Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency

TWRA's Region 4 - East Tennessee

Reservoir Fisheries Management Program

Spotted Bass - Micropterus punctulatus

(This page was last updated - 06/26/2007)

Scientific name: Micropterus punctulatus (Micropterus = "torn fin ", punctulatus = "dotted")

Common names: spotted bass, spot, Kentucky

spotted bass
A Tellico Reservoir spotted bass - photo by Jim Negus

Species Overview

Spotted bass, otherwise known as "Kentucky bass", is one of the four species of black bass found in the state. They are common except in the higher elevation streams of East Tennessee.

The Tennessee state angling record was taken from Center Hill Reservoir in 1989 and weighed 5 pounds and 8 ounces.


Spotted bass are easily confused with largemouth bass because both have a dark mid-lateral band of pigmentation. Spotted bass have small jaws that do not extend past the eye and a high bridge between the spiny and soft dorsal fins, two characters not found in largemouth bass.

Spotted bass are much smaller on average than either largemouth or smallmouth bass. It is rare for a spotted bass to reach 16-inches in East Tennessee. They usually have rows of spots in the white area below the dark mid-lateral band of pigmentation and a tooth patch on their tongue. See the bass identification page for reference.


spoted bass
A Norris Reservoir spotted bass - photo by Jim Negus


Young spotted bass feed on aquatic insect larvae while adults feed on fish, crayfish, and insects.

They are slow growing when compared to largemouth and smallmouth bass and rarely reach 8-10 years of age in Tennessee.

Life Cycle

Spawning occurs from April to May in habitat similar to that used by smallmouth. The male builds the nest in gravel or other substrate then entices a female to deposit her eggs. The males guard the eggs and fry until they disperse.

Several spotted x smallmouth bass hybrids have been collected recently in area reservoirs suggesting there is occasionally competition between the two species for spawning habitat.


spotted bass
A Cherokee Reservoir spotted bass - photo by Jim Negus


Along with the help of fishing regulations, spotted bass are usually able to maintain healthy populations through natural reproduction. There is no record of any spotted bass stocking in TWRA's database.


Etnier, D. and W. Starnes. 1993. The Fishes of Tennessee. The University of Tennessee Press.