11 Types of Bass in North America: Your Ultimate Guide

Types of bass found in North America

North America is home to various bass species. From popular ones like the Largemouth Bass to rare ones like the Guadalupe Bass, there’s a lot to learn and discover.

This guide will introduce you to 11 different types of bass species in North America, sharing fun facts and helpful details about each.

How Many Types of Bass Are There?

Red eye bass found in clear freshwater

Bass are among the most popular fish in North America, especially among anglers. When we talk about bass, we mainly refer to two main categories: black bass and temperate bass.

Black bass are part of the sunfish family Centrarchidae. While it might seem strange to think of them as sunfish, this family includes several fish species, from crappies to rock bass.

Among the black bass species are the familiar Largemouth and Smallmouth Bass. These fish are renowned for their aggressiveness when caught, making them a favorite challenge for anglers.

Meanwhile, temperate bass species are called the “true bass.” They belong to the Moronidae family. This group includes the Striped Bass, White Bass, Yellow Bass, and White Perch.

Temperate bass have a different body structure than black bass. They are generally more deep-bodied, have two dorsal fins, and feature a saw-toothed bone at the rear of their cheek, known as a preopercle.

Types of Black Bass

1. Largemouth Bass

Largemouth Bass swimming in calm waters
Scientific Name:Micropterus salmoides
Distribution:Native to the southeastern United States, presently found throughout the United States; introduced worldwide
Habitat:Thrives in freshwater habitats, such as lakes, ponds, reservoirs, and slow-moving rivers or streams
Adult Size:13–20 inches (33–51 cm)
Weight1–5 pounds; max of 25 pounds (0.45–2.3 kg; max of 11 kg)
Lifespan:Up to 16 years

Probably the most famous, the Largemouth Bass is a favorite catch among anglers for the challenge they present.

As members of the sunfish family, they are notably larger than the related Panfish. These fish have a distinct green coloration, lightening to white on their underbelly, highlighted by a horizontal stripe on their sides.

Their expansive upper jaw extending beyond the eye and the pronounced dark band along their body are distinct features that identify them.

Commonly, they thrive in calm waters filled with vegetation, such as ponds, lakes, and slow-moving streams.

In their first three years, these basses can grow impressively. They begin their diet with small creatures like insects and shrimp but eventually turn to larger prey.

The best times to catch them are during the low-light periods of dawn and dusk. They are known for their notable aggression towards artificial lures, biting on them even when they are not hungry.

Watch this video of Largemouth Bass in their wild habitat:

The Hidden World of the Largemouth Bass

2. Smallmouth Bass

Smallmouth Bass found in clean lake
Scientific Name:Micropterus dolomieu
Distribution:North America, primarily in the Great Lakes region, the Mississippi River basin, extending to Alabama and northern Georgia
Habitat:Clear lakes and flowing streams with rocky substrates
Adult Size:12–16 inches (30–41 cm)
Weight1–4 pounds (0.45–1.8 kg)
Lifespan:Up to 14 years

The Smallmouth Bass, notably smaller in the mouth than its Largemouth counterpart, is also a sought-after catch among anglers.

This black bass species is noted for its lighter brown color, vertically striped sides, and connected dorsal fins.

Although not as widespread as Largemouth Bass, Smallmouth Bass are also prized by many anglers for their bold fight when caught and their distinctive appearance.

You may frequently find Smallmouth Bass in clear, vegetative waters, thriving primarily within rocky, sandy areas of lakes, rivers, and streams.

Besides their mouth, Smallmouth Bass can be easily distinguished from Largemouth Bass with their vertical stripes and reddish eyes.

I usually fish Smallmouth Bass in the fall season, especially during dusk and dawn, because these are the optimal fishing times. I find artificial bait resembling minnows, leeches, or crawfish effective in luring these fish.

I also try out fly fishing using nymphs, which is also an exciting approach to luring these fish.

3. Spotted Bass

Spotted Bass caught by a man
Image credit: bankwalkertv / Instagram
Scientific Name:Micropterus punctulatus
Distribution:Native to the southeastern United States; expanded to parts of Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, and California
Habitat:Clear to slightly turbid slow-moving streams; adaptive to large river systems and reservoirs
Adult Size:10–15 inches (25–38 cm)
Weight1–3 pounds (0.45–1.4 kg)
Lifespan:Up to 6 years

The Spotted Bass is another freshwater black bass species native to North America. This species stands out due to dark spots below its lateral line; hence, the name “Spotted Bass.”

