Now this fish has more split personalities than any other fish I know, because it can look completely different depending on which river drainage you catch it out of. It is similar to Suwannee and Shoal Bass in that it only lives in rivers (with the exception of the Savannah drainage lakes) but yet are far more widespread than those two. This is where the problem actually begins…
About: Redeye Bass (micropterus coosae) is another member of the seven black basses. It is natural found, and introduced, into so many different river drainage’s it actually looks very different depending on which drainage you are in. In fact, it can look completely different in some areas but many of the other signs (besides simply appearance) are the same. You can catch some redeyes in South Carolina that look more like shoal bass, with tiger stripes and all. Then, you can drive over to north Georgia and catch some that are more dark greenish brown and have brilliant red tipped fins. The two fish don’t even look the same, but according to fisheries biologists, they currently are. However, I, and many others (ok, and probably the biologists too), believe there are many different subspecies of the redeye bass. The problem is that the fish does not get very big and is therefore not a sport fish that can make any sort of substantial economic impact. Because of this, biologist do not get any funding to discover the truth about these fish and their subspecies.
Do They Have Any Other Names/Nicknames? Just one, Coosa Bass, which is a reference to the second half of their scientific name (micropterus coosae), which is in reference to the Coosa River of which they inhabit – especially its tributaries. Sometimes I call them dinks, but I shouldn’t be so rude to the very unique and cool little fish that I do enjoy targeting from time to time.
What Do They Look Like? Redeye bass, as you would expect from their name, usually have redish eyes. Sometimes the eyes are more of a maroon or reddish brown, but usually they will have some red in their eyes. Like spotted bass, they also have a rough tooth patch on their tongue. It is one of the easiest ways to tell if the fish is a redeye bass or not. If the fish has this tongue patch then you know it is either a redeye or a spotted bass. If spotted bass are not found in your particular drainage then it is obviously a redeye bass. If spotted bass are found in that river system then you will need to investigate further by looking at the general appearance of the fish. Spotted bass usually have a dark line of spots along their back and Redeyes are more blotchy all over and don’t have quite as distinct a line of dark spots running horizontally. inclusive enough.
What Goes In Their Belly? Redeyes mostly eat everything that typical black bass eat, except on a smaller scale – small fish, crustaceans, small amphibians, insects and hopefully your rooster tail, beetle spin or dry fly!
So, Where Can I Catch ‘Em? They thrive and even prefer cooler waters in the mountains that border upon cold water species such as trout. I have been fishing for redeyes in water where I accidentally have caught trout as well. Like shoal bass, they do prefer to live around rock and shoal areas of their streams. This is probably one reason that shoal bass were once confused for redeye bass. However, unlike shoal bass that can tolerate very warm weather, redeyes are not found below the fall line in the southeast. The fall line extends throughout Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina and North Carolina. It is more of a wide zone than a line, but it is where the piedmont turns into coastal plain. The exact distribution, native and non-native, for redeyes is still unclear. We know that they are native to the Mobile river basin and Savannah River drainage. However, some people are not certain they are native to the Apalachicola River system, which lies between the previous mentioned systems. One reason for the doubt is because redeyes are found in the upper Chattahoochee River but yet not in the Flint River – both in the Appalachicola river system. They are living in many Tennessee River system streams and are in the upper mountain and piedmont reaches of the Santee River system in SC. Western North Carolina also has some redeyes. Let’s just put it this way, most of the piedmont and mountain rivers in the southeastern United States will have redeyes, especially the smaller creeks and rivers. They were also stocked by California Fish and Game Commission to fill a niche in some streams where the water was too warm for trout and too small for any other bass species to reach any potential.
Any Subspecies? Well, like I said above, yes, but officially no.
World Record: 5lbs, 2.5oz from Lake Jocasse, SC
What I Like Bassin’ For Them: I really enjoy and appreciate the unique color and physical appearance of these diminutive bass. They are also found and thrive in some of the smallest creeks in the mountains and piedmont, and this makes chasing them an aesthetic treat. I guess there is just something gratifying about hiking into a small mountain creek where you know that no one else has fished. And, then, catching a fish that has never been caught before. It just feels pure I suppose. You could probably consider them them the brook trout of the black bass family. Even though they do not get very big, the water you are likely catching them in is small and this makes hauling them in a challenge with so much structure to navigate them around. On an ultra-lite rig or fly rod you’ll have your hands full and a lot of fun! So, what are you doing still reading this, get out there and find some secluded redeye water!