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Illustration by Joseph R. Tomelleri ©
Bass - General
Michigan boasts good populations of both largemouth and smallmouth bass statewide, though as you travel northward, smallmouths are the dominant species. 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.
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 known for their spirited fight making them one of the most enjoyable catches for any angler. They can be caught with a wide range of artificial lures, and can be taken on virtually any live bait. 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, with fly fishermen often using streamers that imitate minnows or crayfish to take them subsurface.
Michigan's Great Lakes and connecting water have excellent smallmouth populations. The whole southeastern coast from Port Huron to Lake Erie is nationally known for its size and number of smallmouth bass. Many of the lakes across the northern tier of the Lower Peninsula offer outstanding smallmouth fishing, as do many of the rivers of southern Michigan. Many of the drowned river mouths along Lake Michigan, weedy backwaters of all the Great Lakes, and most southern inland lakes have good populations of both largemouths and smallmouths.
Two dorsal fins with a deep notch between spinous and soft-rayed portions, body longer than deep, upper jaw extends beyond rear of eye, body usually light green with a dark green lateral streak.
Although they prefer to eat minnows and other fish, they will also prey on crayfish, amphibians and insects (both terrestrial and aquatic).
Largemouth bass spawn in late spring or early summer. The male constructs a nest on rocky or gravelly bottoms, although occasionally the eggs are deposited on leaves and rootlets of submerged vegetation. The eggs hatch in three to four days. The fry rise up out of the nest in five to eight days and form a tight school. This school feeds over the nest and later the nursery area while the male stands guard. The school breaks up about a month after hatching when the fry are about one inch long. Young largemouth bass grow quickly and can be as large 4 to 5 inches by the end of their first summer. Largemouth bass can grow larger than 20 inches and exceed 7 pounds in Michigan waters.
In Michigan, largemouth bass are seldom found deeper than 20 feet. Largemouth bass are most active in warm waters of 70-85 degrees Fahrenheit. They prefer clear waters with no noticeable current and do not tolerate excessive turbidity and siltation. In winter they dwell on or near the lake bottom, but stay fairly active throughout the year.