Unlike the Largemouth Bass, they’re typically smaller. Nonetheless, they’re known for putting up an impressive fight when hooked.

You can identify the Spotted Bass by their green to olive green hue and white, mottled belly. They display a dark band along their side with smaller black spots above.

Another distinctive feature of these black bass species is their large mouth, which extends up to the rear edge of the eye but not beyond.

Additionally, their first and second dorsal fins are connected, and scales cover the base of the second dorsal fin.

Spotted Bass prefers clear, slow-moving water. They’re usually found in habitats with more current than Largemouth Bass and warmer waters unsuitable for Smallmouth Bass.

If you are looking to catch them, winter is ideal. The effective baits you can use include leeches, minnows, jigs, and crankbaits.

4. Redeye Bass

Redeye Bass caught in the rocky river
Scientific Name:Micropterus coosae
Distribution:Native to the Coosa River system of Georgia and Alabama
Habitat:Upland streams and rivers
Adult Size:6–9 inches (15–23 cm)
Weight0.4–2 pounds (0.2–2 kg)
Lifespan:Up to 10 years

The Redeye Bass is easily recognizable by its slender bronze-olive body, fading into a white belly. Their sides showcase dark lateral blotches and horizontal rows of spots.

One defining trait of these fish is the white edges on the upper and lower sections of their caudal (tail) fin, a feature other bass species lack. These fish also have orange hues on their caudal and anal fins.

Their namesake, red eyes, which might appear black in young ones, set them apart from other bass species. Their large mouth stretches to the rear edge of the eye without extending beyond.

Unlike Largemouth Bass, there is no discernible gap between the Redeye’s first and second dorsal fins. Meanwhile, unlike Smallmouth Bass, Redeyes sport distinctive dark spots or lines on their body.

This bass species prefers small to medium-sized upland streams. Their diet mainly consists of insects, small fishes, and crayfish.

5. Shoal Bass

Shoal Bass found in the river
Image credit: peachstateflyfishing / Instagram
Scientific Name:Micropterus cataractae
Distribution:Southeastern United States, primarily in the Chattahoochee and Flint River basins on the southeastern Atlantic slope
Habitat:Free-flowing rivers and large streams
Adult Size:12–14 inches; max of 24 inches (30–36 cm; max of 61 cm)
Weight1–3 pounds; max of 8 pounds (0.45–1.4 kg; max of 4 kg)

The Shoal Bass is an interesting fish of the sunfish group. They have a long body and a big mouth. If you look closely, the top of their mouth stretches back to just under their eyes.

These fish can be silver-white to greenish and have darker patterns on their backs and sides. You’ll also see lines or ‘bars’ on their sides.

Shoal Bass are found in specific places in Georgia, Alabama, and Florida. They like areas with rocky bottoms and moving water, which is why they’re called “Shoal” Bass.

Shoal Bass can be easily mistaken for other bass types. One way to spot them is by looking at their fins: they don’t have red or white edges. The two fins on their back are also connected, unlike other bass.

Unfortunately, the Shoal Bass is listed as Near Threatened by the IUCN.

6. Guadalupe Bass

Guadalupe Bass spotted in freshwater
Image credit: kol_eric / Instagram
Scientific Name:Micropterus treculii
Distribution:Exclusive to Texas; it primarily inhabits the headwaters of the San Antonio, Guadalupe, and Colorado River systems
Habitat:Fast-flowing rivers
Adult Size:12–13 inches; max of 18 inches (30–33 cm; max of 46 cm)
Weight1–3 pounds (0.45–1.4 kg)

The Guadalupe Bass is the official state fish of Texas. They thrive in the northern and eastern Edwards Plateau, especially in San Antonio and Guadalupe Rivers.

Distinguishing the Guadalupe Bass from other bass species can be challenging, as they have many similarities. Nonetheless, there are some key features you can look for.

Guadalupe Bass fish exhibit an olive-to-green hue with distinctive diamond or oval markings lining their sides. Unlike Spotted Bass, these markings spread lower on their body.

