Black Bass in North Carolina


In North America, Black Bass comprise at least 14 species of bass, which are a part of the sunfish family. North Carolina is home to at least five species of Black Bass, including the invasive Alabama Bass, and native Bartram's Bass, Largemouth Bass, Smallmouth Bass and Spotted Bass.

Black Bass Identification

Largemouth Bass and Smallmouth Bass are usually larger than Alabama Bass and Spotted Bass. Alabama Bass and Spotted Bass usually weigh less than 1 pound while Largemouth Bass and Smallmouth Bass weighing 2-3 pounds are common. Bartram's Bass is the smallest of the five species, usually less than 1 pound. When handling, anglers may note the scales of Alabama Bass and Spotted Bass often have a rougher feel than those of Largemouth Bass. 

Below is a comparison of the invasive Alabama Bass, native Bartram's Bass, Largemouth Bass, Smallmouth Bass, and Spotted Bass. Images courtesy of Black Bass iNaturalist.

Download a PDF.

description of Alabama bass olive green top lighter on sides scales rougher than largemouth bass horizontal band blotches on tail jaw does not extend beyond back of eye rows of spots on sides

description of Bartrams bass olive bronze on top with vertical bars splotches on side second dorsal, caudal and anal fins are green to yellow with pale margins; may have tooth patch jaw does not extend beyond eye when mouth closed

description of largemouth bass darker green on top, lighter on sides; jaw extends beyond back of eye with mouth closed, no tooth patch on tongue. notch between dorsal fin deeper than most other bass species

description of smallmouth bass bronze to brownish green often with vertical bars, usually no tongue patch,jaw does not extend beyond back of eye with jaw fully closed

description of spotted bass olive green on top lighter on sides tooth patch on tongue jaw does not extend beyond back of eye rows of spots on sides scales rougher than largemouth bass horizontal band on tail



Black Bass Management Initiatives in NC

Black Bass Statewide Genetics

N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission (NCWRC) Inland Fisheries staff are conducting a black bass genetics survey to determine the influence of hybridization on traditional black bass fisheries and to prioritize black bass management objectives in North Carolina. 

Expected Results and Benefits:

  • Reveal the frequency of northern and Florida alleles in Largemouth Bass populations
  • Identify locations of native Smallmouth Bass and Spotted Bass populations 
  • Identify locations of invasive Alabama Bass populations 
  • Identify hybridization among Alabama Bass, Largemouth Bass, Smallmouth Bass, and Spotted Bass
  • Identify the location of suitable broodfish sources for native Largemouth Bass, Spotted Bass and Smallmouth Bass populations
  • Identify genetically unique black bass populations (e.g., Bartram's Bass)

Experimental F1 Stocking Program


Reports, Summaries and Publications

Black Bass Management Plan (PDF - opens in new tab)

Related Links

Aquatic Nuisance Species - Learn more about aquatic nuisance species in North Carolina, how they got here, and what the NCWRC is doing to protect your waters. 

N.C. Stream Conditions - a list of websites that provide information on current stream flow conditions and projected release schedules from hydro power stations.

North Carolina Fishing Records and Angler Recognition Program - North Carolina has four programs that officially recognize anglers who have caught large fish. 

Where to Fish - Interactive map of publicly accessible fishing opportunities in western North Carolina streams, rivers, and reservoirs.

NC Fishes - more information and photos of fishes in North Carolina. (External website)

Protect Your Waters From Aquatic Hitchhikers - Learn how to prevent the spread of aquatic nuisance species through basic gear care procedures.  (External website)

Lake Levels and Flow Releases Management Authorities - links to various agencies, managed lakes, and lake level information sites.  (External website)

Bass Anglers Sportsman Society Conservation News – links to Keeping Bass Alive Guides, Bassmaster Conservation Directors, and aquatic conservation news (External website)

Major League Fishing Fish Management Division – links to the Fish Management Division of the Major League Fishing tournament circuit and more (External website)