwater lakes seem to hold monsters. As 2015 gave way to 2016, another California angler was making claims to a record bass. Oh it was a big fish, no doubt, but for a largemouth it really was nowhere near the record. So what was all the fuss? Well this particular fish was a member of the CENTRARCHIDAE FAMILY- more commonly known as the Spotted Bass, Kentucky Bass, Kentucky Spotted, Northern Spotted, Alabama Spotted and even Wichita Spotted Bass. Officially, three species of spots have been recognized- Micropterus Punctulatus (Northern), Micropterus Henshalli (Alabama) and Micropterus Wichitae (you guessed it, Wichita). It is the Alabama that has been introduced in California. Spotted Bass are native to the
Mississippi River basin and across the Gulf states, and extend into the western Mid-Atlantic states. It has also been introduced into western North Carolina, Virginia, and even southern Africa, where it has become established in some isolated waters.
The current record is held by Timothy R. Little. This latest monster was caught by Wes Roberts, who claims the pictured fish is an 11-pound spotted bass caught on December 27. A desperate search for a certified scale and a dead iPhone led Roberts to a wildlife warden who went above and beyond the call of duty, driving Roberts four hours to measure the fish. The strangest part of the story? The warden was none other than Tim Little, the current world record holder! Even
Hollywood can’t write this stuff! These California Spots are reaching, with the possibility of exceeding what previously was believed to be the upper limit of length and weight- 25 inches and 11 pounds. They can reach an age of at least seven years. The Alabama spotted are highly prized as gamefish their average size being much larger than the more common Kentucky spotted.
Many anglers who catch spotted bass believe they have caught a largemouth bass due to the similarity in coloration, both with a greenish hue and a broad stripe of diamonds or blotches along the lateral line. The spotted bass, like all black bass, except the largemouth, has scales on the base portion of the second dorsal fin, its first and second dorsal fin are clearly connected, and its upper jaw bone does not extend back to or beyond the rear edge of the eyes. The spotted bass also has small black spots below the lateral line (the rear edges of certain scales are black) unlike the largemouth. Juveniles of the species resemble smallmouth juveniles, both having a broad band of orange at the base of the tail, followed by a broad black band and white edge. Because of the difficulty in recognizing the species, there certainly exists the possibility that the record size specimens of spotted bass have gone unnoticed.
It has been documented by scientists that the smallmouth bass occasionally will spawn with spotted bass, one of many contributing factors as to why identification, where all three species are known to occur, can be difficult. Generally, it appears that where possible, spotted bass will stay deeper than smallmouths. In one lake in Tennessee, spotted bass have been documented at depths of up to 100 ft. In that particular lake, Smallmouth bass have not been observed below 60 ft., and largemouth much shallower still.
Compared to largemouth, spotted bass prefer cooler waters as well as mountain streams and reservoirs with rocky bottoms. They feed on insects, crustaceans, frogs, worms, and smaller fish. Spotted bass seem to segregate by habitat when in the same waters as closely related species. The young will eat very small crustaceans and soon thereafter start to eat insects. The spots diet falls in between the largemouth and smallmouth bass. It isn’t nearly as predatory as the largemouth, only consuming about half the amount of the food for a meal. Like all bass, the Spotted feed using suction by opening its mouth and creating negative pressure that sucks in the prey
Spawning occurs from April to May in habitat similar to that used by smallmouth. The male builds the nest in gravel or other substrate then entices a female to deposit her eggs. As with other bass species, the male guards the eggs until the young disperse. Spotted and smallmouth bass hybrids have been collected in reservoirs suggesting there is occasionally competition between the two species for spawning habitat such that cross fertilization occurs.
There are a lot of great ways to catch spotted bass and with the giants in play in California, there has been a lot of discussion about possible secret baits, bait modifications, etc. The reality is, if you want to catch a spotted bass you have to put in the time to figure out what works best in the water you are fishing. Spotted Bass are thought to have a more varied diet than largemouth- they are basically willing to eat just about anything that crawls or swims in front of them. Some of the top baits you will want to be throwing are:
1) Finesse Tubes, such as Power Team Lures 3 ½ “ Food Chain; 2) Senko-type baits: these work either shallow or deep both rigged whacky or Texas style; 3) A Straight Tail worm rigged dropshot, on a darthead, or on a shakey head is going to get eaten; 4) Football Jig: I like Dirty Jigs’ Finesse Football but any football that gives you a bulky presentation on a hook that allows you to make finesse presentations will work; 5) The Spook, when it is topwater time, Spots love a walking bait. Whether using a Zara Spook or another brand of walking bait, think “chartreuse” and you won’t go wrong, and finally, 6) The Swimbait, these are dynamite but the key is size. You have to find the right balance between drawing power and being overpowering. Two recommended options are a 6″ Osprey Tournament Talon or the S-Waver 168.
I hope this has unraveled a little bit of the Spot Mystery. If you are fishing Spotted Bass waters, give some of these baits a try. Spotted bass fishing is booming right now across the country, not just in California and the other waters featuring the Alabama strain. There just might be a monster spot waiting for you to LIVE THE PASSION!