The jaw doesn’t go past the eye, separating them from Largemouth Bass. Another unique feature is their tongue, which has a patch of teeth absent in other bass types.

For anglers, the Guadalupe River stands out as a top spot to catch these bass.

7. Suwannee Bass

Suwannee Bass caught in a creek
Image credit: websterkatie / Instagram
Scientific Name:Micropterus notius
Distribution:Endemic to the Suwannee and Ochlockonee River drainages in Georgia and Florida
Habitat:Rocky shoals, runs, pools, large springs, and spring runs
Adult Size:8–12 inches (20–30 cm)
Weight1–2 pounds (0.45–1 kg)
Lifespan:Up to 12 years

The Suwannee Bass, predominantly brown with olive side mottling and pronounced facial stripes, inhabit the waters of the Suwannee and Ochlockonee River drainages in Florida and Georgia.

Male Suwanee Bass have turquoise-blue patches on the cheeks, especially during spawning seasons. A tooth patch, a small set of teeth found on their tongue, is a unique trait for this bass species.

Suwanee Bass inhabit rocky shoals, pools, and spring runs and avoid acidic water regions.

Anglers looking to catch these fish should note that they prefer submerged sandbars due to abundant crayfish and shallower waters.

One of the ways by which my angler peers and I secure a successful Suwannee Bass catch is that we seek spots with strong currents, and we also consider areas under low-hanging branches. We sometimes even use a pontoon boat for this.

Suwanee Bass favor these areas since it is advantageous for their size, enabling them to exploit resources larger fish cannot.

Types of Temperate Bass

8. White Bass

White Bass captured by a woman in the river
Image credit: ava_the_angler / Instagram
Scientific Name:Morone chrysops
Distribution:Native to the freshwaters of the central United States, particularly the Mississippi River basin and its tributaries
Habitat:Prefers large rivers, lakes, and reservoirs with clear waters and sandy or rocky bottoms
Adult Size:12–18 inches (30–46 cm)
Weight1–6 pounds (0.45–2.7 kg)
Lifespan:Up to 5 years

The White Bass is also known as a Whitey or Silver Bass. Although widespread in lakes and rivers, many anglers often overlook these hard-fighting fish.

Typically, they measure 12 to 18 inches and weigh up to 6 pounds. They favor deep waters, between 10 and 25 feet, which may explain why they’re less popular among anglers accustomed to shallow fishing.

White Bass sport a black-to-blue-gray back, transitioning to silvery-white sides. Their defining features are the four to seven horizontal stripes on their upper body, with one continuous line reaching the tail.

This stripe pattern distinguishes them from close relatives like Striped and Yellow Bass.

For a successful catch, you can target areas where baitfish gather, as White Bass actively pursue them. Using shad-imitating lures, jigs, and even flies like the perdigon, can yield impressive results.

9. Striped Bass

Striped Bass looking for prey
Scientific Name:Morone saxatilis
Distribution:Atlantic Coast (St. Lawrence River to St. Johns River), Gulf Coast (Louisiana, Texas, Florida), U.S. freshwater lakes and reservoirs
Habitat:Coastal waters, bays, estuaries, rivers; prefers strong currents and structures (sandbars, shoals, ledges). In freshwater: deep reservoirs, large rivers
Adult Size:24–36 inches (61–91 cm)
Weight10–30 pounds (4.5–14 kg)
Lifespan:10–30 years

The Striped Bass, colloquially known as the “Striper” or “Rockfish,” stands out in the angler community for its unique appearance and fight when hooked.

These predatory fish have a sleek, elongated body with metallic hues adorned with seven or eight continuous dark stripes running from their gills to their tail.

Their shades, from light green to deep blue, shift depending on their environment and age.

Adult Stripers are impressive in size, frequently weighing between 10 and 30 pounds, although some exceptional specimens can even reach 125 pounds.

These fish display impressive size and remarkable strength, making them a challenging and exciting catch for anglers.

For those looking to catch Stripers, diverse lures can be effective. Live eels and shads are top choices in summer and fall. Bunker spoons work well in spring and fall, and popping plugs are ideal for feeding stripers.

