Common Family: The Sunfish Family
Common Name: Rock Bass
Scientific Name: Ambloplites rupestris
Rock bass, red eye, goggle eye, rock perch describe the same fish. Rock bass are a feisty predator and fighter when hooked. Colorations vary from a golden brown to olive with white to silver highlights on the belly and rows of dark dots. Often the species has red to orangish eyes, resulting in the name of red eye.
Rock bass are native to the United States, ranging from as far north as the Great Lakes, as far south as Florida and as far west as Arkansas. Spawning usually occurs in April, when waters become warm, and extends to June. The male tends to the eggs and raises young for a short time. If favorable the fish can breed more than once in a year.
As their name implies, rock bass like waters with structure. Their preference is clear, rocky, vegetated, shoreside pool habitat. Found in rivers, lakes and ponds, rock bass seem to not be concerned with the presence of many predators, including anglers. Perhaps this is due to their ability to use the available habitat as cover when threatened. Rock bass also have the ability to modify colors to closely match the surrounding environment. You can likely find them right next to that monster fish you’re trying to catch and watch one come steal your bait.
With their broad range geographically, rock bass are considered a species of least concern. Their populations are stable within the state and throughout their range. I would say many of us have thrown a potential record back not realizing that these fish are indeed sportfish.
The state record for a rock bass is 13.8 inches and weighed 1.75 pounds. This record dates back to 1964. There is a tie for the world record at 3 pounds and is disputed between Ontario and Pennsylvania.
Rock bass have a more shortened and broad body. Smallmouth bass sometimes exhibit red to orange eyes like rock bass.
Rock bass range in color from golden brown to olive with white to silver highlights on the belly and rows of dark dots. Smallmouth bass are more golden or bronze in body coloration, lacking the rows of dots.