Seeing Spots: Tough-Fighting Bass Shouldn't Be Overlooked

Seeing Spots: Tough-Fighting Bass Shouldn't Be Overlooked

John Murray, a professional bass angler from Tennessee, shows off a Kentucky spotted bass he caught on a jighead worm while fishing on Norfork Lake near Mountain Home, Ark. (Photo by John N. Felsher)

Ferocious, hard-fighting spotted bass typically go almost overlooked by many anglers who only catch these aggressive predators by accident when seeking largemouth, smallmouth bass or other fish. However, these vicious fish can challenge the best tackle.

Sometimes called Kentucky spotted bass, the species ranges throughout the eastern United States in the Mississippi and Ohio river drainages from the Great Lakes states to the Gulf Coast.

Spotted bass like this one often hit jigging spoons that resemble small shad or other baitfish. (Photo by John N. Felsher)

A subspecies, the Alabama spotted bass, flourishes in some Alabama river systems. Another subspecies, Choctaw bass inhabits rivers in southeastern Alabama and the Florida panhandle. Some spots from Alabama stocked into southern California lakes reached double-digit status.

“We now recognize the spotted bass as the Alabama bass in the Mobile River drainage lakes and rivers,” advised Michael P. Holley, an Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources fisheries biologist. “I consider a really big spotted bass to be about six pounds. A 4-pounder is still considered big and bass this size show up more frequently in angler catches. Pound for pound, in my opinion, Alabama bass fight harder than any other species of black bass including smallmouth bass.”


Robert Robbins lands a Kentucky spotted bass that he caught on a topwater bait while fishing on Norfork Lake near Mountain Home, Ark. (Photo by John N. Felsher)

With a greenish-white coloration, a spot looks very similar to a largemouth, but with a slightly smaller mouth and more black splotches along its lateral line. The defining feature, a rough “tooth patch” on its tongue distinguishes this species. While spotted bass look similar to largemouths, they act more like smallmouths. Spots love hard bottoms and deeper, cooler flowing water. They commonly hunt near main channel points, ledge edges, rocky shorelines, sandbars, riprap and similar places. A bottom strewn with chunk rock and little crannies that attract crawfish, small baitfish and other prey creatures can make a great place to look for spotted bass.


“Many river reservoirs have old shell beds, hard-bottom areas where mussels form and grow, particularly on the Tennessee River,” advised Randy Howell a former Bassmaster Classic champion from Alabama.

“The beds often become uncovered during high current flow. They are easy ambush places where bass can catch prey. These old shell beds are always great fish catching spots, especially for spotted bass, but I have also caught largemouth and smallmouth around shell beds.”

John Jones shows off a spotted bass he caught while fishing at Lake Sidney Lanier near Gainesville, Ga. (Photo by John N. Felsher)

On big impoundments, check the generation schedule for dams. Water flowing through a dam creates current that stimulates feeding activity. Like smallmouths and trout, spotted bass frequently hide behind current breaks like rocks, shell beds, stumps or long sloping points. They stay at the current edge looking upstream and waiting for the flow to bring them something to eat. Then, they rush out to snatch the morsel before returning to their eddy lairs.

Spotted bass might hit anything that would tempt largemouths or smallmouths. Since they feed heavily upon threadfin shad, spots particularly like 1/4- to 1/2-ounce spinnerbaits in white or a combination of white and other colors like chartreuse or black. Spots might also hit crankbaits, topwaters such as Zara Spooks, swimbaits and spoons.


Because they closely resemble minnows or other baitfish, jerkbaits make an excellent presentation for spotted bass.

Darold Gleason with South Toledo Bend Guide Services shows off a largemouth bass (left) and a Kentucky spotted bass (right) that he caught while fishing at Toledo Bend Reservoir on the Louisiana-Texas line near Many, La. (Photo by John N. Felsher)

In clear water, a fish might rise quite a distance to hit a suspending or slow-sinking jerkbait, even in deep, open water. Toss a suspending jerkbait to a good area, like over a hump, and let it sink. Estimate the sink rate by counting down by “one one-thousand” for each second.

Vigorously jerk the rod several times to make the lure dive. At the desired depth, jerk the bait side to side so it darts like an injured fish. Then pause. Bass regularly strike a jerkbait hovering motionless at the proper depth.


“Not many baits can beat a jerkbait for spots, especially in the fall,” Howell proclaimed. “People can fish a jerkbait many different ways, but there’s an art to fishing it successfully. To best fish a jerkbait, anglers need to fish it with a pop, pop, stop -- pop, pop, stop cadence with a couple seconds between the fall and the start back. That causes the bait to flick from side to side. It’s almost the same action as a walk-the-dog topwater bait, but under the surface. When it’s moving, a fish is usually trailing it. When the angler stops the retrieve, the bait just hovers in the strike zone. When it stops in their face, that’s when bass eat it reactively.”

Randy Dover shows off a Kentucky spotted bass he caught on a jerkbait while fishing on Lake Lanier near Buford, Ga. (Photo by John N. Felsher)

When spots go deep, drop a 1/8- to 3/4-ounce chrome spoon next to a drop-off edge. As it flutters down, the spoon mimics a dying shad. When it hits bottom, jig it up and down a few times. Bass normally hit as it falls. Keep trying different depths to find the fish. Locate fish in deep water and anglers could catch them for weeks in the same place.

