Smallmouth Bass
Typical Size
8-10" (1/2 - 1 lb.)
Decent Size
10-13" (1-3 lbs.)
Nice Size
14-18" (4-8 lbs.)
23.7" (10 lbs. 15 oz.)
Awards Program
Qualifying Size

4-1/2 lbs.
Genus/Species Micropterus dolomieu
Common Names bronze bass, smallie, bronzeback, brownie
Hot Spots Long Pond, College Pond, Littles Pond
Best Time Spring/Fall
Best Baits jigs, soft plastics, live minnows, diving crankbaits
Best Method Live bait fishing, jigging, top-water plugging
Smallmouth Bass do not share the tell-tale horizontal stripe that runs along the side of largemouth bass. Instead, smallmouth bass tend to have dark vertical bars, like a bluegill sunfish, along it's side. These vertical bars are set upon a a dark olive brown or yellow-brown back. The underside is usually cream or dusky white with darky mottling giving a salt-and-pepper look. The dorsal fin is almost divided, with the spiny dorsal, soft dorsal, and tail fin similar to that of a largemouth bass. Smallmouth bass get their name from the fact that the upper jawbone does not extend beyond the mid-range margin of the eye, unlike the popular largemouth bass which has a jawbone extending well past the eye.

Smallmouth Bass
Smallmouth bass are not that common here on the south shore.
Smallmouth Bass prefer large clear, relatively deep areas of ponds and lakes that contain underwater structure such as submerged timber or rock outcroppings. Unlike their cousin, the largemouth, smallmouth bass have little tolerance for poor water conditions with low oxygen levels and pollution. They can be found in swift moving rivers, but prefer large lakes. Their preferred habitat differs so much more than the largemouth, that they rarely are caught in the same area. Whereas a largemouth prefers heavy structure in shallow water, the smallmouth prefers deeper water with steep drop-offs. Structure is not nearly as important to smallmouths as deeper water is. What they do share is the same aggressive instincts. They are apex predators that attack a bait with great ferociousness and fight hard all the way, making them preferred by many sport fishermen over even largemouth bass. Smallmouths prey heavily upon other fish, frogs, invertebrates, and insects. They are often known to school together in clumps along areas of sudden depth change.

Smallmouth bass are native to the southeast and midwest from Arkansas to Oklahoma up to southern Quebec. Although they have been widely introduced elsewhere, they are not nearly as common along the south, or southwestern US. They also are not indigineous to the south shore of Massachusetts, however, there are a few bodies of water around here that contain smallmouth bass. They are tougher to find because they tend to stay away from the shoreline and hang only near areas of structure.

Smallmouth bass spawn in May or when water temperatures approach 60 degrees. Males move into spawning areas near shore around points of structure. The male bass does all the work building the nest by fanning the sand or gravel with his tail, making a circular impression on the bottom. The female is courted, lays her eggs in the bed and then swims on leaving the the male to fertilize the eggs and guard the nest until the young hatch in about a week. The small fry, numbering in the thousands, stay packed together in a tight school, protected by the male bass. The male bass does not feed for the entire duration of spawning and hatching. Only after the young fry leave the nest do the adult males resume feeding.

There are whole books written soley on smallmouth bass fishing and several websites devoted entirely to smallmouth bass. With this kind of coverage, there is little I could write abouth smallmouth bass fishing that hasn't already been written. Due in large part to the low number of water bodies on the south shore that contain smallmouth bass, and the poor shoreline success rate, smallmouth bass fishing is not all that popular here on the south shore of Massachusetts.

Nonetheless, fishing for smallmouth bass is very rewarding when you do catch one. Their fight is tremendous and they can grow larger in size than most other freshwater fish. They can be caught on an assortment of both natural and artificial baits. Live shiners are probably the best natural bait and the same live bait rig used for largemouth bass will work well for smallmouth bass too. The key is to fish your minnow in the the deeper holes in the open areas of the pond, not the little coves and inlets that you find largemouth bass in.

The best method for taking smallmouth bass is by using artificial lures. Personally, I prefer inexpensive lures like soft plastic grubs and tubes, letting them sink all the way down and then employ a slow, steady retrieve that keeps the jig bouncing just over the bottom. A tube rig works well, as do Sluggos and larger marabou jigs. Diving swimming plugs and spinners are also effective. Trolling sinking plugs will take some bass, and can be very effective when trying to locate sudden depth changes. Once the area is found, however, jigging while drifting will likely be more successful.

Fishing for smallmouth bass is an extremely important recreational fishery in other parts, but here on south shore of Massachusetts, it is not nearly as important. I've never eaten smallmouth bass but I've been told that the flesh is generally white, flaky, and low in fat content. The flavor is supposedly better than largemouth bass. Fillets are often fried or baked. Considering the mercury warnings of freshwater fish in general, I would not recommend consuming this species.