The Original Kentucky Lake & Lake Barkley Site Since 1996


Lake Barkley & Kentucky Lake Fish Species - Smallmouth Bass

Smallmouth Bass
(Micropterus dolomieui)

KY State Record- 11 lbs, 15 oz.
TN State Record- 11 lbs. 15 oz.

smallmouth bass
For its size, the smallmouth bass may be the hardest-fighting fish to swim Kentucky's many waterways. It is commonly found in ponds, lakes and rivers and is a member of the sunfish family.

Common names: Black bass, brown bass, bronzeback


General description: A medium-sized fish with a dark to golden appearance.

Length: Adults average between 10 to 12 inches long.

Weight: Adults average about three pounds.

Color: Olive green to blackish gold.


Smallmouth bass spawn in the late spring when the water temperature is from 60 to 65 degrees. The male builds a nest in two to eight feet of water by using its tail to fan a shallow plate-like depression on a sandy or rocky bottom. The female deposits her eggs in the nest, which are then fertilized by the male. The male stays to guard the nest. The eggs typically hatch in 10 days.

Feeding Habits

Young smallmouth feed on mostly zooplankton, waterfleas, and insect larvae. As they grow older, they begin to eat small fish. Adult fish feed mostly on crayfish, small fish, insects, and some small crustaceans. Where crayfish are abundant, it consists of the majority of the smallmouth’s diet

Smallmouth bass tend to stay in deeper waters than largemouth bass, and therefore rarely dwell in small lakes or reservoirs that are less than 25 feet deep. They also live in swiftly flowing rivers and streams with gravel or rocky bottoms. They prefer cool, clear waters and gather towards rock out-croppings and boulders

Fun facts
Many smallmouth bass have red eyes. The current world record, 11 pounds, 15 ounces, was caught in Kentucky. The smallmouth bass looks a lot like its cousin the largemouth bass. But on the smallmouth, the back of the mouth goes only back to the middle of the eye. On the largemouth bass, the back of the mouth goes back much farther than the back of the eye.

Fishing Techniques
Smallmouth bass are often regarded as one of the sportiest freshwater fish and are known for their stamina and fighting ability. They can be caught on a wide variety of artificial baits, but they generally prefer smaller sizes than largemouth bass. Artificial baits in orange and brown patterns that resemble crayfish are a popular choice. When fishing in moving water with live bait, such as crayfish, minnows or nightcrawlers, cast upstream and let the bait drift into pools and behind boulders and snags that break the current.

Summer Tips:
Location:  Look for bass shallow early in the morning and late in the evening.  Fish deeper as the day progresses.  Good areas to fish include main lake points, ledges, and any other type of deep structure.  Farm ponds will also produce early in morning and late in evening. A way to catch bass with the added benefit of heat relief is by wading one of Kentucky’ many productive smallmouth bass streams. The flowing water at the beginning and end of stream drops hold stream smallmouth in summer. Avoid fishing the slack water in the middle of deep holes, as the feeding smallmouth use the flowing water instead.

Baits/Lures:  Good topwater baits include Pop-R, buzzbaits, weedless frogs and weightless senko-type baits.  Use jigs, soft plastics and crankbaits for deeper water fishing.  Tough bites may require lighter line and weights with smaller plastic baits. For stream smallmouth bass, fish 3-inch black or brown curly-tailed grubs and 4-inch finesse worms rigged on 1/8-ounce leadheads with 4-to 6-pound test line. Small topwater lures work well early in the morning and at dusk.