When you hear the word “bass,” most people’s first instinct would be to think of a popular game fish. Indeed, bass is among the most sought-after species in the world as it puts up a good fight whenever it gets hooked. But, the “bass” name has gotten extremely popular, which is partly due to the fact that fishermen wanted to increase the marketability of fish for consumption. This resulted in various types of bass that often leave regular persons and anglers confused.
In this article, we’ll focus on the common or popular species of bass, specifically the bass breeds that are in North America as it’s where they are widely distributed.
The Different Types of Bass in North America
Different species of bass are known to crossbreed when they inhabit common waters, resulting in several unrecognized hybrids which look similar.
They can be quite a challenge to identify correctly, so we will also give you some unique characteristics for the different types of bass.
Scientific Name: Micropterus
The most popular among all the types of bass in North America is the black bass. The fish spread throughout the area and they are known to be aggressive, pound-for-pound fish.
As they’re a popular catch among beginners and seasoned anglers, they’ve been introduced in non-native bodies of water across the globe.
Scientific Name: M. salmoides
The largest of bass that are under the black bass genus is the largemouth bass. Largemouth bass favor rivers and lakes that have slow currents and have soft bottoms and clear waters.
The species is aptly named as it does have a massive, sloping mouth with the upper jaw extending past the golden-brown eye of the fish.
You can identify the fish from its dorsal fin which has 9 to 11 spines and 12 to 14 soft rays with a deep notch that makes them appear separate or distinct from each other.
Largemouth bass have two official subspecies: Florida largemouth or M. salmoides floridanus, and Northern largemouth M. salmoides salmoides. The former is disputed often to be a distinct black bass species; however, it’s still unofficial.
Scientific Name: M. dolomieu
This species of black bass has its upper jaw reaching up to the center of the fish’s eye but not any further. It’s small in size, especially when compared to largemouth bass. It usually reaches no more than 10 lbs. Its body is brown or bronze. The color depends on the diet of the fish and the water’s turbidity.
In general, the river smallmouth has a darker hue and has a more elongated body. A lake-dwelling population will have a rounder shape with a yellow-brown hue. The fish can appear black, distinctly yellow, or green.
Smallmouth bass also have two official subspecies: Neosho smallmouth bass or M. dolomieui velox, and Northern smallmouth bass or M. Dolomieui.
Scientific Name: M. Punctulatus
The next on our list is the spotted bass, and it has nearly the same color and appearance as largemouth. The difference between the two is the body of the spotted bass which is rounder.
Both bass species have dark and jagged midlateral markings which form together in bands towards the caudal fins of the two species. Spotted bass usually prefer cool water temperatures with rocky bottoms like reservoirs and mountain streams.
Scientific Name: M. treculii
Guadalupe bass are among the types of freshwater bass. The species is Texas’ official state fish as it’s endemic to the state. It’s mostly found in the Guadalupe River and Edwards Plateau, particularly in the eastern and northern waters.
Small streams, creeks, waters with a fast current – they are the preferred habitat of the Guadalupe bass. It looks the same as smallmouth bass but it doesn’t grow as big, averaging only around 3 lbs.
Take note: it’s a rare, endangered species from hybridization with smallmouth. It’s under the status, catch and release.
Scientific Name: Morone
The genus, temperate bass, is known as the true bass. It’s also commonly referred to as sea bass and its closest relatives are spotted sea bass and European seabass.
Scientific Name: M. saxatilis
Striped bass are the largest out of all types of bass under the temperate bass genus, and they’re very popular in the US.
They are known for their 7 to 8 uninterrupted horizontal stripes which stretch from their gills to their caudal fins. Their upper bodies are often pale blue, green, olive, brown, or black. Their undersides are silver and white.
Striped bass are known to create a hybrid with white bass, and it’s called the hybrid striped bass. Its stripes are distinct in a way that they are interrupted or offset, similar to yellow bass. The hybrid is often raised in aquaculture and marketed in restaurants across the US to be wild striped bass.
Scientific Name: M. chrysops
White bass isn’t a sought-after fish in general, as it’s timider and it doesn’t fight when caught. Its deep body has a silver-white hue with a bit of light green. It has a dark back with a white underbelly.
The narrow, continuous dark stripes on its body run towards its upper half which may be dotted or broken towards its underbelly.
White bass, compared to striped bass, is smaller with a length averaging 11 inches. It’s widespread throughout the Midwest and it’s known to have large populations in Pennsylvania and Lake Erie.
Scientific Name: M. americana
Typically silver-white, the white perch can also have a darker color, particularly on the upper half of their bodies.
Juveniles have a set of dark lateral stripes that fade and become faded as they mature. Their body angles roundly upward just before their two dorsal fins. White perch favors brackish waters.
Scientific Name: Morone mississippiensis
Yellow bass have compressed bodies with up to seven stripes running horizontally on their sides. Their stripes can be offset or broken above their anal fins as they near the caudal fins.
They have silver bodies with yellowish underbellies. Their back has a dark green hue, and they’re not very popular. The species prefers clear waters with heavy vegetation.
This list covers the common types of bass that are caught in North America. We hope that this list helps clear up the common mistakes that anglers make when trying to correctly identify bass.
What are you waiting for? Bass it up!