Bass, the name given to several members of the sunfish family and to several members of the sea bass family.

Smallmouth bassSmallmouth bass are important freshwater game fish.
Bass of the Sunfish Family

Members of this family are all freshwater fish and are native to North America. Eight species are called bass. The rock bass, which is found from Lake Winnipeg south to the Gulf states, averages 6 to 9 inches (15 to 23 cm) in length and 1/2 pound (225 g) in weight. It is dark olive with brownish and yellowish blotches. The Roanoke bass, found only in the Roanoke River in Virginia, is similar in appearance.

The other six species are often referred to collectively as black bass. Two of these species, the largemouth bass and smallmouth bass, are found in many parts of North America and are important freshwater game fish. The largemouth bass is greenish, the small-mouth is bronze. Both have vertical markings on the sides, but the largemouth has a horizontal stripe as well. The maximum weight for the smallmouth is about 12 pounds (5.4 kg). The maximum for the largemouth is about 10 pounds (4.5 kg) in most areas, but a subspecies—the Florida largemouth bass—can weigh more than 20 pounds (9 kg).

The Sea Bass Family

There are about 400 species in this family (sometimes called the true bass family), including the jewfish and groupers. Most species are found in temperate and tropical seas, although a few, such as the white bass and white perch, are found only in freshwater.

In this family are two popular food and game fish of North America—the striped bass and the black sea bass. The striped bass can weigh up to about 125 pounds (57 kg); 20 to 30 pounds (9 to 13.6 kg) is common. It is found along the Atlantic and Pacific coasts, entering freshwater rivers and streams to spawn. The striped bass is dark olive green to steel-blue or black above with silvery sides and white belly. Each side has seven or eight dark, horizontal stripes. The black sea bass, commonly found along the Atlantic coast, seldom weighs more than 5 pounds (2.3 kg). It is dark gray to blue-black, sometimes with lighter markings.

The sunfish family is Centrarchidae. The rock bass is Ambloplites rupestris: the Roanoke bass, A. cavifrons. Black bass are of the genus Micropterus. The largemouth bass is M. salmoides; the small-mouth bass, M. dolomieui. The sea bass family is Serranidae. The striped bass is Roccus saxatilis; the black sea bass, Centropristes striata.