California Department of Fish and Wildlife

Fishing for Black Bass

(Micropterus spp.)

Bass angling provides recreation and economic value to the state of California. For several years, California has been the center of attention for producing trophy-sized black bass. In a list of the top 25 largest largemouth bass caught in the U.S., 21 of the bass are from California waters. Nationwide attention to California 's largemouth bass fisheries began with the success of Florida largemouth bass introductions. Numerous catches of largemouth bass over 10 pounds were reported following the introductions and in 1972, the first largemouth bass over 20 pounds from California was caught at Lake Miramar. In addition to trophy-sized largemouth bass, the introduction of Alabama spotted bass in 1976 and subsequent introductions to other California waters has produced trophy-sized, and state and world record catches from California waters.

Types of Black Bass in California

largemouth bass illustration by Jeremy Taylor

Largemouth bass, Micropterus salmoides, were first introduced into California from Quincy, Illinois, into Lake Cuyamaca ( San Diego County ) in 1891, and are now found throughout California. Two subspecies are recognized, the northern subspecies, M. s. salmoides, and the Florida subspecies, M. s. floridanus. The first introduction of Florida largemouth bass was made in 1959 into southern California. The value of Florida largemouth bass has been demonstrated by increased catches of trophy-sized fish and nationwide public attention. Many bass greater than 10 pounds have been caught from California waters including a 21 pound 12 ounce bass caught from Castaic Lake, Los Angeles County, in 1991.

spotted bass illustration by Jeremy Taylor

Spotted bass, Micropterus punctulatus, are divided into three separate subspecies but only the northern spotted bass, M. p. punctulatus, called Kentucky bass, and Alabama spotted bass, M. p. henshalli have been introduced into California. Although spotted bass are colored similar to largemouth bass, they can be easily distinguished by a smaller mouth and the fact that the first and second dorsal fins are connected. A tooth patch is located on the tongue of the spotted bass and can be felt when you run the tip of your finger over it. However, a portion of largemouth bass also posses the tooth patch. The Alabama spotted bass was introduced to the state in 1974. Subsequently, angler catches of Alabama spotted bass over six pounds from many waters have been verified by CDFW biologists including one that weighed 10 pounds 4 ounces, caught at Pine Flat Lake in 2001.

smallmouth bass illustration by Jeremy Taylor

Smallmouth bass, Micropterus dolomieu, were first introduced into California in the Napa River in 1874 from Lake Champlain, New York. Historical records indicate that anglers "fished out" the first plant and the introduction was considered unsuccessful. An introduction a few years later into Crystal Springs Reservoir, a water supply reservoir south of the city of San Francisco, was successful and provided an abundant source of smallmouth bass for additional stockings throughout the state. Most trophy-sized smallmouth bass from California have been caught in northern California waters. The California state record smallmouth bass is 9 lbs 13 oz and was caught from Pardee Reservoir in 2007.