Throughout the southeast and mid-Atlantic, the spotted bass is one of the more fun fish to catch in reservoirs and streams. Although the spotted bass looks more like a largemouth, it acts more like a smallmouth in terms of habitat association and feeding habits. In this 101 article, we describe what you need to know for finding and catching the fish.
When to Find Spotted Bass
As with most freshwater species, you can catch spotted bass year round, especially when enclosed in deep lakes or reservoirs. From season to season however, there are a few things that help to find them. In the spring, the adult fish come into the shallow areas to spawn, and can be sight-fished during this time. In the summer and fall, they tend to reside deep, where they can find cool stable water and plenty of shad to dine on. During the winter, it depends on the water body. In general, wherever they can find warm water is where they will be, and this will sometimes be deep, but will sometimes be shallow during days when the sun heats the water.
Where to Catch Spotted Bass
Spotted bass love two basic types of habitat: structure and current. Their favorite type of structure is anything solid, such as rock piles, seawalls, bridge pilings, or fallen trees. These types of structures can be either deep or shallow. For example, with a bridge expanding across the different depth ranges, you have the opportunity to fish the different depths depending on where the fish are during different parts of the year.
For current, they prefer a light but modest flow where they can stalk unsuspecting prey behind the rocks and rubble. Look for places where currents flow around big rocks or bridge pilings, and there will surely be a few big spotted bass below.
Tackle for Spotted Bass
Spotted bass don't get incredibly large -- up to about 10 pounds -- but they do tend to hang around structures that they can pull you behind. There is a balance needed between light line for using small baits, and strong line to be able to pull the fish away from those structures without the line breaking from tension.
Spinning Tackle for Spotted Bass
Spinning tackle is preferred my many anglers based on its ease of use, but it also has some good advantages when it comes to spotted bass. For one, spinning combinations are great for working small lures with finesse to make them come alive. Another big advantage is like that with a spinning rod -- it's easier to flip small baits under fallen trees and tight structures to reaching the fish.
Conventional Tackle for Spotted Bass
Conventional tackle is also called "baitcasting" tackle, and for good reason-- it is easier to use with live bait than many small lures. While spinning tackle works well for working small lures with finesse, conventional tackle is a bit harder to do so. However, it has one huge advantage over spinning tackle, and that is the greater leverage over fish. With this tackle, you can be sure to pull fish away from structures that you might have lost using spinning tackle. Conventional tackle also has a farther casting ability, which helps out when fishing long seawalls or other similar areas.
Lines and Leader for Spotted Bass
There may not be another field of tackle so subject to personal preference as fishing line. Whether you're more of a top-water fisherman, or a deep-water plugger, the best choice in line can vary dramatically. For spotted bass, you want something in a light to medium range of 6 to 10-pound test, and that can vary depending on where you're fishing.
Since spotted bass love currents, braided line is a good choice because it cuts through water better with its thinner diameter, but fluorocarbon is also a good choice because of its better sinking. When fishing shallow with little currents however, monofilament is a good choice based on its low price and ability to stretch a little.
Baits for Spotted Bass
When using baits for spotted bass, we basically want to tempt them with their naturally preferred prey. This includes of course the shad, which is very abundant in deeper waters such as reservoirs and lakes. Other things that spotted bass love to eat depends on the water body, but they will always prefer crayfish and worms if they are around.
Lures for Spotted Bass
Instead of actually using the preferred prey, when using a lure, simply mimic the preferred prey. There are many great lures out there on the market today, and they seem to get better year after year. A fine choice for almost any circumstance would be a soft plastic shad that you can work similar to a live one. A hard plastic diving plug mimicking a shad or similar fish will also work great in most areas. When fishing around rocks and rubble where the fish are near the bottom, choose a good crayfish or plastic worm for solid action.