10. Yellow Bass

Yellow Bass caught in lake delton
Image credit: midwestfishing055 / Instagram
Scientific Name:Morone mississippiensis
Distribution:Primarily found in the Mississippi River basin, from Illinois and Indiana south to Louisiana, extending into the Gulf Coast to the Neches River
Habitat:Clear, rocky streams; reservoirs near in-flowing streams
Adult Size:8–11 inches (20–28 cm)
Weight8–11 ounces (0.2–0.3 kg)
Lifespan:Up to 5 years

A Yellow Bass, also known as a Barfish or Gold Bass, is a compact fish, more akin to perch in size. Their silvery-yellow body gets more pronounced in the upper portion, fading as it reaches the underbelly.

The unique features that set them apart are the broken lateral stripes above the anal fin and no tooth patches on their tongue.

Their connected dorsal fins, pointed heads, and yellow irises are also distinguishing characteristics.

Found in larger rivers like the Mississippi and lakes in Northeastern Illinois, they’ve expanded their presence to various water bodies due to natural migration and stocking.

Anglers seeking Yellow Bass find success with live bait. Minnows are the choice in spring, while nightcrawlers are effective in summer. For those into flyfishing, beaded nymphs serve as effective lures.

11. White Perch

White Perch moving less vigorously when hooked during winter
Image credit: matthaeffner / Instagram
Scientific Name:Morone americana
Distribution:Native to the brackish waters of the Chesapeake Bay and the Atlantic coast 
Habitat:Brackish waters, estuaries, and freshwater rivers and lakes connected to the Atlantic coast
Adult Size:7–10 inches (18–25 cm)
WeightA pound on average (0.45 kg)
Lifespan:Up to 10 years

The White Perch, despite its name, is not an actual perch. They belong to the temperate bass family, considered “true bass.”

Typically ranging from 7 to 10 inches, adult White Perch display grayish-green to dark green-brown backs with silver sides and white undersides.

Uniquely, these fish don’t possess the striped pattern often associated with temperate bass.

White Perch have compressed bodies. Their mildly forked tail and a deep notch on their dorsal fin make them easily identifiable.

The front part of this dorsal fin is notable for its spines. Their anal fins boast three distinct spines, with the latter being of similar length.

Bass That Aren’t Really Bass

Some fish species are called bass but aren’t totally related to bass or have little connection to them, making things about bass species more confusing.

These fishes have “bass” in their common names but come from different taxonomical families.

Here are some of the fishes commonly called bass but aren’t bass:

1. Black Sea Bass

Black Sea Bass swimming underwater
Scientific Name:Centropristis striata
Distribution:Atlantic coast, from Maine to Florida and into the Gulf of Mexico
Habitat:Prefer structured environments; often found around wrecks, reefs, pilings, jetties, and in rocky or shell bottom habitats; up to 130 feet deep
Adult Size:12–24 inches (30–61 cm)
Weight1–8 pounds (0.45–3.6 kg)
Lifespan:Up to 20 years

The Black Sea Bass, often found around reefs and piers from Texas to Maine, are surprisingly not really bass at all.

In reality, they belong to the grouper family. Their popularity amongst anglers stems from their culinary appeal and the lively resistance they offer on light tackle.

Their name remains a mystery, as they neither resemble nor behave like typical bass.

Commonly referred to as Rock Bass, their dark brown or black bodies are adorned with distinctive features like white-striped dorsal fins.

Mature males often sport a pronounced hump in front of their dorsal fin and display unique blue and ebony body markings.

Apart from their intriguing appearance, Black Sea Bass have a fascinating life cycle. They undergo four color phases, shifting from gray-brown to black and transitioning from female to male as they age.

2. Butterfly Peacock Bass

Butterfly Peacock Bass sought for its striking color
Scientific Name:Cichla ocellaris
Distribution:Native to tropical America
Habitat:Prefers freshwater systems such as rivers, lakes, and flooded forests with submerged structures and vegetation
Adult Size:12–14 inches (30–36 cm)
WeightUp to 2 pounds
Lifespan:6–10 years

Contrary to their name, Butterfly Peacock Bass aren’t true bass either. Instead, they come from the Cichlidae family, which includes tilapia and angelfish, which are also known to be under the groups of fish with fins and scales.

Recognizable by their semi-elongated body and sizable mouth, these fish possess a distinct deep notch separating their two dorsal fins.

Their appearance is captivating: a rich olive-to-gold hue covers their body, accented by three to four bold black bars on the side.

