Welcome to the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources Black Bass Slam! This exciting challenge allows anglers to test their fishing abilities by catching all four species of black bass in South Carolina. Our state boasts four exciting bass: the Largemouth Bass, Smallmouth Bass, Redeye (Bartram’s) Bass, and Spotted Bass. Each species has unique characteristics that differentiate them from their fellow fish. In this series, we will be working through each species exploring how to identify them, prime habitats and locations, and angling tips to help you complete the slam. For more information concerning the rules of the Black Bass Slam, please visit our website at https://www.dnr.sc.gov/aquaticed/bassslam.
Identifying the Spotted Bass
The Spotted Bass is a nonnative, invasive fish that is found in select water around South Carolina. This bass is under current genetic study to determine whether they are true Spotted Bass or if they are in fact Alabama Bass. Either way, the Spotted Bass was illegally introduced into the state’s waters by anglers and unfortunately have caused habitat loss and hybridization with native species such as the Redeye (Bartram’s) Bass and Largemouth Bass. The Spotted Bass does have a strong following of anglers that fish South Carolina’s lakes.
Physical characteristics are the best way to identify the Spotted Bass. They have a gold-green body with dark olive mottling that fades to a yellow-white belly. The bass has small black spots below a dark band along the middle of its side with a distinct black spot on the body right before the tail fin. The jaw extends to the rear of the eye, but not beyond. Spotted bass also have a tooth patch on their tongue. Spotted Bass have an average size of 1-3 pounds and typically range in length from 12-24 inches. Temperature, stress, and habitat can vary these physical characteristics, but they are a great way to begin identifying your catch.
Locating the Spotted Bass
Locating the Spotted Bass helps if you have a watercraft of some kind, but it is not required. Many of our Spotted Bass populations exist in reservoirs such as Lakes Keowee, Russell, Jocassee, and Hartwell. However, you can find them in rivers and streams such as the Enoree, Catawba, and Saluda Rivers. Spotted Bass hang out around structure like the other black bass species, so aim for points, drop offs, fallen logs, and rock piles in lakes. This bass adapts well and is more tolerant of turbid water than the Smallmouth or Largemouth.
The Tackle Box
Once you have located the right habitat for the Spotted Bass, a wide array of tackle can be used to catch one for the Slam. These bass forage on baitfish, crayfish, and aquatic insects. Lures, flies, and live bait are great decisions on the water. Typical lures such as crankbaits, soft plastics, spinner baits, and topwater lures that imitate shad and minnows are successful. On rivers, square bill crankbaits and spinners are popular choices. Additionally, live bait like worms, crickets, and minnows will catch Spotted Bass.
If you would like to try completing the Slam using a fly rod, the Spotted Bass is a challenge worth attempting. You will need a 6 weight to 8 weight fly rod, floating or sinking fly line, and a 0X to 2X leader. Successful fly patterns include clouser minnows, deceiver patterns, and gamechangers. Most colors will work but try to imitate natural baitfish patterns like shad or crayfish. Spotted Bass also eat their fair share of aquatic insects and typically consume fewer fish compared to other black bass species.
Ranger Will’s Field Recommendations
“The Spotted Bass can be a challenging fish to catch in South Carolina due to their illegal introduction. Because they are technically invasive and pose a threat to native species, they have not been stocked by SCDNR and therefore the population distribution is uneven around the state. I recommend heading to the western part of South Carolina and fishing either Lake Russell, Lake Keowee, or Lake Jocassee. The only body of water with all four black bass species present is Lake Jocassee, so you have the chance to catch the Spotted, Redeye (Bartram’s), Smallmouth, and Largemouth Bass on the same trip. When fishing these lakes, aim for structure like boat ramps, docks, rock piles, and islands. Spotted Bass often school up into highly active feeding periods and seek out topwater prey in dawn and dusk hours. Knowing these tactics greatly improves your chance of landing this bass.”
SCDNR SC Public Fishing Access Map
South Carolina State Parks Fishing Information
Devils Fork State Park
For more information on the Bartram’s Bass and other South Carolina fishes, please see our Guide to Freshwater Fishes located in PDF format. A hardcopy version is available by request by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed on South Carolina Wild are solely those of the authors, and do not reflect official policies, positions, or endorsements of activity or products by the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources.