The smallmouth bass spawning season is arguably the best time to catch these hard-fighting, acrobatic fish.
Fishing for smallmouth bass offers any fisherman an exciting day on the water.
So, hang on and get ready to take notes on how to improve your chances of landing the fish of a lifetime.
Table of Contents
- Key Characteristics of Smallmouth Bass
- The Spawning Season
- What is the Spawn?
- When do Smallmouth Bass Spawn? A State by State Listing
- The Spawning Season – Pre Spawn
- The Spawning Season – The Spawn
- The Spawning Season – The Post Spawn
- What Water Temperatures do Smallmouth Bass Spawn?
- What Type of Structure do Smallmouth Bass Spawn?
- Are There Any Spawning Differences Between Rivers and Lakes?
- When do Smallmouth Bass Spawn in Rivers?
- How do I Catch Smallmouth Bass?
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Key Characteristics of Smallmouth Bass
Smallmouth Bass Description
Smallmouth bass are part of the sunfish family and are green or brown in color. One key difference is the markings on their bodies.
They have vertical stripes as opposed to a long horizontal bar (largemouth bass) or spots (spotted bass).
Sometimes when smallmouth bass are browner in color the stripes are not present. Another major defining characteristic is that smallmouth bass’ jaws do not extend past their eyes.
Where are Smallmouth Bass Native Species?
Smallmouth bass are originally native to the eastern half of North America. Northern boundaries extend into southern Canada, southern boundaries extend to northern Georgia and the southwestern boundary is Texas.
Smallmouth bass found west of the central United States are considered introduced species as part of non-native species stocking efforts.
The good news is that through these efforts there are some amazing places to fish for smallmouth in states like Arizona and California.
The Spawning Season
What is the Spawn?
The spawning season is the time of year, typically Spring or relatively close, when fish lay their eggs on “beds” to help support the population of fish.
The spawn is actually just one segment of the spawning season. Knowing the timing of the smallmouth bass spawning season will help you become a better angler.
When do Smallmouth Bass Spawn? A State by State Listing
|Alabama||April to May|
|Alaska||Smallmouth Bass are not found in Alaska.|
|Arkansas||Mid March to late April|
|California||Late February to April depending on temperature.|
|Colorado||April to mid may|
|Connecticut||Late April to early July|
|Florida||Smallmouth Bass are not found here|
|Georgia||Smallmouth Bass are mostly found in North Georgia, and the spawning time runs March-April|
|Hawaii||Believe it or not, you can fish for smallmouth bass in this tropical paradise. They will typically spawn in early Spring|
|Idaho||Between the months of March-May|
|Illinois||May is spawning time in this state|
|Iowa||Late April to Early May|
|Kansas||April to mid-May|
|Kentucky||April to early May|
|Louisiana||Smallmouth Bass are not found here|
|Maine||Mid may-Mid June|
|Maryland||April-June, but the best time is mid-April to mid-May|
|Massachusetts||Mid May-Mid June|
|Minnesota||Mid May to End of June|
|Mississippi||April to May|
|Missouri||Mid April to the end of June.|
|Montana||May to June|
|Nebraska||Late April to Mid June|
|Nevada||Mid March to April|
|New Hampshire||Mid April to May|
|New Jersey||Mid April to Early June|
|New Mexico||Late March to April|
|New York||Late May to Early June|
|North Carolina||April to May|
|North Dakota||Early Summer-June|
|Ohio||May to Early June|
|Oklahoma||Mid April to May|
|Oregon||Late April to June|
|Pennsylvania||May to June|
|Rhode Island||May to June|
|South Carolina||April to Early May|
|South Dakota||End of May to June|
|Tennessee||April to May|
|Texas||March to May|
|Utah||May to June|
|Vermont||May to June|
|Virginia||Late April to May|
|Washington||Late May to June|
|West Virginia||May to June|
|Wisconsin||May to June|
|Wyoming||May to Mid June|
The Spawning Season – Pre Spawn
The smallmouth bass spawning season is similar to other fish spawning seasons. The spawning season is made up of three key parts: pre-spawn, spawn, and post-spawn.
During the winter smallmouth bass are found in deeper water. As the days become longer and the water temp slowly rises, smallmouth bass will start feeding like crazy.
They will gorge themselves on shad and crawfish. If you are fishing in the Great Lakes region, gobies are a popular food source.
During the pre-spawn, smallmouth bass will start to transition from deeper water to secondary points. This is the best opportunity to catch a quality smallmouth bass. They will be actively feeding, and the females will weigh more due to carrying eggs.
