The Shoal Bass (Micropterus Cataractae), like many so called bass are not actually a bass, but are a member of the sunfish family (Centrarchidae). The Shoal bass is not well understood.
Until recently, the Shoal Bass was considered to be a member, or sub-species, of the redeye bass. It was not until 1999 that is was classified as a separate species in the publication, "Bulletin of the Florida Museum of Natural History," which was co-published by James Williams and George Burgess in October, 1999.
Above: Florida Museum of Natural History: Volume 42, No2, October 8, 1999.
However, as early as 1940, the redeye bass was recognised as a separate species by a man named Dr. Carl Hubbs, but Mr Hubbs failed to do all his homework and the redeye bas was never that big of a concern as it is limited in its range to a few states in the south-east United States - more on this in our distribution section above.
Above: Shoal Bass.
Taking the time out to reclassify the Redeye bass is not likely to get anyone fame or fortune but requires just as much work as any other species.
The Redeye Bass still remains poorly understood by most anglers mistaking identifying it as a redeye bass. But with only a decade since it was reclassified, there is no wonder that there is confusion, after all, how many of us read bulletins put out by museums?
The name Micropterus is Latin for small fin and Cataractae is Latin for waterfalls, which references the Shoal Bass' shoal habitat, which includes slow to moderate moving waters and riffles. The Shoal Bass is a member of the Black Bass family, which includes seven sub-species. However, Shoal Bass are the rarest of the species due many to river obstructions built up likes dams, which have decreased their habitat.
Like the Redeye Bass, the Shoal Bass also has red eyes, which explains why it was often mistakenly viewed as the redeye bass. Shoal Bass also grow much quicker than Redeye Bass. And, Shoal Bass have less red colouring in their fins.
As far as table fair goes, the meat of the Shoal Bass is white and flaky, but drier than that of the Largemouth Bass and not a good choice for dinner with friends, but palatable for camping trips. We recommend bringing along a few lemons to help improve the taste.
Above: Cajun BBQ Shoal Bass.
What's In a Name?
The Shoal Bass did not officially have a name - not that anyone asked the fish it had one.... While doing the necessary homework to have the Shoal Bass reclassified, Burgess and Wlliams found that it had locally been called the Shoal Bass since the 1970s so they adopted this name for the fish.
Shoal bass are olive green to black along the back or top of the fish. A dusky dark blotch occurs on the back edge of the gill cover and is similar in size to that of the eye, but a bit smaller.
The head of the Shoal Bass is recognised by three diagonally downward looking black lines radiating along the side of the head. There are 10-15 vertical blotches appear along the sides with tiger-stripes often appearing in between.
Above: Shoal Bass vertical stripes
The Shoal Bass's belly has a soft white colour much like the largemouth bass with wavy lines appearing slightly above the white belly on the sides. The Shoal Bass has larger scales than that of the redeye bass.
Above: Shoal Bass white belly
The dorsal, caudal and anal fins are dark olive green to greyish black along the top of the fish. Pelvic fins may have a cream coloured leading edge with dark spots.
Above: Shoal Bass Doral and Caudal fins
The shoal bass has scales on the base portion of the soft-rayed dorsal fins, clearly connected first and second dorsal fins, and an upper jaw bone that does not extend beyond the eyes.
The pattern of blotches and stripes is much busier than that of a Stripped Bass, Redeye Bass or even Spotted Bass. The best way to describe a Shoal Bass is a loud version of the spotted Bass with longer and thicker lines broken up with stalky and shorter blotches.
Above: Spotted Bass
While similar in appearance to that of the Redeye Bass, the Shoal Bass grows much larger than the Redeye Bass. The Shoal Bass world record is eight-pounds, 12-ounces, which was caught in 1995 in the Apalachicola River in Florida. Old record books will note that this fish was actually a Redeye Bass, but is now classified as a Shoal Bass.
In contrast, the largest redeye bass caught on record is around five pounds, though some mistakenly have it higher due to the miss classification of the Shoal Bass.
12 to 18 in (305 to 460 mm). Currently Alabama has a no harvest regulation for shoal bass. The Alabama state angling record (6 lb 11 oz) was caught from Halawakee Creek on February 25, 1996. The previous state angling record (6 lb, 8 oz) was caught in Halawakee Creek, a tributary of the Chattahoochee River, in 1993.