Family: Centrarchidae
Common Family: The Sunfish Family
Common Name: Smallmouth Bass
Scientific Name: Micropterus dolomieu

Ecological Description/Identification

Smallmouth bass are bronze in color and sometimes have dark vertical bars on their streamlined body. The upper jaw does not extend past the back of their red/brown eye when closed and the spiny dorsal fin is well connected to the soft dorsal fin. In West Virginia they are often peppered with the benign Black Spot disease.


Smallmouth bass occur statewide and prefer fast moving streams. Smallmouth bass may be found near rocks, in eddies and typically occupy runs and pools. However, they do reside in lakes and reservoirs that are dominated with rocky bottoms, where they tend to become more bulky in shape.

Conservation Issues

Historically, smallmouth bass disappeared from many West Virginia waters as a result of acid mine drainage, as smallmouth bass are sensitive to poor water quality. Also, habitat degradation can also threaten smallmouth bass populations. They rely on rocky areas with enough current or wave action for successful spawning. Reduction in this habitat from issues such as sedimentation can reduce population numbers. Also, smallmouth bass spawning success is often dependent on stable flows in rivers. Frequent flooding during spawning periods can destroy eggs or larvae and thus reduce the number of juvenile fish. 


Smallmouth bass eat crayfish, fish, hellgrammites and other insects. Fishing the bank with the greatest current generally produces better catches. Small soft plastic jigs, small surface lures, spinners, crawfish, crank baits and natural baits are popular tackle for West Virginia anglers. Smallmouth are aggressive eaters and can provide excellent action when hooked. Catchable smallmouth bass can be from 4 to 20 or more inches. 

The West Virginia length record for Smallmouth Bass is 25.5 inches (Franklin J. Elliott, 1976) and the weight record is 9.75 pounds (David Lindsay, 1971).

Similar Species

A quick way to identify a smallmouth bass is from the vertical bars which the largemouth and spotted bass do not have. Smallmouth bass lack the large dark banded lateral line that largemouth and spotted bass have. Smallmouth bass are also usually more of a brown or bronze coloration, whereas largemouth and spotted bass are more olive or green in coloration. Largemouth bass have much bigger mouths than smallmouth, with their upper jaw reaching past the eye when closed.