Everything comes in threes

They say that everything comes in threes. Bad news and good news all seem to happen in groups of three, but so do the top species of the black bass species. 

I wanted to go over the top three species of black bass, what kind of characteristics they exhibit, my biggest catch of each and how we can use some of their characteristics to catch more of them. Some of you may not know this, but I graduated from Murray State University in Kentucky with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Fisheries Biology, so I love sharing this type of information.

The first species to talk about is the Northern Spotted Bass, the Micropterus punctulatus – or Kentucky Bass as we call them around here because they are our state fish. These aren’t to be confused with the Alabama Bass or Micropterus henshalli that are common on the Coosa River and have been successfully planted elsewhere. These two subspecies of the black bass are similar in characteristics, but the Alabama Bass tends to grow larger than the Kentucky Bass.

Spotted bass are my favorite fish to catch because they are so aggressive. They also are quite possibly the toughest of the black bass subspecies. You will find these little warriors in everything from muddy rivers to crystal clear impoundments, and they tolerate seasonal changes and water conditions and fluctuations well. They tend to travel in packs, which may be one of the reasons they tend to be so aggressive in both feeding and spawning.

Because they are so aggressive, spotted bass can be taken on a variety of fast-moving techniques. They will also strike finesse applications when the fishing pressure gets high, or they are presented with changing conditions. I love to throw crankbaits, Thunder Cricket bladed jigs and jerkbaits like the KVD series of baits from Strike King. If I need to go finesse, I like a Tour Grade Shaky Head with a KVD Finesse Worm or our Filler Worm.

My personal best Kentucky was a 5-pound, 8 ouncer I caught Nov. 24, 1985, on Kentucky Lake on a crankbait.   

My next favorite to catch is the most striking of the black bass species, the smallmouth bass or Micropterus dolomieu. Not only do they offer the most unique markings and a stunning brown/bronze coloring, but they are also the most athletic of the subspecies. Because of their appearance and their startling ability to fight with great speed and jumping prowess, they have a strong following of anglers dedicated to chasing them.

They can be aggressive, and because of their speed, they can be fooled with very fast techniques. They regularly bite ultra finesse techniques all over the country as well. There is also an unusual happening, especially in the northern states where aquatic grass and smallmouth come together. There are times a truly large specimen will become solitary, and taking one on a Flipping Stick around a dock with grass can happen.

I love to target smallmouth bass on a spinnerbait, but I absolutely get addicted to the technique when they become willing to rush the surface and ignite on a bait that is burned over their heads — the blades bulging the just underneath the surface. To me this is the most exciting of all fishing techniques without a doubt. I also love catching smallmouth bass on jerkbaits; in fact my personal best, a 7-pound, 12-ounce beast, came on a jerkbait at Wheeler Lake at a Bassmaster Top 100.

To tie smallmouth to my home state, the current world record smallmouth is 11 pounds, 15 ounces taken by David Hayes on Dale Hollow Lake in Kentucky waters on July 9, 1955.

Finally, the largemouth bass, or Micropterus salmoides. This fish is the favorite of millions of anglers all over the world and the most commonly fish targeted for tournament weigh-in bags due to the fact that it tends to be the heaviest of the subspecies by length. It is also the widest ranging of all of the subspecies with the broadest range. It is in all U.S. States except Alaska, and it can be found in other countries including Mexico, South Africa, much of Europe, Guam, Japan, Lebanon, New Zealand and the Philippines.

Largemouth bass can be found everywhere from large lakes and rivers to small farm ponds and streams, and they fall to any number of techniques developed for bass fishing. It all depends on the time of the year and conditions facing the anglers on the water. 

Largemouth bass tend to be the slowest of the subspecies when it comes to propulsion and certainly over longer distances, but strength and stubbornness make up their character. I believe the largest fish in the largemouth bass subspecies are true loners, so to catch them, you must be seeking individual fish as opposed to large schools.

My personal best largemouth bass is a 13-pound, 9-ounce bass that came during a Megabucks event on Richland Chambers Reservoir in 1997. I caught her on a spinnerbait, and it was the B.A.S.S record for the largest fish caught in B.A.S.S. competition for two years until Mark Tyler caught his 14-pound, 9 ounce beast on the California Delta in 1999.

I love to talk about our favorite gamefish, and I hope these short descriptions will help you catch a few more of your own.