When friend Charlie Fields sent me a fish picture, it was accompanied by a question. “Is this a black bass?”
My response to Charlie, who lives near Rushville, IN, and spends winters at Anna Marie Island, FL, was, “I really don't know. It appears to be a black bass which often is the same as a largemouth. People use terminology and descriptions sometimes interchangeably. For example, there are more than 40 names for crappie, depending on local terminology.”
For whatever reason, the photo and question did make me first think about what I call crappie, however that is just what I call them.
Crappie also are known by many other names such as specs, calico bass, speckled perch, strawberry bass, papermouths, sac-a-lait, Oswego bass, and numerous other local and regional names.,
It was my outdoor writer friend Thayne Smith, who a number of years ago, wrote a column about crappie and came up with more than half a hundred names by which these tasty fish are called.
But, back to the question about black bass. There is about as much lack of name and species agreement related to black bass as crappie.
The terms black bass or largemouth often are used interchangeably. And, they aren’t of the same bass strain as those saltwater related bass like stripers and white bass. In fact, largemouth and what most of us call black bass actually are part of the perch family.
The one thing certain is it is uncertain just how many kinds of black bass there are. Many anglers and fishery biologists call the largemouth bass a kind of black bass.
According to information found on a Florida Department of Fish & Wildlife Resources website, “The largemouth bass is the best known and most popular game fish in North America. It is distinguished from other black bass because the upper jaw extends beyond the rear edge of the eye, and the first and second dorsal (back) fins are separated by an obvious deep dip.”
“The Florida largemouth bass is the state freshwater fish. Found statewide in lakes and rivers, they are commonly found along vegetation, or underwater structure, but schooling bass are also found in the middle of lakes.” The habits are not unique to Florida, they are much the same in Kentucky, Indiana or wherever they are found.
There are numerous kinds of black bass. Some are well known and others few anglers know the fish or names. One on-line encyclopedia lists 14 kinds of black bass.
While most black bass anglers are familiar with largemouth and smallmouth bass, and southern bassers know about spotted bass, there are other kinds of black bass few anglers know about.
Some of these types are restricted to a few streams but others are more widespread. Not all are recognized by the International Game Fish Association but biologists say they are distinct species. All are of the genus "Micropterus" and can interbreed, producing hybrids of the two species.
I’ve shared enjoyable time fishing in Alabama for Cousa bass named for a type of bass found in the Cousa River.
Both the largemouth and smallmouth bass records have been around for a longtime.
George Perry caught the U.S. record largemouth in 1932 from Montgomery Lake, Georgia. The huge fish weighed in at 22-pounds, four-ounces.
David Hayes of Leitchfield, KY, caught the world record smallmouth at Dale Hollow Lake in Tennessee in 1955. It weighed 11-pounds, 15 ounces, and is recognized by the International Game Fish Association.
The second and third place smallmouth also came from Dale Hollow.
So was Charlie’s fish a black bass. Well, yes, I think so.