Can Largemouth And Smallmouth Bass Breed?

For years, old timers and fishing veterans have told tales of ‘hybrid‘ largemouth and smallmouth bass…

But is there any truth to this?

Can largemouth and smallmouth bass breed?

Althrough rare, largemouth and smallmouth bass are capable of breeding. The result is a hybrid offspring, nicknamed the Meanmouth Bass.

With the popularity of bass fishing in North America and around the world…no wonder people are asking this question.

Can Largemouth And Smallmouth Bass Crossbreed?

Largemouth and smallmouth bass usually live in separate habitats and hardly ever come in contact and do not naturally spawn together.

In fact, when you find them, you are highly encouraged to report them to your state’s Department of Fish and Aquatic Resources or any such similar agency so they can be recorded and scientifically studied.

Although largemouth and smallmouth bass have their own preferred habitat characteristics, they can and do meet when they are in the same body of water, coming from different parts. However, this is very rare.

Largemouth Bass underwater

In 1967, Dr. William Childers, published the results of his study on the “Hybridization of Four Species of Sunfishes (Centrarchidae)” (black basses belong to the sunfish family).

Employed by the Illinois Natural History Survey, he and his colleague and graduate student, Paul Beaty, studied hybrids to determine their ultimate value to fisheries managers and sports fishermen.

Childers and Beaty found that different black bass species failed to hybridize when stocked in the same ponds, except for largemouth bass and smallmouth bass.

These two produced offspring that grew at a faster rate than either parent species, were deeper-bodied and reproduced at 1 year old when Illinois bass typically reproduced at 2 years old.

The Meanmouth Bass

Childers and Beaty also observed that the hybrid offspring were aggressive in their behavior, “and exhibited little if any, fear of man and other animals”.

As he describes in the report:

“People who swam in ponds which contained hybrids often complained about the hybrids biting them. When the hybrids were small, this behavior was merely annoying, but when they grew to 1-to-2-pound sizes, they occasionally bit a swimmer hard enough to lacerate the skin.”

-Childers and Beaty, Hybridization of Four Species
of Sunfisfies (Centrarchidae)

So, they named the hybrids “meanmouth bass“.

They also found that under normal fishing conditions, the meanmouth bass was relatively easy to catch, although they put up a spectacular fight, meaner and sportier than the parent smallmouth bass and largemouth bass (sounds awesome!)

It’s already been established that largemouths and smallmouths do not hybridize in their natural environments because of their genetic traits. Childers and Beaty found, though, that largemouths and smallmouths hybridize with their meanmouth offspring.

Although it is enticing to think of catching more aggressive fish for sport, there are serious implications, like genetic swamping and demographic swamping and their further implications to ecological balance.

Genetic swamping is when the local genotypes are replaced by hybrids, and what this, in turn, can do to fishing practices and the marine environment.

Demographic swamping is when population growth rates are reduced because of outbreeding depression, which is a reduction in the fitness of hybrid offspring.

Can Largemouth and Smallmouth Live Together?

Largemouth and smallmoutu bass can live together in larger lakes and rivers, but not in the same parts or habitats.

Generally, smallmouths prefer colder waters and can be found in northern waters like Lake Erie, while largemouths prefer warmer waters and can be found in southern waters like Okeechobee.

Both like cover, except that smallmouths don’t enter it while largemouths thrive in it.

So you can find largemouths in brush piles, grasses, and weed beds, and smallmouths around cover like in deep, rocky structures.

Smallmouths thrive in strong currents, while largemouths avoid them. If you’re looking for Smallies in a river, ignore the breaks and cast right into the hard currents. If you’re looking for Largies, find a sheltered break, with thick cover.

See Also: 11 Amazing Flies For Smallmouth Bass

Its also worth noting that when largemouth and smallmouth bass are stocked together in a small pong with limited habitat diversification, the largemouth bass often emerge as the dominant species and elimante all smallmouth bass within a few years.

Where Are Meanmouth Bass Found?

They can be found in bodies of water with abundant populations of both the largemouth and smallmouth bass. Noteable lakes include:

  • Table Rock Lake in Missouri
  • Lake Ouachita in Arkansas
  • O.H. Ivie Lake in Texas
  • Veterans Lake in Oklahoma

Georgia and Missouri have also officially reported the presence of meanmouth bass in their waters.

Are Meanmouth Bass Rare?

Meanmouth bass are extremely rare, and only a handful of confirmed catches have been certified over the years.

In January 2022, Brandon Burks caught a 8.52 pound meanmouth in O. H. Ivie Reservoir in Texas, which was confirmed by the Texas Department of Parks and Wildlife.

Can Largemouth And Smallmouth Bass Breed?
Photo courtesy of Brandon Burks

The fish is currently the Texas state record, but did not qualify for a world record becuase it was caught on an Alabama Rig with 5 hooks (The IGFA does not allow more than 3).

Conclusion

Bass fisherman are about as dedicated as they come…and whether your chase largemouth bass, smallmouth or both…you have your work cut out for you if you want to target a meanmouth bass.

Hybridization between two different fish species does occur in the wild (its very common with sunfish like bluegill)…and with countless private ponds and lakes throughout the world who knows what else is out there.

The thought of a largemouth and smallmouth bass breeding is cool, and who wouldnt want to add that to their fishing bucketlist?

I know I would!

You May Also Like: Are Largemouth Bass Good To Eat? And Should You Keep Them?

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