The Spawning Season – The Spawn
As stated earlier, the ideal smallmouth bass spawning water temperature ranges from 55-65 degrees Fahrenheit. Every region will be different.
Pinpointing this to a specific day of the month is difficult. So, always use water temperature as your guide.
During the spawn, males will “build” a nest in shallower water on a hard, flat surface. “Building” refers to the male using his tail to fan an area and clean it out.
These beds or nests are circular in shape. If the water is clear enough and you can see the bottom of a lake or river and you see an area that looks like a crater it is most likely a bed.
Also, if you happen to catch a fish during this time and its tail is red, that is a male that just built a nest. Once the nest is built, the male waits on a female smallmouth bass to lay her eggs. Once the eggs have been laid, the male will fertilize the eggs.
The Spawning Season – The Post Spawn
After the spawn has taken place, the fish are tired and fishing can be more difficult. You will have to change your tactics.
The males will be guarding the fry. You will see them swimming around the bed. Males will be more aggressive during this time and are often seen chasing off or attacking any perceived threat to the bed.
Sight fishing is very popular during this time. Using soft plastic baits that imitate the multitude of aquatic species trying to eat the bass fry is a common technique.
What Water Temperatures do Smallmouth Bass Spawn?
The ideal smallmouth bass spawning temperature range is between 55 and 65 degrees Fahrenheit. Across the United States, this could take place anytime from February to June or even July.
Water temperature is a huge factor in determining what part of the spawning cycle they are in.
What Type of Structure do Smallmouth Bass Spawn?
Smallmouth bass prefer to spawn around flat, hard surfaces. They prefer pea gravel in deeper water.
Water clarity is a big factor in determining spawning depth. The clearer the water, the deeper they will spawn. In contrast, the more reduced visibility in the water the shallower they will spawn.
Are There Any Spawning Differences Between Rivers and Lakes?
Smallmouth bass are found in both rivers and lakes. They will still look for flat, hard surfaces to spawn on.
The biggest difference is in rivers where the current is more noticeable.
Smallmouth bass will find a place where the water is calmer, like behind a boulder or in deeper pools.
When do Smallmouth Bass Spawn in Rivers?
Geography plays a huge role in when smallmouth bass will spawn in rivers. We know typically the southern part of the United States warms first and then the warm temperatures gradually head north.
So, rivers in the southern part of your state will warm faster than the rivers in the northern part of your state.
Keep in mind that weather patterns and elevation could also impact this. A late season cold front could slow the warming of the water.
Fishing during the spawning season is a great time to catch the fish of a lifetime, but anglers need to take extra care in how they handle the fish when caught.
During the spawn, smallmouth bass are performing an important task to help produce more smallmouth bass. If you catch a fish on a bed, please make sure to put it back in the same area as quickly as possible.
This is vital to make sure we do our part to ensure future generations have the opportunity to catch these hard-fighting fish.
How do I Catch Smallmouth Bass?
Having the correct fishing bait or lures is key to catching smallmouth bass.
Yes, live bait such as worms, crawfish, shad, and minnows will work to catch smallmouth bass.
In contrast, artificial fishing lures can be another great way to catch fish. The use of artificial lures to catch fish is popular for almost every species. In fact, some anglers will only use artificial baits.
Some popular baits to catch smallmouth bass are jigs with craw trailers, tubes, paddle tail swimbaits (3-4 inches in size), spinnerbaits, crankbaits, buzzbaits, poppers, worms, and creature baits.
When the fish are feeding actively, jigs with crawfish trailers are a great choice if fish are feeding on crayfish. If they are actively feeding on shad, shad imitating baits like swimbaits, spinnerbaits, and crankbaits are solid options.
Especially when smallmouth are locked on the beds, slowing down and using artificial creature baits (i.e. lizards), worms, or anything imitating a bluegill are popular options to help entice smallmouth bass to strike after your bait.
Having a wide variety of baits is key to being ready for any situation and improving your chances of catching fish.
Take a look at our other post “TOP 11 Best Smallmouth Bass Lures” for a more in-depth look at popular smallmouth bass fishing baits.
Smallmouth bass fishing is an exciting and fun hobby. These hard-fighting fish are a favorite for many anglers.
Knowing when smallmouth bass spawn and understanding what baits work well, will help increase your odds of catching this magnificent fish.
Leave a comment below and share your favorite method of catching smallmouth bass.