The native range for spotted bass is the Mississippi River Basin from southern Ohio and West Virginia to southeastern Kansas and south to the Gulf of Mexico. The fish have also been introduced in western states.
Preferred habitat for spotted bass includes aquatic vegetation, submerged logs, and rock or riprap walls in small to large flowing streams, rivers and reservoirs
A spotted bass’ looks can certainly be deceiving. At first glance, it can easily be mistaken for its largemouth bass cousin; however, on closer inspection you’ll find a spotted bass have subtle differences than a largemouth including a rough patch on its tongue, an upper jaw that doesn’t extend much beyond the back of its eye and rows of dark spots on its upper sides.
While these fish look alike, spots and largemouth display different demeanors. A largemouth bass can be moody at times, turning sluggish when the weather changes or becoming finicky with increased fishing pressure. Spotted bass display a constant mean streak and attack targets as if there is no tomorrow. Their voraciousness and increasing numbers has made spots a popular catch for bass anglers throughout the United States.
Here’s a look at how to catch spotted bass in various parts of the country:
Ozarks Spotted Bass Fishing
Rocky banks are a key to finding spotted bass in this region. Ledge rock along a 45-degree bank with pole timber in 8 to 15 feet of water is an ideal location to find spotted bass on Ozark reservoirs.
During the winter spotted bass hang along bluff ends and in isolated cedars and standing pole timber on main lake points. Drag a heavy jig and craw trailer 15 to 30 feet deep for bottom-hugging fish or jerk a suspending jerkbait in shad hues for suspended fish.
Prespawn spotted bass can be taken dragging a split-shot rig French fry worm along the bottom. When spots move onto nests, you can catch these spawning fish on Ned rigs, wacky-rigged stickworms and shaky head craws or worms.
A variety of topwater poppers, prop baits and walking plugs worked along main lake points will catch spotted bass during the postspawn and early summer. When spots go deep in the summer try drop-shotting finesse worms or swimming a plastic grub along bluff ends or long tapering points.
Ozarks Highlands spotted bass moved to the backs of creeks and secondary points in the fall. Crankbaits in shad or crawfish hues work best for spots then.
Southern Spotted Bass
Wintertime spotted bass on reservoirs such as Lake Lanier can be found 25 to 40 feet deep along creek channels lined with standing timber. Vertical jigging a 3/4-ounce slab spoon or drop-shooting a finesse worm are effective tactics for catching these deep fish.
During the prespawn, bass suspended under docks close to deep water can be caught on shaky head worms. When the fish move to the rocky points, try running crawfish-color crankbaits 3 to 6 feet deep. Spawning spots can be tricked with floating worms, shaky head worms and wacky-rigged stickworms.
Southern anglers can have plenty of fun during the postspawn catching spots on a variety of topwater plugs along main lake points. The best postspawn and summertime tactics for southern spots are deep cranking and dragging a Carolina-rigged finesse worm along points and humps. Topwater tactics continue to work in the mornings during the summer, but when the sun drives the fish deeper, target humps and points with standing timber 20 to 25 feet deep and shake a finesse worm on a 3/16- or 1/4-ounce jighead.
Waking a 1/2-ounce spinnerbait along steep bluff points is a favorite fall trick for reservoir spots.
The Big Bass Living Out West
Spotted bass in Western reservoirs tend to hold at a different depth than their relatives in other parts of the country. The lakes are deeper and the fish seem to spend more time in the deeper water.
During the winter, large schools of spotted bass congregate 20 to 70 feet deep along the bottom of channel bends. These fish can be caught drop-shotting 2- to 3-inch reapers and vertical jigging 3/4- or 1-ounce slab spoons.
In the spring bass in the western reservoirs can be found along steep canyon walls and shallow flats. Productive springtime lures include suspending stickbaits in shad colors, black or brown 3/8-ounce jig-and-plastic chunk combinations and a 1/2-ounce spinnerbait in shad hues or chartreuse.
Post-spawn bass in the West suspend under balls of shad in deep open water where you can work a walking topwater lure such as a Zara Spook to coax the fish to the surface. The topwater tactics work throughout the summer in the early mornings, but later in the day you should key on spots 30 to 100 feet deep along points and try a vertical presentation with a drop-shot rig on spinning tackle.
Following baitfish is the key to catching Western spotted bass in autumn. These roving spots will fall for a spinnerbait and topwater walker. Go deeper, choose smaller lures and head for the rocks. Try these tips and you’ll tangle with cantankerous spotted bass in any part of the country.