Another identifying feature is the gold-edged ocellus — a spot on the base of their caudal fin. However, this doesn’t appear in younger fish.

You may encounter the Butterfly Peacock Bass in vast drainage canals, serene creeks, and expansive lakes.

3. White Seabass

White Seabass hooked by a male angler
Image credit: george.catian / Instagram
Scientific Name:Atractoscion nobilis 
Distribution:Eastern Pacific: Alaska to southern Baja California, Mexico and the Gulf of California
Habitat:Known to inhabit various environments, ranging from rocky reefs and kelp beds to offshore banks and the open ocean; juveniles are often found in bays and estuaries
Adult Size:36–60 inches (91–152 cm)
Weight20–40 pounds (9–18 kg)
Lifespan:Up to 20 years

Also known as White Weakfish, the White Seabass is a sought-after game fish mainly found in Southern California’s coastal waters. Similar to Black Sea Bass, White Seabass are not bass.

Recognized for their elongated, slender body and blue-grey speckled appearance, their underbelly shimmers in silvery-white.

A distinctive ridge along their belly easily distinguishes them from other croakers. While typically averaging around 20 pounds, some have been recorded at 93 pounds in California.

Famed as a prized catch, these seabass can be elusive, often biting under specific conditions.

These large, mobile fish often roam kelp beds, rocky reefs, or open ocean. Whether traveling in schools or solo, their croaking sounds — produced by their swim bladder — are unique.

4. Calico Bass

Calico Bass snagged by an angler
Scientific Name:Paralabrax clathratus
Distribution:From central California to southern Baja California, Mexico, and, rarely, north of Point Conception in California
Habitat:Kelp forest, rocky reef, shallow coastal waters
Adult Size:Up to 28 inches
WeightUp to 14 pounds
Lifespan:Up to 30 years

The Calico bass, or kelp bass, are favorites among anglers on the west coast, especially in sunlit southern California waters. Although they have bass on their name, kelp bass are not related to true bass species.

They belong to the Serranidae family, which includes groupers and rockcods.

Kelp bass primarily thrives from central California to Baja California, Mexico, and are rarely seen north of California. The vibrant kelp forests offer a perfect hideout for these fish.

Their unique colors, a blend of brown, gold, and white, help them merge seamlessly into their kelp and rocky surroundings.

These fish aren’t just confined to kelp forests. They love to hover near shorelines, particularly around reefs, jetties, and other structures.

Anglers eager to catch them should note they can be found at depths reaching 150 feet. When selecting lures, consider their inclination for thick cover.

Frequently Asked Questions

Largemouth Bass gliding in the river

What Is the Most Common Type of Bass?

The most common and popular type of bass in North America is the Largemouth Bass. It’s a favorite among anglers due to its aggressive nature and widespread distribution.

They can be found in ponds, lakes, and rivers across the continent and are easily recognized by their greenish color and broad, horizontal stripes along their sides.

What Is the Rarest Type of Bass?

The Guadalupe Bass, the state fish of Texas, is considered one of the rarest bass species due to its limited geographical distribution.

This bass species is exclusively found in Texas, primarily in the Guadalupe River Basin. It is often pursued by anglers for its spirited fight despite its modest size.

What Are the Different Types of Largemouth Bass?

The Largemouth Bass has two recognized subspecies: the Northern Largemouth Bass (Micropterus salmoides salmoides) and the Florida Largemouth Bass (Micropterus salmoides floridanus).

While both share a general bass shape, the Northern variant usually has a sleeker body and a jawline that doesn’t extend beyond its eye.

The Florida Largemouth, known for its larger size, often has a more robust body with its jaw extending past the eye.

The Northern variant is found in cooler waters across the United States, while the Florida Largemouth prefers warmer southern regions.

What Is the Largest Freshwater Bass Species?

The largest freshwater bass species is the Largemouth Bass, specifically the Florida Largemouth Bass subspecies. They’re renowned for their impressive size, often surpassing other bass species in weight and length.

Anglers greatly prize the Florida Largemouth because they can grow over 20 pounds, with the biggest recorded by the International Game Fish Association (IGFA) being 22 pounds 4 ounces.

Share your thoughts or any other interesting facts about the types of bass species in the comments below! We’d love to hear from you. If you have additional questions, feel free to ask as well!

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