Largemouth bass put on a good show for leaps and fight aggressively. Smallmouth leap more than and fight even harder than their larger cousin making them one of the most popular fish to fish for. Smallmouth will always head straight to the surface when it feels the hooks, exploding out of the water shaking its head fiercely to throw off the bait.
Smallmouths are greenish to bronze in color which explains where their common name of bronzeback came from. Their jaw extends to the middle of the eye and the eye is often reddish in color. They usually have vertical dark bars or diamond patterns on the sides but these marks usually fade in and out. There are also dark bars on the cheeks. These bass will change color to match their surroundings.
Smallmouth bass are a cousin to largemouth bass but even so, the species differ in a lot of ways. Smallmouth bass prefer cooler water ranging from 67º to 72ºF. Smallmouth bass will spawn in waters from the upper 50s to lower 60s. Even though smallmouth bass spawn in cooler water, they might deposit their eggs later than there larger cousins. This is because the weedy shallow bays that largemouth use to spawn in warm faster in the spring than the rocky deeper sites preferred by the smallmouth.
The male smallmouth bass will select a spawning site on the rocky or sandy bottom in a protected area often times close to a boulder or log. He will fan silt from the site than allow the female in to deposit her eggs. After the spawning finishes, the make will stay behind to guard the eggs and fry.
There are two recognized subspecies of smallmouth bass, the Northern smallmouth and the Neosho smallmouth. The Northern smallmouths are the more common of the two since the Neosho smallmouth have been rendered almost extinct because of construction of dams on its native waters. Either subspecies are aggressive fighters especially if there are a lot of fish in one area. It is commonplace to see two or three smallmouths go after another fish that has all ready been hooked to try and steal the lure. Generally the smaller the fish, the more aggressive they are.
Even though smallmouth and largemouth will be in the same waters, smallmouth will swim deeper and will be less likely found in dense weedy cover. Smallmouth bass prefer a rocky bottom to later provide spawning habitat. Cool Northern lakes have the largest populations but the bigger fish are usually found in deep southern reservoirs. Smallmouth will spend most of their lives in water ranging from five to 15 feet deep lurking in the shallows because most of their food is there and their eyes are just as light-sensitive as their larger cousins.
Smallmouth bass have well defined territories. Once you find a prime location for them, you will only have to change angling techniques to catch them. You will not have to go far to find smallmouth again. When fishing them the baits do not have to look like anything in particular since smallmouths are such willing biters. All it takes to attract them is a bit of commotion so topwater lures work very well.
Crayfish are a smallmouth bass’ favorite food but they will also eat leeches, night crawlers, hellgrammites, minnows, frogs, tadpoles, small fish, worms, and insects in both immature and adult forms. Usually they prefer smaller food items than largemouth but there are times when they will grab bigger baits.
In the North smallmouth bass can live as long as 18 years but rarely live half that long in the South. The smallmouth bass in the South grow much faster than the smallmouth bass in the North though. In the North it takes eight years for a smallmouth to reach three pounds but in the South it only takes four years to reach three pounds. Smallmouth will never reach the size of largemouth bass. Five pounds is considered a trophy fish in most water even though some fish that have been caught have been seven to eight pounds.