spawning process for smallmouth

Smallmouth bass fry schooling

Smallmouth Bass spawn in late spring in the northern climate and early spring in warmer southern climates.


The male Smallmouth builds the nest, guards the nest until the fry hatch and then protects them for a few weeks before they begin to eat again. They will still strike at baits, but this is only to defend their territory and protect their nest and their young.

The spawning process for Smallmouth Bass

  • The male clears a nest and attempts to attract a female to lay her eggs.
  • The size of the nest is about 3 feet in diameter at a depth of 4 to 20 feet. Once the male is finished creating the nest, he leads up to 6 females to the nest. Each female deposits her eggs in the same nest.
  • After the female lays her eggs she lies on her side at the bottom to recover. While recuperating, some females excrete a white, creamy substance that envelops their entire body. The old and weak fish usually die, but the ones that survive will have recuperated after a week.
  • The male guards the nest for between 3 and 10 days depending on water temperature. After this time the eggs hatch and tiny black fry with bright yellow eyes emerge.
  • The males rest for about a week and don’t feed during this recovery period.

After recovering from spawning

Smallmouth Bass separate into 2 groups.

  • The longer, slender fish leave the spawning grounds and trail groups of forage fish.

This  group of roaming fish eventually assumes semi-permanent occupancy in distinctive waters 15 to 30 feet deep. They continue to roam the open-waters of the lake, individually or in groups. They also prefer the safe haven of deep waters with distinctive rock-pile or deep shoal bottoms.

  • The second group consists of shorter, stocky fish that permanently inhabit the deep rocky waters off the spawning grounds.

Some biologists speculate that the 2 groups are subspecies of Smallmouth Bass, but no formal distinction has been found between those that roam and those that linger in one area.

Spring Feeding

Smallmouth go for worms, leeches, insects, crayfish, fathead minnows, gizzard shad, golden shiners and even the fry of their own species and other bass species. However during spawning, Smallmouth Bass rarely eat.