The term “black bass” refers to a family of freshwater fish which are native only to North America. In addition to the largemouth bass, biologists generally recognize six other bass species: smallmouth, spotted, Roanoke, shoal, redeye and Suwannee basses.
The three most common black bass species include:
The largemouth is the largest and most widely recognized black bass. Largemouth bass can be indentified by observing the size of their mouth, which extends past the eye when closed. Largemouth are usually greenish in color, with a dark broken line along their flank.
The smallmouth bass differs from the largemouth in terms of appearance as well as behavior. Smallmouth tend to be browner and smaller than largemouth. Other prominent features include their bright red eyes and smaller mouth that does not extend back as far as the eye.
Unlike their larger cousins, smallmouth prefer clear, cool water. They are often found among rocky areas in moderate to fast moving streams and creeks. In most areas, smallmouth bass feed primarily on crayfish.
Spotted bass are similar in coloration to largemouth bass. Both species have a broken or mottled stripe that extends laterally down the side of the body. However, spotted bass have rows of spots on their lower sides unlike largemouth bass.
Spotted bass can be distinguished from largemouth bass by observing the size and shape of the mouth. The mouth of the spotted bass extends to the eye but not beyond the rear edge when the mouth is closed. Another distinguishing feature can be found by examining the tongue of the fish in question. Spotted bass have a patch of small teeth-like appendages on the center of their tongue which largemouth bass lack.
When spotted bass are introduced into lakes where largemouth are the primary predatory fish, the two species may compete directly. Spotted bass occasionally hybridize with largemouth bass.