Michigan boasts good populations of both largemouth and smallmouth bass statewide, though as you travel northward, smallmouths predominate. Largemouths are more often associated with shallow, weedier bodies of water or reservoirs with standing timber, while smallmouths are more closely linked to rocky habitat and rivers. Both, however, can be caught from the same bodies of water and often from the same general areas.
Starting in 2015, anglers can catch-and-immediately-release largemouth and smallmouth bass all year (January 1 - December 31). The catch-and-keep season for both species runs later in the year. For Lake St. Clair, the St. Clair River and the Detroit River the season is the third Saturday in June through December 31. For all other waters, including the Great Lakes, the season is the Saturday before Memorial Day through December 31.
Both species move shallow in the spring to spawn and are easily located and enticed into biting before they go on the beds. After spawning, bass typically move out to deeper water, though there are almost always some bass, especially largemouths, in shallow water, usually associated with cover such as weed beds, fallen timber or boat docks.
Perhaps America's top game fish, bass are a highly prized for their spirited fight. They can be caught with a wide range of artificial lures, making them a favorite tournament fish, though they can be taken on virtually any live bait as well. Bass fishermen typically cast all manner of lures, from topwater plugs to bottom-bumpers (such as jigs or plastic worms) with diving plugs, swim baits, spoons or spinnerbaits used in between. Similarly, bass can be taken on all types of flies; poppers, mice and frogs will take them on top though some anglers like to "match the hatch" while mayflies -- especially the larger species -- are emerging. Fly fishermen often use streamers that imitate minnows or crayfish to take them subsurface.
Michigan's Great Lakes and connecting water have excellent smallmouth populations with the bays (Big and Little Bays de Noc, Grand Traverse Bay, Potagannissing Bay and Saginaw Bay, among them) of special note. But the whole southeastern coast from Port Huron to Lake Erie -- including the Detroit and St. Clair Rivers and Lake St. Clair --is nationally known for its size and number of smallmouth bass. Many of the lakes across the northern tier of the Lower Peninsula - Leelanau, Burt and Mullet among them - offer outstanding smallmouth fishing, as do many of the rivers of southern Michigan (such as the Kalamazoo, the Grand and the Huron). Many of the drowned river mouths along the Lake Michigan coast have good populations of both largemouths and smallmouths. The quiet, weedy backwater areas of the Great Lakes and connecting water offer good largemouth fishing as do many reservoirs, such as Fletcher Pond, Wixom Lake and Kent Lake. But virtually all the lakes of southern Michigan have good largemouth populations.
For more information on identifying characteristics for largemouth bass see our fish ID page.
For more information on identifying characteristics for smallmouth bass see our fish ID page.