Fun catching spotted bass

In last week’s column I shared my thoughts on hitting the road to start my eleventh season fishing professionally in the U.S. It’s been a lot of fun and I consider myself lucky to get to do what I do. Getting to travel around to fish has given me the opportunity to fish a variety of waterbodies and catch different species that we don’t get to catch in northwest Ontario.

We have great fishing for both largemouth and smallmouth bass around home and growing up I spent more time than I probably should have in pursuit of those fish. That pursuit led me to where I am today. While fishing the shallow lakes in Florida or one of the reservoirs across the southern U.S. is a lot different than fishing on Lake of the Woods or Rainy Lake, bass still relate to some form of structure, cover or they go where the food is. The general principles to finding bass apply all over North America.

Some of the different species that I’ve run into over the years that I had never caught around home include alligator gar, bighead carp, striped bass, white crappie, snakehead, bowfin and a variety of catfish. During a competition day these other fish are an annoyance but it’s fun getting to see a new species whenever you catch them.

There is also another species of bass that is common in many waters in the southern U.S. that we do not have in Canada, the spotted bass. Though they look like a cross between a smallmouth and a largemouth bass, spots are actually their own species. They have a smaller mouth, like a smallmouth but are coloured and have a horizontal stripe more like a largemouth. They have a great attitude as far as often being aggressive and have become one of my favourite fish to catch.

It’s kind of surprising that we don’t have spotted bass in Canada because they generally like deeper, clear water and they like current. They also behave similar to smallmouths, often suspending and living in deep water, outside of the spawning period in the spring. In many of the lakes that have spotted bass, they are often irrelevant in the tournaments because they don’t get very big, seldom getting over two pounds. There are a few lakes however that they are the prominent species and they grow to be four, five and even six pounds.

Lake Lanier in north Georgia is about an hour north of Atlanta. It is the best spotted bass fishery I have ever fished. I have fished two tournaments there in the past and have just always enjoyed every day that I’ve got to spend out there. It has an excellent population of spots and they grow large, making it a unique body of water. Many of the same techniques that we use at home for smallmouths are also effective for spotted bass so it’s a lake that I just feel at home on.

Jeff Gustafson with a spotted bass from Lake Lanier.