The Suwannee bass (Micropterus notius) is one of the smaller bass found in North America, or even the world. It averages around two pounds with the largest reaching three pounds, 12 ounces. It wears the bass namesake rather well as it is a ferocious fighter and strikes hard at its prey.
Above: Roanoke Bass
Of all the bass covered on this site, the Suwannee has the most restricted distribution being limited to a few rivers of Florida and Georgia, with the bulk of fishing being found in the Suwannee river.
Above: scientific classification
Well, perhaps we are going a little too far. The Roanoke Bass also have a very small distribution and a top size of one pound, five ounces and then of course.
As the Suwannee's habitat is popular with many other species including the famous largemouth bass, the choice of location, tackle and line test is very important. Picking the wrong line test for an area that is popular with largemouth bass may see your line snap with a single strike of a lunker.
Unlike other widely disbursed bass, the Suwannee is only found in river habitats and therefore the techniques used to catch it are simple to learn and do not vary much from season to season.
The biggest seasonal influence are the changing weather patterns of the late fall and early winter that bring in cold fronts. And occasionally, cold fronts from Canada can hit very hard in early to mid December, which tend to happen every five years or so.
These cold fronts can pretty much kill off any action for other Florida fish species but as the Suwannee are shallow fish preferring to hang in close to the river banks by sunken debris, cold fronts can help bring about excellent fishing.
The Suwannee Bass is a member of the sunfish family, which is surprising to many people and understandably so. Many of us grew up catching a stunted little fish covered in all sorts of pretty colours, know as the Longear Sunfish.
Part of the reason for this confusion is how we discus the name of the fish and its family. The Centrarchidae family is commonly referred to as the sunfish family. Other common members of the sunfish family include:
Black Crappie (Pomoxis negromaculatus)
Bluegill Sunfish (Lepomis macrochirus)
Bluespotted Sunfish (Enneacanthus gloriosus)
Green Sunfish (Lepomis cyanellus)
Largemouth Bass (Micropterus salmoides)
Longear Sunfish (Lepomis megalotis)
Mud Sunfish (Acantharchus pomotis)
Pumpkinseed Sunfish (Lepomis gibbosus)
Rock Bass (Ambloplites rupestris)
Smallmouth Bass (Micropterus dolomieui)
The Suwannee Bass is a heavy-bodied bass that rarely exceeds 12 inches long. The most unique characteristic of a mature Suwannee bass is its bright turquoise, blue colouring on the cheeks, breast, and ventral parts. The upper jaw does not extend beyond the eye.
Above: notice the blue colouring on the cheeks and the upper jaw line
Also, there is a shallow notch between the dorsal fins with a distinct connection between the spiny and soft-rayed dorsal fins. A pattern of dark vertical blotches occurs along the lateral line. There is generally a distinct dark blotch where the lateral line meets the caudal fin. Scales are present on bases of dorsal, anal and caudal fins.
Above: Lateral blotches
The Suwannee bass has a similar profile to that of the red eye bass, It has a dark lateral line imperfectly developed and aligned at the base of the tail. It has a spot at the base of the tail, which has many making the mistake of first thinking it is a redeye or a spotted bass. Its lower anterior section is bright blue though the colour may fade with age.
The average Suwannee Bass caught is around two pounds with the largest one caught on record being 3 pounds, 14 ounces. As a result of its size, it is a very popular fish for the light tackle enthusiasts. However, as it habitat is much the same as the largemouth bass, and as the largemouth bass in Florida are the largest in North America, be couscous of where you fish for Suwannee as a Largemouth Bass could easily snap a light-test line.
There is an interesting story behind the world record Suwannee. It was caught in 1985 by Ronnie Everett - this is not the surprising part of the story. What is interesting is that Mr Everett was not really out to catch fish, but was out turkey hunting and brought along his reel to keep him busy should hunting be a bust.
Mr. Everett himself said that fishing was an afterthought that day, but when the fish jumped for the third time, he recognised that it was a Suwannee and that it was a large one. In 1985, Mr. Everett was a taxidermist.
As the largest Suwannee Bass on record is three pounds 14 ounces, and most caught are around one pound, light tackle offers the best odds at sensing strikes and provides the best experience. However, there are a lot of other large fish like the Largemouth Bass in the same river. Therefore, make sure to choose small baits and avoid ultra light tackle.