Native to the upper Mississippi River basin, generally east of the Missouri River drainage, and in the Great Lakes system. Introduced into Arizona in 1921. Smallmouth bass most often are bronze to brownish green in color, with dark vertical bars on sides. In contrast to the largemouth bass, the upper jaw does not extend beyond the rear margin of eye. Eye reddish in color. Shallow notch in dorsal fin. Soft dorsal fin has 13 to 15 rays. Smallmouth bass are actually members of the sunfish family, not the true bass family (stripers and white bass). Length: 12 to 22 inches. Weight 8 ounces to 7 pounds. May live up to 26 years.
They are abundant in the Black River, Verde River, Roosevelt Lake, Lake Powell and Lake Havasu. Also found in the Colorado River for many miles below Lake Havasu in the Parker area and downstream. They prefer rocky habitats in streams and lakes with clear waters.
Typically spawn in March-May when water temperatures reach between 59 and 64 degrees. Males build nests, usually within 150 yards of where the nest was the previous year. Spawning occurs over several days, the female may spawn with the same or another male. The female is then driven away from the nest and the male cares for the eggs and young. Females reach sexual maturity at three years whereas males don’t until four years of age.
Shad and crayfish are consumed in lakes; and crayfish and minnows in streams.
In streams, smallmouth can be very aggressive when hellgrammites and terrestrial
insects are available.
Effective lures for smallmouth, are those that resemble minnows, plastic
worms and streamer flies. Live baits include minnows, hellgrammites and
crayfish. One of the best smallmouth fisheries in the State is the Black
The meat is similar to largemouth bass, mild tasting, white and flaky.
Updated October 2009