Micropterus salmoides

largemouth bass



Type Locality

“Les rivieras de le Carolina”; Charleston, South Carolina, regarded as probable type locality (Lacepede 1802 in: Eschmeyer 1990). 


Etymology/Derivation of Scientific Name

Micropterus, Greek, meaning “small fin”, name resulting from an injury to the type specimen that made it appear that the posterior rays of the soft dorsal formed a separate fin; salmoides, from Salmo, the trout – species often called “trout” in the southern states (Pflieger 1975).



Labrus salmoides (Lacepede 1802:716 in: Eschmeyer 1990).



Maximum size: 700 cm TL (Lee 1980).


Life colors:  Usually green with dark blotches that form a horizontal midlateral stripe. Underside is light green to almost white (Chilton 1997). Coloration and pattern varies depending on water condition, especially turbidity; colors more pronounced in clear water. Black, even-edged lateral line. Few scales on the lower side have dark bases and these do not form horizontal rows of spots. Specimens from turbid waters are much lighter and sometimes express no lateral band. Young under 150 mm TL often have a more continuous straighter-edged lateral band, a bi-colored tail (basal 2/3 whitish orange and posterior 1/3 dusky gray) and a small caudal spot (Douglas 1974; Williams 1983).


Counts: 55+ lateral line scales; 3 anal spines (rarely 2 or 4); 6-13 dorsal fin spines; 6 or 7 branchiostegals (Hubbs et al. 1991); 13-14 dorsal rays; 10-12 anal rays; 14-16 pectoral rays (Ross 2001).


Body shape:  Body depth usually contained three to five times in standard length (Hubbs et al 1991).


Mouth position: Terminal, slightly oblique (Goldstein and Simon 1999); mouth extending well behind posterior eye margin in fish larger than about 152 mm SL (Ross 2001).


External morphology:  Shortest dorsal fin spine contained 2.4 to 3.9 times in longest dorsal spine; bases of soft dorsal and anal fins without scales; lateral line present; scales ctenoid (Hubbs et al. 1991); first and second dorsal fins nearly separate (Ross 2001).


Internal morphology: Intestine well differientiated; peritoneum silvery (Goldstein and Simon 1999); pyloric caecae branched at base (Hubbs et al. 1991); tongue usually lacks a tooth patch (Ross 2001).


Distribution (Native and Introduced)

U.S. distribution: Wide-ranging species originally found throughout much of the United States east of the Rocky Mountains (Hubbs et al. 1991).


Texas distribution: Entire state except Panhandle region (Hubbs et al. 1991). Warren et al. (2000) list the following drainage units for distribution of Micropterus salmoides in the state: Red River (from the mouth upstream to and including the Kiamichi River), Sabine Lake (including minor coastal drainages west to Galveston Bay), Galveston Bay (including minor coastal drainages west to mouth of Brazos River), Brazos River, Colorado River, San Antonio Bay (including minor coastal drainages west of mouth of Colorado River to mouth of Nueces River), Nueces River.


Abundance/Conservation status (Federal, State, NGO)

Populations in the southern United States are currently secure (Warren et al. 2000).


Habitat Associations

Macrohabitat: Lakes, ponds, reservoirs, backwaters, and slow-moving rivers and streams (Williams 1983; Chilton 1997; Ross 2001).


Mesohabitat: Prefers clear, quiet waters with aquatic vegetation (Lee 1980), but survives in a variety of mesohabitats (Chilton 1997). In Texas reservoirs, a strong positive correlation exists between abundance of Micropterus salmoides and amount of submerged vegetation; after about 20% surface coverage the relationship deteriorates (Durocher et al. 1984). In a Texas impoundment, species was associated with shoreline cover; association with cover decreased as water temperature increased; association with cover, on a daily basis, was greatest near dawn (Wildhaber and Neill 1992). Growth seems to be poor for fish in salinities of over 4 ppt (Peterson 1991); fish cannot survive for an extended period in salinities greater than 12 ppt (Meador and Kelso 1990).



Spawning season: Occurs in late winter or early spring, when water temperatures rise to about 15.5 degrees C (Coutant 1975) and continuing over a temperature range of 15-24 degrees C. In Pickwick Reservoir on the Tennessee River, spawning occurs from late March – mid-April (Miranda and Muncy 1987).


Spawning location: Polyphils; miscellaneous substrate and material nesters that have adhesive eggs either attached or occur in clusters on any available substrate (Simon 1999). Nests are constructed by males, generally in 0.33 – 1.33 m of water, and are often separated from each other by 2 m or greater distance; nests may be closer if underwater objects prevent bass from seeing one another (Clugston 1966; Heidenger 1976). Nests are usually constructed near submerged logs, brush piles, clumps of aquatic vegetation, or under overhanging limbs, usually over a firm bottom (Carr 1942; Vogele and Rainwater 1975; Ross 2001). Males will construct nests among the roots or underground stems of submerged plants when a firm substratum is absent (Bruno et al. 1990).


