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Everything You Need to Know About Rock Bass

Rock Bass are freshwater fish that make an exciting catch for anglers and fishers. They are stockily built gamefish that follow simple baits.

person holding a rock bass caught fishing

They lurk around rocks in schools during winter and move individually in spring when it’s time to spawn.

This guide explains the history, world record, and every other thing you need to know about Rock Bass. Keep reading to find out more.

Species Description

The Rock Bass is actually not a Bass, which is a family of freshwater and marine game fish. Instead, it belongs to the sunfish family (Centrarchidae).

closeup of a rock bass

Its scientific name is Ambloplites rupestris, which translates to ‘blunt shield among the rocks.’

The fish shares several characteristics with the smallmouth bass, warmouth, and green sunfish. It is commonly referred to as the google-eye, red-eye, or rock perch.

How to Identify

Rock Bass have laterally compressed, deep bodies. You can spot one by its large mouth, red eyes, and anal fin with five to seven spines.

person holding a rock bass

Rock Bass have olive and brass colors on their backs that slowly fade to yellow or whitish-green on their ventral sides.

They tend to change their colors to black or silver as camouflage against predators.

You can also recognize the Rock Bass by its yellowish fin and the black spots on its gill plate and scales.

The Rock Bass is relatively small when compared to other game fish and is 7 to 10 inches long. It has 11 to 13 dorsal rays and 10 to 13 spines.


Rock Bass are native to North America, and you can find them in New York, Kentucky, Tennessee, Alabama, Georgia, Florida, among other states. 

freshwater rock bass

For over a century, the Rock Bass was stocked in the USA for sportfishing. In 1990, they were introduced in the Tongue River in Wyoming and later to the Atlantic drainages till 1936.

They naturally dispersed to Mexico, Canada, the UK, and other locations.

World Record

A Rock Bass usually weighs 8 to 9 ounces. According to the International Game Fish Association, the current All Tackle Record for the Rock Bass is 3 pounds. Two anglers have caught a Rock Bass of this weight in Ontario, Canada (1974), and Pennsylvania, USA (1988). 

Life Cycle 

Rock Bass spawn in shallow waters from spring to summer and keep multiple mating partners. The females release 500 to 5,000 eggs when spawning, and the males guard the eggs. The males are highly aggressive during spawning.

a single rock bass fish

After two to three days, these eggs hatch. The hatched Rock Bass leave their nests in nine to ten days. 

The Rock Bass reaches sexual maturity within two to three years after hatching, but they’re capable of living for five to eight years.


Rock Bass can be found in clear freshwater with sand or rocks. They thrive in weedy lakes, ponds, rivers, and streams at 10 to 29 degrees Celsius (50 to 84 degrees Fahrenheit).

Seneca Lake

They also survive in habitats with extensive covers and low turbidity.


These fish are carnivorous, and their diet includes crustaceans, insects, and small fish of their species. They often eat plants that can be found in their habitat.

minnows in a creek


The closest predators to small Rock Bass are adult Rock Bass. Other predators include Walleyes, Largemouth Bass, Northern Pike, and Muskies. 

Floods are one of the primary threats to Rock Bass that can displace them from their habitat.

How to Catch 

Rock Bass are scrappy fighters that tire quickly. This makes them easy to catch. You can use artificial lures and live baits (wax worms, nightcrawlers, and minnows) to take them when they move in schools.

Where to Catch

You can catch a Rock Bass in a range of habitats across North America. Popular sites include the Great Lakes, Mississippi River, St. Lawrence River, American Lake, among others.

How to Eat 

After a long day of fishing the Great Lakes or the Mississippi River, you can take your catch home and fry your Rock Bass up.

Like other freshwater fish, these gamefish have edible flaky white flesh. Their broad sides aren’t fleshy, which leaves the back-strap above their ribs as their largest cut. You can fillet a Rock Bass after removing the fins, and then it’s ready to cook up.

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