Smallmouth Bass

Illustration by Duane Raver
(Enlarge image)

Scientific Name: Micropterus dolomieu

Classification: Game Fish

Abundance: Common in many of the coolwater rivers and reservoirs in the mountain and foothill region of NC.


Smallmouth bass (Photo by Keith Hendrickson/NCWRC)

Smallmouth bass (Photo by Keith Hendrickson/NCWRC)


Additional Information

The smallmouth bass is most often bronze to brownish green with dark vertical bars on its sides. Unlike the largemouth bass, the smallmouth bass has an upper jaw that extends only to the middle of its reddish eyes. Its dorsal fin is not deeply notched. Three distinct dark bars radiate from the eye. Smallmouth bass are native to the upper and middle Mississippi River drainage and have been introduced throughout North America. 

Insects and small fish comprise the bulk of a diet for juvenile smallmouth bass while adults will eat a variety of food items. Smallmouth bass living in lakes feed on shad and crayfish while stream-dwelling smallmouths eat mainly minnows and crayfish.

The following fishing regulations are effective Aug.1 of each year.

Inland Fishing Regulations
Regulatory authority between the Wildlife Resources Commission and Division of Marine Fisheries. Inland game fish regulations include Manner of Taking, Seasons and Using Trotlines and Set-hooks.

Warmwater Game Fish 
Game fish size and creel limits. Also Bass and Morone (striped bass) identification charts


Fishing Techniques:

Smallmouth bass are often regarded as one of the sportiest freshwater fish and are known for their stamina and fighting ability. They can be caught on a wide variety of artificial baits, but they generally prefer smaller sizes than largemouth bass. Artificial baits in orange and brown patterns that resemble crayfish are a popular choice. When fishing in moving water with live bait, such as crayfish, minnows or nightcrawlers, cast upstream and let the bait drift into pools and behind boulders and snags that break the current.

Places to Fish:

In North Carolina, smallmouth bass often inhabit coolwater streams, lakes and reservoirs in the western part of the state. They are rarely found in small ponds or lakes less than 25 feet deep or in any water that is continuously murky or polluted.

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