As you already know, redeyes can sometimes be difficult to identify. In fact, redeyes are probably one of the most difficult black bass species to identify. Why are they so difficult to identify? The main reason is that redeyes are sometimes mistaken for other black bass such as spotted, smallmouth, largemouth and shoal, depending on the river. So how can redeyes be mistaken for so many different black bass species, each with distinct differences? There is an easy answer to this question, redeyes are unique and its markings can vary greatly.
Not only can redeye markings vary greatly between different river systems, redeye markings can even vary greatly within the same river! In this article I will focus on the Savannah River and its variety of redeyes. Don’t lose hope, you can learn to identify them! There are a few main things to look for when identifying a redeye.
The first, and the easiest identifier, is size. Redeyes do not grow to be as be as other black bass so they will naturally be smaller. If you catch a fish bigger than say two pounds then you can almost certainly rule out redeye. Although the world record redeye is around 5 pounds, an average redeye is going to weigh less than a pound. Redeyes over a pound are fairly rare.
Next, look at the fins. Depending on the river system, a lot of redeyes will have reddish-orange or white tipped fins. These colors may sometimes be very pronounced.
Another tactic that will seperate a redeye from every species except for spotted bass is checking for what anglers call a “tooth” or “tongue” patch. It is a pencil eraser size patch that is located on the tongue. If it has a tongue patch you at least know that it is either a redeye or spotted bass. To further identify the fish you will need to use the rest of the factors in this article.
It is also helpful to look for a blueish or turquiouse tint on the head of the fish. A lot of redeyes will have this tint whereas other black bass usually do not.
It only makes sense to talk about eye color next. While a lot of redeyes will have a red eye, other black bass will also sometimes have a red eye. So a bass with just a red eye and no other redeye markings may just be another black bass and not a redeye.
The next thing to look for are the rows of dotted lines below the lateral line. From my experience, redeyes are the only black bass species other than spotted bass that have these rows of dotted lines. However, the rows of dotted lines on redeyes seem to be a more pronounced than the rows on spots. Redeyes tend to have darker color rows, whereas the rows on spotted bass are a more golden color.
Last, but not the least, is not something the redeye bass possesses, but something the fisherman possesses, experience. As stated above, redeyes can vary greatly between different river systems. Therefore, as it is helpful to know which black bass inhabit a river, it is also helpful to know what a typical redeye looks like from that particular river. Redeyes out the Savannah River look very different from redeyes out the Oconee, Flint, Ocmulgee, and so on.
Many biologists believe the Savannah River basin contains another black bass species, or a sub-species of redeyes, the Bartram’s bass. The Bartram’s bass share markings that are very unique, even to redeyes. Bartram’s have large vertical bars (tiger stripes) along the length of its body. Bartram’s can be found in the Savannah River basin as well as rivers in western South Carolina.
Remember, this is only a quick guide with some markings to look for. There are also more markings to look for such as fin spine counts or scale counts. Additionally, just because a bass has one of the above listed markings does not necessarily mean it is a redeye. Look at the totality of the circumstances, or in this case, the totality of the markings.
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Compare the following fish and notice the differences between them.