Freshwater Fish - Species

Smallmouth bass - Click to enlarge photo

Species Specific Regulations

Smallmouth bass

Freshwater Fishing License required.

Complete fishing regulations

Guide to Freshwater Fishes

Guide to Freshwater Fishes
(Adobe PDF - 3MB)

Smallmouth bass (Micropterus dolomieu)

Description: (Anatomy of a Fish)
The smallmouth has bronze to olive green sides with dark brown to bronze specks which sometimes look like bars on the sides of the fish. There are no specks on the lower side. Extending outward from the eye are three dark stripes on the cheek. The mouth is large and extends to about the middle of the eye, which is usually red. The two dorsal fins—spiny and soft—are separated by a shallow notch. This species does not have the row of spots or specks on the lower side of its body like a redeye or spotted bass; nor, does it have the dark horizontal stripe that is present in the largemouth and spotted bass.

Range: Lakes Jocassee and Keowee; Broad River

Average Length: 10-18 inches

Average Size: ½-2 pounds; 6 pounds is large for South Carolina smallmouth

South Carolina State Record: 9 pounds 7 ounces (2001)

Life Expectancy: Approximately 15 years

Preferred Habitat

Smallmouth can be found in cooler waters of the Foothill reservoirs or pool sections of clear, cool streams. In streams, smallmouth limit their range to one pool or several adjacent pools.

Food Habits

  • Young eat microcrustaceans and aquatic insects, tadpoles, fish larvae and as they grow progress to crayfish and fish such as darters, minnows, yellow perch and sunfishes.


  • Smallmouth bass will begin their nesting activity in the spring when water temperature reach 60°F, usually in April or early May.
  • Nests, constructed of coarse gravel, are usually located in shallow areas of reservoirs or in protected areas of streams where the current is minimal.
  • Several females may spawn in the nest of one male. The typical nest will contain about 2,500 eggs which are guarded by the male until they hatch in two or three days.
  • The newly hatched-fry are guarded by the male until they disperse in 12 to 16 days.


Smallmouth bass were introduced to waters in the northwestern part of the state and the central piedmont. These limited stockings have been successful in establishing this non-native sportfish species. The smallmouth bass both ambushes and prowls for food. It is common for them to feed on food organisms that are dislodged by suckers or turtles as they disturb the stream bottom rooting for food. On a national basis, the smallmouth bass is judged to be a favorite of anglers for its exceptional sport fishing qualities.

Commonly Mistaken Species

Some species of fish that are commonly mistaken for this species:

Literature Cited

Rohde, Fred C, Arndt, Rudolf G., Foltz, Jeffery W., Quattro, Joseph M. 2009. Freshwater Fishes of South Carolina. University of South Carolina Press, Columbia, South Carolina.

Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries Division. 2009. South Carolina Guide to Freshwater Fishes.

Fish Illustration by Duane Raver.