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Spot or not?

Tim Smith

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We've had some fun wrangling over Micropterus ID over the last week or so. We've also talked about hybridization and subspecies and the point has been made that regional variation can be significant. Various opinions have been floated regarding valid or useful methods to ID spotted bass vs. largemouth vs smallmouth bass.


Some of those charactersistics are found in most fish keys. These include:


1. The presence or absence of a tooth patch on the toungue,

2. Evenly spaced rows of belly spots

3. Connection of the spinous and soft dorsal fins

4. Mouth extending to a point beyond, below or in front of the eye

5. Broad black horizontal bar on body


Some of those characteristics are found in some keys or some of us have found them to be useful in our own IDs.


6. Green on the belly below the black horizontal bar

7. Red eyes


Now it's time to earn your credentials in Micropterus ID. The nine photos below are all either smallmouth bass, largemouth bass or spotted bass. Some of these are easier than others, but I will say ahead of time that I will be genuinely impressed by anyone who gets all of them correct. None of the official IDs on these fish list them as hybrids.


If you want to try the quiz, list your answers in the same order the pictures appear. I'll wait a few days and then fill in the official ID.


Have fun!!


Micropterus 1


Micropterus 2


Micropterus 3


Micropterus 4


Micropterus 5


Micropterus 6


Micropterus 7


Micropterus 8


Micropterus 9

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Heh heh. Nope. But I can tell you that you were wrong on most of 'em last week.



Ok.. listen. You're obsessed. There's a meeting at the local church tonight for S.A. (Spotted Anonymous). I'll be your sponsor.



LOL, wait until you get those 3:00AM phone calls


"I'm having a weak moment, I think I'm going to drive to Kentucky."



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Hmm, that's gonna be tough with the limited pics. I like to look at all the evidence before positive IDing. To pick only seeing a partial belly is kind of tricky. Something tells me I won't get them all right.



1) Is that connected or bending towards the camera? Connected would mean Smallie or Spot since it's olive I'll say Spot


2) Again, not enough info here. Mouth doesn't look like it goes passed the eye, which would be easily fixable if I could manually close the fishes mouth. Something looks LMBthy about it. Mouth appears Spot length. Spot


3) Spot


4) Spot


5) Picture is too dark to make out color or whether fins are connected. Again I'd need to see the rest of the fish. Looks like it could be a SMB, but the color is bad. Inconclusive- I'd guess SMB with no more info.


6) Spot or SMB can't tell for lack of color or markings. I'll go SMB


7) Smallmouth probably a hybrid, but the lake this one is from doesn't have Spots.


8) LMB


9) SMB


Edited to answer #6

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I guess I can give this a shot. He never know if you know if you never try.

1. Smallmouth Bass

2. Smallmouth Bass

3. Spotted Bass

4. Spotted Bass

5. Smallmouth Bass

6. Spotted Bass

7. Spotted Bass

8. Largemouth Bass

9. Spotted Bass

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Here are the full pics.


Pictures 1, 2, and 3 were all the same fish. A spotted bass from the Little Vermilion. This one's a good example of the connected fin Jamie uses to ID this species. The green pigment below the horizontal bar points out that you can't really trust that characteristic across drainages. The even rows of belly spots are clear on this one as well. Other characters that could have been used to ID this fish were mouth size (although that seems ambiguous on this fish) and eye color (red). Jason's right that the belly pic has a parasite on it. The little black dot is "Neascus" a trematode that is commonly found on Midwestern stream fish.




Picture 4 is also a spotted bass, also from the Little Vermilion. It also has green pigment below the horizontal bar, but a nice evenly spotted pattern on the belly.




Picture 5 is a largemouth. This one is a bit of a difficult read for the dorsal. It's not a great picture, and there's a bit of overlap between the spinous dorsal and the soft dorsal. This one's somewhat atypical for a largemouth dorsal fin.




Picture 6 is largemouth and truthfully, an impossible call just by looking at the dorsal fin. Everyone missed it, but it's clearly a largemouth. The mouth extends well beyond the eye. Fins aren't fool-proof either.




Picture 7 is supposedly a state record smallmouth for California. I don't agree with that ID, but there's no way I could positively ID this fish. Smallmouth are not supposed to have a horizontal bar on their sides. As Brenden says, it's probably some kind of hybrid. Spot-smallmouth or possibly largemouth-smallmouth.


Picture 8 is a largemouth.


Picture 9 is from the USGS site for spotted bass. However, it has no horizontal bar and the mouth ends well before the eye. If I were IDing this fish...I'd check for a tooth patch and call it a smallmouth until I found one.




If everyone gets a pass on 7 and 9 (which only seems fair), then Brenden, Jamie and Mike missed the fewest with 2 misses each. I hope you enjoyed the quiz, and I hope that when they're really there, we're all....


...seeing spots. :blink:

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I've seen picture 7 on other southern bass sites listed as a spot.


According to Brian Waldman, that one is from California. I called it a spot the first time I saw it on the Indiana boards, but I can't see belly spots and it's atypical for a spotted bass as well. The person who sent the email to Brian called it a smallmouth. It's almost certainly not that....


....whatever it is.


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Yep. We see fish pictures all the time that are claimed to be from some other place. It's a daily occurance on muskie sites that I'm on.

I could put up a pike picture that has been claimed by just about every idiot who fishes that it was caught in their lake. It's the one of a big pike t-boning a smaller one. I've heard LOTW, Rainy,Rowan,blah blah blah. Turns out that it was in friggin Holland. That kind of crap happens all the time. I'm sure it happens with bass fishing sites too, but they don't catch the attention that some b.s. 65" pike gets when it's emailed 3 million times. Heck I heard from a friend who told her that a coworker at her job said his friend caught that fish. The muskie/pike stuff gets a ton of air time. Generally no one wastes the time to b.s. about a bass or a walleye. But it still amazes me that any fish picture gets rumored around. Heck...I've found CF pictures that some dude in Poland lifted from us. Go figure. Just comes with the territory.


That's what I hate about fishing. We're called liars for a reason.


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I'd be interested to know where exactly it did come from if not California.


Brian said he got the image in an email from Chris Wolfgram, who is cited in this article about Lake Pardee in California that has this fish in the masthead.


I would believe the picture wasn't really associated with Lake Pardee...especially since there are other articles online about record fish that show real smallmouth caught from there.



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