Bass fishing is the activity of angling for the North American gamefish known colloquially as the black bass. There are
numerous black bass species considered as gamefish in North America, including Largemouth bass (Micropterus salmoides),
Smallmouth bass (Micropterus dolomieui), Spotted bass or Kentucky bass (Micropterus punctulatus), Guadalupe bass (order Perciformes).
Modern bass fishing has evolved into a multi-billion dollar industry. The sport has changed drastically since its
beginnings in the late 19th century. From humble beginnings, the black bass has become the second most specifically
sought-after game fish in the United States. The sport has driven the development of all manner of fishing gear, including
rods, reels, lines, lures, electronic depth and fish-finding instruments, drift boats, float tubes, and specialized bass boats.
M. salmoides (Largemouth Bass) caught by an angler in Iowa
All black bass are well known as strong fighters and are fished recreationally. Depending upon species and various
other factors such as water quality and availability of food, black bass may be found in lakes, reservoirs, ponds,
rivers, streams, creeks, even roadside ditches. Largemouth are known for their greater overall size and resistance
when hooked, favoring short, powerful runs and escape to cover such as submerged logs or weedbeds, while smallmouth
bass tend to jump more and fight aggressively on the surface when hooked, in order to throw the hook.
All black bass are scent as well as visual predators so care should be taken to ensure no foreign scents, like bug spray,
or any outdoor chemicals, or any personal chemicals, like tobacco, contaminate one's hands when handling your line, reels,
rods, artificial baits, and particularly soft plastics. Bass are usually fileted when taken for the table; the flesh is
white and flaky, with a mild taste when cooked.
Bass fishing in the United States largely evolved on its own, and was not influenced by angling developments in Europe or
other parts of the world. Indeed modern British sea bass fisherman look to the United States freshwater bass techniques for
inspiration for lure fishing and to the USA, Japan and China for tackle. During the early-to-mid-19th century, wealthy sport
anglers in the United States (mostly located in the northeastern portion of the country) largely confined themselves to trout
and salmon fishing using fly rods. While smallmouth bass were sought by some fly fishermen, most bass fishing was done by
sustenance anglers using poles and live bait. The working-class heritage of bass fishing strongly influenced the sport and
is manifested even today in its terminology, hobbyist literature, and media coverage.
In the mid-19th century, the first artificial lure used for bass was developed in the form of an Artificial fly. At first,
these artificial fly patterns were largely derivations of existing trout and salmon flies. As time went on, new fly patterns
were specifically developed to fish for bass, as well as heavier spinner/fly lures that could be cast by the baitcasting and
fixed-spool casting reels and rods available at the time. Floating wooden lures(plugs) or poppers of lightweight cork or
balsa were introduced around 1900, sometimes combined with hooks dressed with artificial fur or feathers. Production of the
plastic worm began in 1949, but it was not until the 1960s that its use became popular. The plastic worm revolutionized the sport of bass fishing.
In the United States, the sport of bass fishing was greatly advanced by the stocking of largemouth and smallmouth bass outside
their native ranges in the latter portion of the 19th century. As the nation's railroad system expanded, large numbers
of 'tank' ponds were built by damming various small creeks that intersected the tracks in order to provide water for steam engines;
later, new towns often sprang up alongside these water stops. Shippers found that black bass were a hardy species that could be
transported in buckets or barrels via the railroad, sometimes using the spigot from the railroad water tank to aerate the fingerlings.
M. salmoides (Largemouth Bass) caught by an angler in Connecticut.
Largemouth bass were often stocked in tank ponds and warmer lakes, while smallmouth bass were distributed to lakes and rivers throughout
the northern and western United States, as far west as California. Smallmouth were transplanted east of the Appalachians just before
the Civil War, and afterwards introduced into New England.
Largemouth bass populations boomed after the U.S. Department of Agriculture began to advise and assist farmers in constructing and stocking
farm ponds with largemouth bass, even offering advice on managing various fish species. Soon, those who had stocked largemouth bass on their
farm ponds began to pursue them on a burgeoning number of new reservoirs and impoundments built in the United States during the 1940s and 1950s.
These impoundments coincided with a postwar fishing boom, additional funds from sales of fishing licenses for the first large-scale attempts at
bass fisheries management. This was especially true in the southern United States, where the largemouth bass thrived in waters too warm or
turbid for other types of gamefish.
With increased industrialization and development, many of the nation's eastern trout rivers were dammed, polluted, or allowed to silt up,
raising water temperatures and killing off the native brook trout. Smallmouth bass were often introduced to northern rivers now too warm
for native trout, and slowly became a popular gamefish with many anglers. Equally adaptable to large, cool-water impoundments and
reservoirs, the smallmouth also spread far beyond its original native range. Later, smallmouth populations also began to decline after years
of damage caused by overdevelopment and industrial and agricultural pollution, as well as a loss of river habitat caused by damming many
formerly wild rivers in order to form lakes or reservoirs. In recent years, a renewed emphasis on preserving water quality and riparian habitat
in the nation's rivers and lakes, together with stricter management practices, eventually benefited smallmouth populations and has caused a
resurgence in their popularity with anglers.