Did you know there are both freshwater and saltwater bass species? When people talk about catching bass, you usually only hear about largemouths, smallmouths, and stripers. However, there are plenty more available species of bass in North America that anglers can target. Thus, we have put together this list to help you learn how to identify bass species. So, don’t miss out on catching these 12 incredible bass species and learn more about them below:
How To Identify Bass: 12 Types of Species in North America
First, starting with the Centrarchidae (sunfish) family, we have the famous largemouth bass, known as America’s favorite sport fish. Currently, the world record for this fish weighs in at 22-pounds 4-ounces and is tied between Manabu Kurita and George W. Perry. Largies are widespread across all 50 states of the United States, and due to their popularity, they’ve even been introduced in other waters worldwide.
The easiest way to identify a largemouth is by their distinct dark horizontal stripe along the midsection of their body. In addition, their mouths are broad and extend past their eyes when closed. Furthermore, you can tell if a largemouth is more mature by its length, with the average bass growing 16-inches within its third year of life. A largemouth can even live up to 16 years.
If you want to learn more about this species, check out our tutorial on catching largemouth bass.
Next, the second largest fish of the Centrarchidae family is the smallmouth bass. Sitting an ounce shy of 12-pounds, the world record for smallies hasn’t been broken since 1955 by David Hayes. In comparison, the smallmouth isn’t as widely distributed as the largemouth bass. However, you can still catch them in 47 out of 50 American states and Eastern provinces of Canada.
Furthermore, the best way to distinguish a smallie from a largemouth is by its dark vertical barring along its sides. Also, a smallmouth’s jawline is shorter and doesn’t extend past the middle of its eyes. Lastly, a smallies coloring differs and is more of a bronze color to brownish-green.
If you want to read more about this fish, check out our tutorial on targeting smallmouth bass.
Then, the next member of the sunfish family is the rock bass. Anglers don’t seek out rock bass as much as largemouth or smallmouth, but they’re still fun to catch. The world record for rock bass remains tied between Peter Gulgin and Herbert Ratner, Jr. at three pounds. This species is native to Northeastern U.S.A. and in Ontario and Quebec, Canada.
Also, like smallies, rock bass prefer to hang out in cool, calm waters and covered rocky areas. Furthermore, identifiable characteristics of the rock bass include a short and stout body with an olive-green and gold back. When fishing for this species, keep your tackle small and light and throw rooster tails and jigs.
Shoal Bass are also part of the Centrarchidae family and are native to subtropical waters in Georgia and Florida. To compare, shoal bass look similar to largemouth, except their jawline is narrow, and their dorsal fins are visibly connected. They possess the same dark line on their side; although, a shoalie also has distinguishable vertical stripes along its body. The world record for shoal bass hasn’t been broken since 1995 when Carl Davis reeled one in weighing at 8-pounds 12-ounces.
Additionally, please return them unharmed to the water if you’re targeting Shoal bass in Florida on the Chipola River. Shoalies are a protected species on that river and its tributaries.
Next, another member of the sunfish family is the Guadalupe bass. The only place you can catch Guadalupes is in Texas. They’re Texas’ state, and the record hasn’t been broken since 1983 when Allen Christenson Jr. pulled up a 3-pound 11-ouncer. Guadalupes sometimes get misidentified as a largemouth; however, their lateral line is less defined and spotty. Furthermore, their mouth does not extend past their eyes, and it has spotted scales on their belly.
Then, another black bass in the sunfish family is the Suwanee. The Suwanee is a native fish to two river systems in Florida and Georgia. Additionally, the record for this species is held in Florida by Ronnie Everett, weighing in at 3-pounds 14-ounces. Furthermore, you can identify an adult Suwanee bass by their exuberant turquoise cheeks, chest, and belly. In addition, their lateral line is blotchy, unlike a largemouth, and their dorsal fin is continuous with a shallow groove.
Last on our list in the Centrarchidae family is the spotted or Kentucky bass. In 2001, Bryan Shishido caught the record spotted bass in California, weighing 10-pounds 4-ounces. The Kentucky bass looks similar to a largemouth and Guadalupe bass with very subtle differences. For example, the lateral stripe on a spotted bass is more blotchy and less defined. Also, its coloration doesn’t continue on the lower portion of its body.
Now, if you’re looking for trophy-sized bass, stripers are known to weigh up to 100-pounds. However, the world record for striped bass remains at 81-pounds 14-ounces, broken by Gregory Myerson in 2011. An absolute hog of a fish. This species is part of the Moronidae (temperate bass) family and is native to the east coast states bordering the North Atlantic Ocean.
In addition, striped bass share similar characteristics to white bass. However, the horizontal stripes on the striper are more distinct in comparison. Also, striped bass has a bluish-olive green tint on their backs and white bellies.
Pro Tip: to target striped bass, use cut-up pieces of bunker or Mackerel on an 8/0 in-line circle hook.
Next, in the temperate bass family is the white bass. Unlike stripers, the average white bass will only weigh around 2 to 3-pounds. Currently, Ronald Sprouse and Corey Crochet hold the world record for white bass at 6-pounds 13-ounces. White bass like to be in large bodies of water and can be found from Southern Canada to Northeastern Mexico.
The white bass shares many physical straights with a striper. In contrast, their body is short and stout, whereas a striper is elongated. Also, a white bass’s stripes below the lateral line are fainter.
Then, we have the yellow bass. This fish is also a temperate bass native to Lake Michigan and the Mississippi River basins. In 1998, John Chappell caught the record yellow bass in Tenessee, weighing in at 2-pounds 9-ounces. Distinct characteristics of this species include its silvery-yellow coloring and dark horizontal rows of stripes. In addition, its last two lower lines appear broken towards the rear of the fish.
Black Sea Bass
Another species that is part of the Serranidae family is the Black Sea Bass. The world record for this species sits at 10-pounds 4-ounces, caught by Allan Paschall in 2000. They are saltwater species from the North Atlantic Ocean, and you can fish for them along the east coast of the U.S.A. Furthermore, to identify them, as their name implies, their bodies are bluish-black. In addition, they have elongate bodies, large scales, a wide mouth, and a continuous dorsal fin.
Pro Tip: to target black sea bass, use live bait like mussels or crabs. Also, these bass prefer to dwell and feed on the bottom, so fish in deep water with rocky structures.
Butterfly Peacock Bass
Lastly, we have the butterfly peacock bass. This species is native to waters in South America. However, in 1984, the FWC introduced them to waters in southeast Florida. Currently, Antonio Campa G. holds the world record, with a 12-pound 9-ounce butterfly peacock bass from Venezuela. This fish is easily identifiable with its vibrant golden coloring and three large black vertical stripes. In addition, it has a dark spot with a golden outline on its caudal fin.
Furthermore, these fish thrive in warm, slow-moving waters and like to hang out in areas with abundant shade.
Give Yourself a Hand!
Congratulations on making it to the end. Now you know how to identify 12 of the most popular bass fish in North America. Knowing how to distinguish between fish properly is important, so you don’t accidentally harvest protected species. Did you learn something new from this article? If so, please let us know in the comments below or support us by giving this article a share.