Smallmouth Bass

Common Names: Bronzeback, brown bass, black bass, smallie.

Best Fishing: Lakes: Claytor, Smith Mountain, Philpott, Moomaw, and South Holston Rivers:James (above the fall line); New; South Fork, North Fork, and mainstem Shenandoah; Rappahannock (above the fall line); Maury; North Fork Holston; and Clinch.

Fishing Techniques: Fly, spinning, spincasting and baitcasting rods and reels with 4 to 8 pound test line are all suitable for taking this scrappiest of freshwater gamefish. Live crayfish, hellgrammites, “spring lizards” (salamanders), madtoms, and minnows are best live baits. Artificials include jigs, small crank baits, small spinner-bucktail combos, minnow and crayfish imitations. For fly rodding, hair bugs, poppers, and streamers are good.

Identification: Sunfish family. Coppery-brown above, with greenish-brown sides with darker vertical bars. Three dark bars radiate from the eye on the cheek and gill cover. Dorsal fin is not as deeply notched as the largemouth. Upper jaw extends back only in line with the middle of the eye. A 4 or 5 pound fish is considered a trophy. State Record: 7 pounds, 7 ounces from the New River.

Feeding Habits: Crayfish are a favored prey as are madtoms. Also feeds on adult larval insects such as mayfly nymphs, and hellgrammites, tadpoles and other small fish.

Habitat: Native to Ohio River drainage streams of southwest Virginia. Introduced into most fast-flowing streams and cool lakes. Prefers clear flowing streams and rivers with rock, bedrock and gravel bottoms and numerous riffles, and cool deep water of large, clear reservoirs with boulders and gravel bottoms. Most active in 67 to 72 degree F. water, and intolerant of silty, warm and polluted water.

Spawning Habits: Males build nests on sand, gravel, or rubble bottom, usually 2 to 4 feet deep, as water temperatures stabilize above 55 degrees F. Spawning occurs in late April to early June as temperatures exceed 60 degrees F. Males guard the nest and fry up to two weeks after the fry leave the nest.