In deep water, spots might also hit jigs, worms and other temptations. A 3/8- to 1/2-ounce football or a shaky head jig tipped with a small green pumpkin, watermelon red or watermelon seed worm trailer makes another super spot bait. Many anglers also use a drop-shot rig to probe the depths. A drop-shot rig essentially consists of a sinker on the end of a line with a lure tied about 12 to 24 inches above it. Sweeten the rig with a 4-inch grub or similar soft-plastic temptation. When the sinker hits bottom, twitch the line to make the bait quiver.

Jennifer Norman weighs a Kentucky spotted bass she caught while fishing on Lake Lanier near Buford, Ga. (Photo by John N. Felsher)

“With a bait 12 to 15 inches off the bottom, it’s right in the bass’s face,” explained Mark Menendez, a professional bass angler from Kentucky. “I like to use 8- to 10-pound line with a number 4 hook and a 1/8- to a 1/4-ounce sinker. In areas with considerable grassy cover, I use a number 1, 2 or 1/0 hook and Texas rig the bait. Round sinkers work better around rocks. Cylindrical sinkers cut through grass better.”

Although generally caught as a bonus while fishing for something else, spotted bass make a very welcome addition to any catch. After landing several mean spots on light tackle, anglers might start intentionally targeting this species.

Sometimes, spotted bass and other fish congregate over shell beds. This SteelShad blade bait worked over the bottom picked up a shell from a bed. Spotted bass often hit such blade baits since they resemble baitfish. (Photo by John N. Felsher)

Get Your Fish On.

Plan your next fishing and boating adventure here.

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Recommended Articles

See More Recommendations

Popular Videos

Berkley

Berkley's Surge Shad

Major League Fishing pro Scott Suggs has relied on the Berkley Surge Shad lure concept for years, using similar designs to capture MLF titles and a $1 million dollar FLW Forrest Cup win. With new features in the Surge Shad, Suggs tells OSG's Lynn Burkhead that even he can find success out on the water!

13 Fishing Pathfinder Weedless Walking Bait

13 Fishing Pathfinder Weedless Walking Bait

Fresh off catching the biggest bass in ICAST Cup history, 13 Fishing pro Jessie Mizell shows OSG's Lynn Burkhead the new Big Squirm soft plastic worm and the company's unique Pathfinder topwater walking bait that is totally weedless in design.

New 4-Liter Dry Creek Gear Pouch from Simms

New 4-Liter Dry Creek Gear Pouch from Simms

Outdoor Sportsman Group writer Lynn Burkhead gets new product details from Simms Fishing Product's John Frazier about the new waterproof 4-Liter Dry Creek Gear Pouch.

Mustad

Mustad's Saltwater Jig Lineup

Russ Whisler shows OSG's Lynn Burkhead the innovative features and great color schemes in Mustad's voluminous lineup of saltwater jigs introduced at ICAST 2019.

See More Popular Videos

Trending Articles

Fishing for nighttime crappie gets you out of the summer heat and puts more fish in the cooler.

By Other Freshwater

6 Tips for Nighttime Crappie

Keith Sutton - June 19, 2017

Fishing for nighttime crappie gets you out of the summer heat and puts more fish in the...

The colder waters of early spring are prime times to use bait rigs for stripers. Striper & Hybrid

3 Deadly Bait Rigs For Stripers

J.B. Kasper

The colder waters of early spring are prime times to use bait rigs for stripers.

Unless you live in Antarctica, the only continent they aren't known to inhabit, there is a species Catfish

10 Biggest Catfish World Records of All Time

Jack Vitek - December 08, 2014

Unless you live in Antarctica, the only continent they aren't known to inhabit, there is a...

You can catch bluegill faster with these strategies. Panfish

Find and Fish Bluegill Beds Efficiently

Terry Madewell - May 22, 2019

You can catch bluegill faster with these strategies.

See More Trending Articles

More Bass

Head to the river to catch moving-water smallies, largemouths. Fishing How-To

Skip the Lake for Great Summer Bass Fishing

Bruce Ingram - May 28, 2020

Head to the river to catch moving-water smallies, largemouths.

Here's how the pros fish swimbaits in all phases of peak bass season. Bass

Bass Swimbaits Through the Spring

Ken Duke - May 15, 2020

Here's how the pros fish swimbaits in all phases of peak bass season.

Target bass in and near their early grass haunts with this 1-2 topwater punch. Bass

Dynamic Duo: Froggin' and Doggin' for Bass

Mike Pehanich - June 12, 2020

Target bass in and near their early grass haunts with this 1-2 topwater punch.

Now's the time to throw those huge plastic worms to catch big largemouth bass. Bass

Outlandishly Large Worms for Giant Bass

Ken Duke - July 08, 2020

Now's the time to throw those huge plastic worms to catch big largemouth bass.

See More Bass

GET THE MAGAZINE Subscribe & Save

Digital Now Included!

SUBSCRIBE NOW

Give a Gift   |   Subscriber Services

PREVIEW THIS MONTH'S ISSUE

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Get Digital Access.

All Game & Fish subscribers now have digital access to their magazine content. This means you have the option to read your magazine on most popular phones and tablets.

To get started, click the link below to visit mymagnow.com and learn how to access your digital magazine.

Get Digital Access

Not a Subscriber?
Subscribe Now