The Smallmouth bass prefers clearer, cooler water than largemouth bass. They are commonly found in streams and rivers and do not mind moving water. Smallmouth bass can also be found in lakes and reservoirs. They prefer rocky or woody cover over vegetation and are often found over sandy bottoms in lakes and reservoirs. Its range now extends over most of the United States and Canada as a result of stocking programs. The smallmouth bass has also been distributed outside of North America ranging as far as Japan and South Africa. The smallmouth bass was native to the Mississippi River basin, the Saint Lawrence River basin, the Great Lakes system and the Hudson Bay basin.
The smallmouth bass is one of the black basses and also a member of the sunfish family. Common names for the smallmouth bass include smallmouth, bronze back, smallie, brownie, bronze bass, brown bass and bareback bass. They are brown in color, but can also be darker with more black or green in some areas. The smallmouth bass has a distinctive red eye and a series of vertical bands on its sides. An easy way to tell the smallmouth bass from its largemouth cousin is by looking at the position of the eye. On a smallmouth bass, the jaw will not extend past the center of the eye of the fish. On a largemouth bass, the jaw will continue well past the eye.
Males are usually smaller than the females of the species averaging around two pounds. Females typically range 3 to 6 pounds. In some ecosystems, they will far exceed that range. The current record is an 11lb 15oz fish caught on the Dale Hollow Reservoir the Kentucky/Tennessee border. Their habitat plays a significant role in their size and appearance. River fish often look markedly different from lake dwelling fish.
Smallmouth feed of insects, smaller fish, and crayfish. They tend to be found over rocky bottoms where they seek out their favorite food source, the crayfish.
Spawning takes place over firm bottoms of sand or gravel in 1-10 feet of water. Spawning will take place when the water temperature reaches the high fifties/lower sixties. The males clear a circular nest 2-3 feet in diameter. The males will guard the nest and the newly hatched fry for up to two weeks after hatching.
Effective Fly Patterns
Crayfish patterns are probably the most effective smallmouth bass flies. Smallmouths have an affinity for crayfish that is unmatched by any other fish! Also effective are streamers and larger aquatic insect imitations like stoneflies and hellgrammites. Smallmouth bass also readily feed on the surface of the water, so poppers, sliders, and surface bugs are also a good choice when conditions are right.