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How Many Black Bass Species Are There?

by Scott Bernarde   |  May 17th, 2017 0

You may not know this, but there may be more than a dozen black bass species in the U.S.

black bass species

Black bass are the most popular freshwater gamefish in America. (Shutterstock image)

Sure, you know about largemouth, smallmouth and spotted bass, which are among the most sought-after gamefish in the world.

And the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (2011 data) says black bass are the most popular freshwater gamefish in America, based on its participation statistics.

But, depending on who you ask, there may be as many as 19 different species (and subspecies), according to The Fisheries Blog, where in the article, “Black Bass: How Many Species Are There,” guest blogger and fisheries biologist Tim Bonvechio says the scientific community is in agreement about nine species, but 10 other varieties also warrant attention.

So, really, how many black bass species are there?

In Georgia, where biologists say 10 recognized native black bass species live, the state game and fish agency is having some fun with the question and the state’s distinction of having so many kinds of bass.

Catch a ‘Bass Slam’

If you catch five of the 10 Peach State bass species, it’s called a “Georgia Bass Slam,” according to the Georgia Department of Natural Resources’ Wildlife Resources Division (WRD). A certificate and other prizes go to the anglers who pull off the feat.

“Black bass are the most sought after species in North America, and for the Georgia Bass Slam we recognize 10 different black bass. The Slam challenges anglers to explore new habitats and different techniques to go beyond the species they normally target.” —  John Biagi, Chief of Georgia WRD Fisheries Management.

To qualify for the Georgia Bass Slam, fish must be legally caught within a calendar year, and anglers must provide some basic information and several photos of each catch. Anglers will submit information to Georgia.BassSlam@dnr.ga.gov for verification. For more info go to BassSlam.com.

According to Georgia DNR, the 1o native species of black bass living in the Peach State are (text by Georgia DNR):

Largemouth Bass

black bass species

Largemouth Bass (Georgia DNR image)

>> Largemouth bass have a dark green upper body fading into a whitish belly, with a series of dark marks forming a dark horizontal band along the sides. As water clarity decreases, colors fade and fish tend to be more silver in appearance. They can be distinguished from other bass species by their large mouth.  When the mouth is closed, the upper jaw extends well beyond the eye. In addition, there is a deep notch between their dorsal fins, making the two fins appear separate. *Due to their similarities, largemouth bass and Florida largemouth bass will be considered the same species. Scientific Name: Micropterus salmoides. Adult Size: 12-38 inches

Smallmouth Bass

black bass species

Smallmouth Bass (Georgia DNR image)

>> Smallmouth bass are usually bronze to brownish green, with dark vertical bars on their sides. Unlike largemouth bass, the upper jaw extends only to the middle of the eyes, and the dorsal fin is continuous and not deeply notched. It is most similar in appearance to shoal bass, which usually have a dark spot at the base of the tail. Scientific Name:  Micropterus dolomieui. Adult size: 7-27 inches

Spotted Bass (Alabama or Kentucky)

black bass species

Spotted Bass (Georgia DNR image)

>> Spotted Bass (Common Names: Spotted bass; Alabama bass; Kentucky bass) are greenish in color with pale bellies and have a series of dark lateral blotches that merge to form an irregular band, numerous small dark spots below the lateral line that form horizontal rows, and a prominent dark spot at the base of the tail. Unlike largemouth bass, the upper jaw does not extend beyond the eyes and the dorsal fin is continuous and not deeply notched. Spotted bass and Alabama bass are very similar, but spotted bass have blotches above the lateral band that touch the first dorsal fin, while on an Alabama bass the blotches do not touch the first dorsal fin. Scientific Name:  Micropterus punctulatus, Micropterus henshalli Adult size: 11-25 inches

Shoal Bass

black bass species

Shoal Bass (Georgia DNR image)

>> Shoal bass are olive to bronze with pale bellies, have a series of dark vertical blotches along their sides that may fade with age, and have numerous small dark spots below the lateral line that may form horizontal rows. Unlike largemouth bass, the upper jaw does not extend beyond the eyes and the dorsal fin is continuous and not deeply notched. They are most similar to the the redeye basses, but do not have any red coloration in the fins or pale margins on the tail. Unlike smallmouth bass they usually have a large dark spot at the base of the tail. Scientific Name: Micropterus cataractae. Adult Size: 12-24 inches

Suwannee Bass

black bass species

Suwannee Bass (Georgia DNR image)

>> Suwannee bass have a series of dark, vertical, diamond shaped blotches along the lateral line, which may form a band. Mature Suwannee bass may have bright bluish coloring on the cheeks, breast, and ventral parts. Unlike largemouth bass, the upper jaw does not extend beyond the eyes and the dorsal fin is continuous and not deeply notched. Found only in the Alapaha, Ochlockonee, and Withlacoochee Rivers. Scientific Name:  Micropterus notius. Adult size: Up to 16 inches

Redeye Bass

black bass species

Redeye Bass (Georgia DNR image)

