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Lake Barkley & Kentucky Lake Fish Species - Spotted Bass

Spotted Bass
(Micropterus punctulatus)

KY State Record- 7 lbs, 10 oz.
TN State Record- 5 lbs. 14 oz.


The spotted bass appears to be a mix between a largemouth bass and a smallmouth bass. It has a dark, lateral band like a largemouth, but the mouth extends only to the middle of the eye and a shallow notch connects the two dorsal fins. Scales cover the base of second dorsal fin. Above the lateral line the fish has a greenish hue and has some dark markings. The belly is white with rows of dark spots that give the fish its name.

Common names: Kentucky bass, Kentucky spotted bass, northern spotted bass, Alabama spotted bass, Wichita spotted bass, smallmouth bass.

The spotted bass gets its name from the numerous dark spots that cover the lower side of its greenish, slender body, below a dark lateral line. Often confused with the largemouth bass, spotted bass have a sandpaper-like tooth patch on the tongue that largemouths lack and the rear of the jaw does not extend behind the eye as it does in largemouths.

Habitats and Habits

They prefer many of the same waters as smallmouth bass, but seem to prefer slightly deeper waters where possible when found in lakes and reservoirs. They prefer slowly flowing small to medium streams and rivers with rock or gravel bottoms.

Fishing Techniques

Strong fighters, spotted bass can be caught on a wide variety of natural and artificial baits using casting, spinning and fly-fishing gear. Look for spotted bass around aquatic vegetation, submerged logs and rock or riprap walls in small-to medium-flowing streams and rivers. While they may be found in reservoirs, they are seldom found in natural lakes. Spotted bass are usually caught much deeper than largemouth and are more inclined to school.

Typical Size:
Spotted bass grow at a slightly slower rate than a largemouth bass and don’t get as large. After a year or two, they’re about 4-8 inches long. After eight years, the average length is about 18 inches. Typical weight for an adult spotted bass is about 2-3 pounds. 

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.