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Spotted Bass: Identification Guide & Fishing Tips

Spotted Bass, sometimes referred to as spotty or just spots, is a breed of game fish that presents unique features and challenges to all kinds of anglers.

person fishing for spotted bass

They are often mistaken for the similar-looking and considerably more common Largemouth Bass. But they’re very different.

Here’s what separates them from the rest of the pack.

Species Description

The Spotted Bass is a freshwater fish species belonging to the Sunfish family – Centrarchidae – and of the order Perciformes.

Researchers defined the species across three subspecies; the Alabama Spotted Bass (M. p. Henshalli), the Northern Spotted Bass (M. p. Punctulatus), and the Wichita Spotted Bass (M. p. Wichitae). 

Researchers found in 1995 that the Wichita subspecies was a hybrid with another fish species, rendering it invalid and leaving only the other two subcategories.      

How to Identify

There are several key features to look at when determining if you’ve caught a spotted bass, and sometimes they’re easy to confuse with a largemouth. One is that the jaw will not extend past the eye line.

You’ll also find that the cheek scales on a Spotted Bass are considerably smaller than the scales on the rest of the body.

As well, their dorsal fins are connected clearly to their bodies at a gentle incline.

Other indicators include a dark-spotted horizontal stripe across the side and a rough square patch in the center of their tongue.

Lastly, you’ll find that they’ve lined the lower half of their bodies with dark spots. 


This fish is native to the Mississippi River basin and can be found across several states, ranging from Texas central out to the Florida panhandle.

People have seen it in Mid-Atlantic states and even western North Carolina and Virginia.

They’ve found it outside of the states in southern Africa, where it has taken over some isolated waters. 

World Record

The world record for the most massive Spotted Bass caught is a whopping 11-pounds and 4-ounces.

Nick Dulleck caught this beast in the Bullards Bar Reservoir in northern California on February 12, 2017.

It took 64 seconds to capture and measured at 24.5 inches long with a width of 20.75 inches. 

Life Cycle

The Spotted Bass has a lifespan of around six years. They breed and spawn in the months from April onto May, and they tend to stay in habitats near the shoreline.

A male will attract the female by building a nest of gravel and other minerals. Once the female lays her eggs, the male will stay to guard them. 

Interesting spotted and smallmouth bass hybrids have been found in some areas, implying some overlap in their breeding areas.

Habitat and Diet

Despite being in a similar family as largemouth and smallmouth bass, Spotted Bass do not like to stay in the same locations.

The areas they inhabit are both too warm, silt-filled, and slow for smallmouth bass and have too much current for the largemouths.

Their habitat usually has aquatic vegetation and other underwater elements like rock and submerged logs.  

As for diet, they tend to feed on crayfishes, insects, and other small fish.


This fish species faces many of the same threats that Bass do in general. One is climate change.

A loss of water, constant droughts, and human activity threaten the lakes they live in. They are also victims of invasive species like Asian Carp that destabilize their ecosystems.

How to Catch

If you’re looking to break your personal best for Spotted Bass catches, then bait type is essential.

Since the fish tend to move near deep bluffs and then suspend, a ¾-ounce flutter spoon that can handle depths before being reeled through the suspended fish is the best pick. 

Other bait options include plastic worms, spinnerbaits, and tube baits. 

Where to Catch

Most of the time, Spotted Bass like to stick around structures like the brush and submerged treetops.

Finding these landmarks and then aiming for a depth of 40 to 70 feet is the best way to catch this breed. You can also look in reservoir areas with rocky or solid bottoms.

How to Eat

Preparing this fish for eating is very simple. They offer flaky, succulent white filets that tend to be firm enough to stay together when grilling.

It’s as simple as tossing it over a fire and enjoying the results. 

Final Thoughts

Spotted Bass are an excellent option for fishing and definitely for eating, too. Though certain things threaten them, you can still find them in many areas across the states.

Keep the tips above in mind, and you’ll be on your way to having a great, (hopefully) recording-breaking time. 

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