>> Redeye bass are olive green to bronze with pale bellies, have a series of dark vertical blotches along their sides that usually disappear with age, and have numerous small dark spots below the lateral line that form horizontal rows. The upper jaw does not extend beyond the eyes, the dorsal fin is continuous and not deeply notched, and lateral blotches do not form a horizontal band. Redeye bass differ from all other bass species in that the second dorsal, caudal, and anal fins have brick red coloration on the outer portions with white edges. Redeye bass are found in the Coosa river basin; and have been introduced into the Tennessee River basin. Scientific Name: Micropterus coosae. Adult Size: 5-16 inches

Chattahoochee Bass

black bass species

Chattahoochee Bass (Georgia DNR image)

>> Chattahoochee bass are olive green to bronze with pale bellies that sometimes have a bluish tint, have a series of dark vertical blotches along their sides that may fade with age, and have numerous small dark spots below the lateral line that form horizontal rows. The upper jaw does not extend beyond the eyes, the dorsal fin is continuous and not deeply notched, and lateral blotches do not form a horizontal band. Chattahoochee Bass differ from all other bass species in that the second dorsal, caudal, and anal fins have bright orange coloration on their outer portions and numerous dark spots. Chattahoochee bass are found above the fall line in the Chattahoochee River basin. Scientific Name: Micropterus chattahoochee. Adult Size: 5-16 inches.

Tallapoosa Bass

black bass species

Tallapoosa Bass (Georgia DNR image)

>> Tallapoosa bass are olive green to bronze with pale bellies that sometimes have a bluish tint, have a series of dark vertical blotches along their sides that may fade with age, and have numerous small dark spots below the lateral line that form horizontal rows. The upper jaw does not extend beyond the eyes, the dorsal fin is continuous and not deeply notched, and lateral blotches do not form a horizontal band. Tallapoosa Bass differ from all other bass species in that the second dorsal, caudal, and anal fins have yellow-green coloration with white edges. Tallapoosa bass are found in the Tallapoosa River basin. Scientific Name: Micropterus tallapoosae. Adult Size: 5-16 inches

Altamaha Bass

black bass species

Altamaha Bass (Georgia DNR)

>> Altamaha bass are olive green to bronze with pale bellies that sometimes have a bluish tint, have a series of dark vertical blotches along their sides that may fade with age, and have numerous small dark spots below the lateral line that form horizontal rows. The upper jaw does not extend beyond the eyes, the dorsal fin is continuous and not deeply notched, and lateral blotches do not form a horizontal band. Altamaha Bass differ from all other bass species in that the caudal fin is dark spotted with narrow orange upper and lower margins; the second dorsal and anal fins also have some orange coloration on their outer portions. Altamaha bass are found above the fall line in the Ocmulgee, Oconee, and Ogeechee river basins. Scientific Name: Micropterus sp. cf. cataractae. Adult Size: 5-16 inches

Bartram’s Bass

black bass species

Bartram’s Bass (Georgia DNR image)

>> Bartram’s bass are olive green to bronze with pale bellies that sometimes have a bluish tint, have a series of dark vertical blotches along their sides that may fade with age, and have numerous small dark spots below the lateral line that form horizontal rows. The upper jaw does not extend beyond the eyes, the dorsal fin is continuous and not deeply notched, and lateral blotches do not form a horizontal band. Bartram’s Bass differ from all other bass species in that the caudal fin lacks notable spotting and has a narrow pale lower margin; the second dorsal, caudal, and anal fins usually have some orange to yellow coloration on their outer portions. Bartram’s bass are found above the fall line in the Savannah river basins. Scientific Name: Micropterus sp. cf. cataractae. Adult Size: 5-16 inches.

Here’s Another List of Black Bass Species

There are more, according to Bonvechio’s blog, but that doesn’t mean it’s a list shared by everyone. For example, the list he writes about separates Largemouth, Florida, Alabama and Kentukcy bass into separate categories. (Georgia’s Bass Slam list considers Florida bass as largemouths, and both Alabama and Kentucky bass are included in the spotted bass category).

Here’s the black bass species list cited in Bonvechio’s blog:

Biologists agree on these

  • Alabama Bass
  • Florida Bass
  • Guadalupe Bass
  • Largemouth Bass
  • Redeye Bass
  • Shoal Bass
  • Smallmouth Bass
  • Spotted Bass (Kentucky)
  • Suwannee Bass

>> Read Bonvechio’s blog here

Other species to consider

  • Cahaba Bass
  • Chattahoochee Bass
  • Choctaw Bass
  • Tallapoosa Bass
  • Warrior Bass

Additional subspecies and forms to consider

  • Altamaha Bass
  • Bartram’s Bass
  • Cuatrociénegas Bass
  • Neosho Smallmouth Bass
  • Wichita Spotted Bass (maybe extinct, or possibly a hybrid)

The International Game Fish Association, which keeps track of freshwater and saltwater fishing records, lists eight black bass (genus Micropterus) categories on its all-tackle records list, which includes categories for meanmouth and Guadalupe X smallmouth. Check out its list here.

Want more info?

The American Fisheries Society has published “Black Bass Diversity: Multidisciplinary Science for Conservation,” which covers “the biological, ecological, genetic, and management concerns of endemic basses within the genus Micropterus.”

What do you think?

Share your comments about this article in the comments section below.

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