Reproductive strategy: Guarders; nest spawners (Simon 1999). While constructing the nest, male places his head at center of nest area and sweeps debris out in front of him by powerful undulation and lateral pushing movement of the whole body; male may repeat this process many times. Male also places head at center of nest, slowly pivoting around in a circle while actively beating pectoral, second dorsal, and caudal fins; consequently, the radius of nest is usually equal to length of the fish (Carr 1942). After construction of nest is complete, male leaves nest area to search for ripe females, luring them back to the nest with courtship displays which include rapid changes in color pattern. While spawning, male and female remain above the nest area side by side and angled in such a way that ventral areas of both are close together; eggs and sperm are shed at the same time. After spawning, male fans the eggs day and night and chases away potential predators (Carr 1942; Ross 2001). Male guards nest for several weeks. During this time male does not feed; male will remove a potential predator (or artificial bait) from nest, carrying it in his mouth (Carr 1942; Heidenger 1976). When heavy fishing occurs over nest of a guarding male, he will be frightened away from the area, and a greater mortality of eggs and fry will result from this action (Carr 1942).


Fecundity: Fertilized eggs demersal and adhesive; ripe, water-hardened eggs relatively large, ranging from 1.4 – 1.8 mm in diameter, yellow to orange in color; nest may contain 5000 – 43,000 eggs (Carr 1942; Merriner 1971; Heidinger 1976). Hatching occurs in 3 days at a water temperature of 19.6 degrees C and in 4 days at 15.6 degrees C (Kramer and Smith 1960).


Age/size at maturation: Maturity related more to size than to age; females mature at about 200 g and 25 cm TL; males at 160 g and 22 cm TL (Heidinger 1976).


Migration:  During spawning periods, in Florida, fish may travel about 3 km from their normal home range to shallow, protected spawning sites (Mesing and Wicker 1986).


Longevity: Females tend to live longer than males. In the southeast, males tend to have a maximum lifespan of 5-7 years, and females up to 10 years (Padfield 1951; Webb and Reeves 1975).


Growth and population structure: Growth rate greatest at water temperatures of 25-27 degrees C (Coutant 1975). Average TL for southeastern largemouth bass are 147-173 mm , 274-295 mm, 333-358 mm, 381-401 mm, 429-460 mm, and 455-500 mm for years 1-6 respectively (Schultz 1968; Webb and Reeves 1975). Females tend to grow somewhat faster than males, averaging about 25 mm longer than males by their fifth year, and attain larger maximum sizes (Padfield 1951; Webb and Reeves 1975). Newly hatched larvae are 3.0 – 5.5 mm TL; initially sink to bottom of nest area, where they lie on their sides with large yolk sac facing up for 5-7 days before moving into water column to begin feeding (Kramer and Smith 1960). Egg and larval development described by Carr (1942); Meyer (1970); Chew (1974), and Kramer and Smith (1960).


Food habits: Goldstein and Simon (1999) list first and second level trophic classifications as invertivore/carnivore and wholebody, respectively; sight feeder. Two basic feeding modes reported: midwater attack and benthic attack (Nyberg 1971). Fish rise from the nest and begin feeding on microcrustacean nauplii and rotifers at lengths ranging from 5.9 – 6.3 mm TL (Kramer and Smith 1960).Fish smaller than 48.3 mm TL feed on small crustaceans, but rotifers are no longer an item included in diet. Primary food items of fish 50.8-101.6 mm TL: aquatic insect larvae; water bugs (Corixidae); decapod crustaceans (including grass shrimp and crayfishes); and bluegill (Lepomis macrochirus), threadfin shad (Dorosoma petenense), and inland silverside (Menidia beryllina). Adults feed heavily on fishes including threadfin shad (Dorosoma petenense), gizzard shad (Dorosoma cepedianum), various minnows (Cyprinidae), sunfishes (Centrarchidae), and darters (Percidae), while continuing to consume aquatic insects (especially large insects such as dragonfly larvae; Carr 1942; McLane 1948; Applegate et al. 1967; Schramm and Maceina 1986; Matthews et al. 1992).


Phylogeny and morphologically similar fishes

Micropterus salmoides is sympatric with the spotted bass (M.  punctulatus) and sometimes identities (especially of young) confused (Douglas 1974); however, young M. salmoides usually lack the white, black, and yellow-orange caudal fin coloration of M. punctulatus (Ross 2001). M. salmoides may be distinguished from other bass by the following characters: spinous and soft dorsal fins are nearly separate; 9-12 rows of cheek scales versus greater than 12; pyloric caecae are branched; maxilla extends posteriorly beyond the eye (Ross 2001).


Host Records

Gyrodactylus macrochiri (Rawson et al. 1973; Harris et al. 2004); Textrema hopkinsi  (Dronen et al. 1977) ; Cestoda (5); Trematoda (28); Nemata (10); Acantocephala (3); Copepoda (3; Mayberry et al. 2000).


Commercial or Environmental Importance

This game species has been widely introduced and transplanted throughout the world (Hubbs et al. 1991). This species is by far the most sought-after recreational fish in Texas and beyond. Hundreds of clubs in Texas devoted to bass angling and conservation (Douglas 1974; Williams 1983; Chilton 1997).


Golden shiners (Notemigonus crysoleucas; Kramer and Smith 1960) and lake chubsuckers (Erimyzon sucetta; Carr 1942) have been documented from nesting areas of Micropterus salmoides; spawning over the area in order to take advantage of care given by the M. salmoides male.




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