Shoal Bass: Micropterus cataractae
Shoal bass are similar in body shape to largemouth bass, but unlike the largemouth, the shoal bass has scales on the base portion of the second dorsal fin; their first and second dorsal fins are clearly connected, and its upper jaw does not extend past the eye. Shoal bass also lack the dark lateral (down the side) band that largemouth have. Shoal bass have vertical stripes above the midline of the body which resemble tiger stripes.
Although historically found in the Apalachicola River, habitat degradation has all but eliminated shoal bass from the river proper. Very limited numbers of shoal bass can be found just downstream from Jim Woodruff Dam, where a few "shoal" type habitats still remain. The best destination to catch shoal bass in Florida is the Chipola River.
Shoal bass primarily eat crustaceans (crayfish) but will also eat a variety of fish and insects. Shoal bass are primarily found among river shoals (shallow, fast moving riffles and runs containing limestone) but larger shoal bass can often be found in the deeper pools containing limestone formations above and below the shoals.
State Record: 5.20 lbs.
Big Catch minimum: 16 inches or 2 lbs.
Fishing Tips and Facts: To catch shoal bass, fish near the "shoal" areas using medium action tackle with 8 to 12 pound test line. Soft plastic crawfish imitation lures and grubs are good choices. Spinnerbaits, jerkbaits, and small crankbaits also work well. Spring and Fall are the best times to fish for shoal bass, but fishing can also be good throughout the summer months. Although not as popular as its largemouth cousin, shoal bass are pound-for-pound one of the top fighters in the black bass family.
Image Credit: Duane Raver, Jr.