Article by Leah Ring
Scientific Name: Micropterus salmoides
Common Name(s): Largemouth Bass, Bucketmouth, Big Mouth, Green Bass, Florida Bass
The largemouth bass, Micropterus salmoides, is easily among the most economically and culturally important sport fish in the world. It has two close cousins in Arkansas, the smallmouth bass and the spotted bass. It is much more easily distinguished from the smallmouth bass because it is more often caught in lakes whereas the smallmouth prefers rivers. The smallmouth is more bronze in coloration. When the mouth is closed, the mouth of the largemouth extends far beyond the back edge of the eye, the spotted bass to the middle of the eye, and the smallmouth to the front edge of the eye. The largemouth generally lacks a tooth patch on the tongue that is present on the spotted bass. Distinguishing characteristics between the largemouth and spotted bass are general and somewhat subjective due to common natural hybridization where both occur. The back and upper sides of the largemouth are olive to green, while the lower sides and belly are white or yellow with scattered dark brown spots. The midline of the fish has a broad and jagged black band. It differs from other black basses by being the largest in size, lacks several regular rows of black spots on lower sides, has a much larger mouth, and has a deep notch between the two fins on its back. Largemouth bass in Arkansas typically range from 12-20 inches in length and weigh 1-5 lbs. The current state record is 16 lbs 8 oz from Mallard Lake.
Micropterus salmoides is native to North America where it inhabits freshwater lakes, rivers, ponds, and streams. Although it is native to the central part of North America, the Largemouth Bass has been stocked extensively across the United States and globally for sport fishing. In Arkansas, the Largemouth Bass is found statewide in all drainages.
The largemouth bass is a warm water sport fish, preferring water temperatures around 68°-78°F. They are mostly found in calm waters. They inhabit natural and man-made lakes and ponds, but also calm backwaters and pools of streams and rivers. The fish can tolerate brackish water for short periods of time and have been known to move from one drainage to another along the coast. Largemouth bass are often found near logs or brush in varying depths of water. Largemouth bass can survive in a variety of habitats, making them a very adaptable fish; however, they are intolerant of high levels of turbidity and siltation.
In Arkansas, largemouth spawn from April to June when water temperatures are above 65°F. Males construct circular nests in substrate, preferring gravel and areas with no current. Males aggressively guard the nest until the young swim away, and may stay with the schooling young for several days. Young are often found along shorelines or other structure.
The largemouth bass is a voracious predator that consumes mostly fish, crayfish, insects, and crustaceans. Its prey includes almost any animal that can fit in its mouth. Its voracious and aggressive predatory tendencies are part of the reason it is so popular among sport fishermen. The largemouth bass has been introduced into many regions outside of its native range because of its popularity as a sport fish. Although they are very popular, they can have negative impacts on native ecosystems in places where they are introduced. They eat native fish, or out-compete them for food resources, and can have a devastating effect on native populations.
Here in Bella Vista, largemouth bass are found in all the lakes and are the most popular fishery. They can be caught using a variety of techniques including artificial lures and natural or live bait including minnows, crayfish, frogs, and earthworms. They prefer to be near submerged vegetation or flooded timber and brush where they can ambush their prey. In streams, they prefer slow moving current, although smallmouth or spotted bass may be more common.
There is a lot of interest in the southern strain or Florida largemouth to supplement and improve the genetics of our largemouth population here. We are just too far north to see any benefit from supplementing with southern strain largemouth, and in fact northern strain largemouth outperform southern strain fish at our latitude. Even in Texas, southern strain fish are only used in the southern 2/3 of the state. All of the Bella Vista lakes are capable of producing largemouth up to 8 pounds with Lake Brittany producing several over 12 pounds over the years. We encourage our anglers to release fish between 13 and 16 inches as they are the most prolific spawners. We also encourage aggressive harvest of fish between 10 and 13 inches as they have the tendency to become stunted at that size due to competition for limited resources. Largemouth bass are not being stocked in any of the lakes because they are able to reproduce naturally and are able to sustain stable populations.