There are two widely recognized forms of this member of the black bass group of the Centrarchidae family: the Apalachicola, which is called a shoal bass, and the Alabama, which is generally referred to as the redeye bass or the true redeye.
The shoal bass has yet to be described fully or given a distinct scientific name, and there is some confusion over the two. A scrappy fighter, the redeye bass often jumps when hooked and is hard to catch. Its white, flaky meat is of good table quality, similar to that of other black bass.
black bass, Coosa bass, shoal bass
Identification of Redeye Bass
As its name indicates, the redeye bass is characterized by the considerable amount of red in its eyes. It is bronze olive above, with brownish to greenish sides, and yellow-white to blue below, usually with dark vertical bars on the flanks. The bars on the caudal peduncle are diamond shaped with light centers. It has a prominent dark spot on the gill cover and rows of dark spots on the lower sides, as well as white upper and lower outer edges on the orange-tinged tail. The upper jaw of its large mouth extends to the rear portion of the eye but not beyond, and there is usually a patch of teeth on the tongue.
The redeye has redder fins than do other black bass; the first and the second dorsal fins are connected, and the second dorsal and the caudal fins and the front of the anal fin are brick red on young fish. There is a dusky spot on the base of the tail, which is also darkest on a young fish. There are 12 dorsal rays and 10 anal rays. The shoal bass can normally be distinguished from the redeye bass by a prominent spot immediately before the tail and another on the edge of the gill cover, which is generally indistinct on the redeye. The shoal bass also lacks white outer edges on the tail, has smaller scales, and lacks the patch of teeth on the tongue. It has 12 to 13 dorsal rays and 10 to 11 anal rays.
Size and Age of Redeye Bass
The redeye bass grows to 181⁄2 inches and about 3 pounds, although some reach more than 8 pounds and live as long as 10 years. The shoal form grows faster, although it generally reaches about 15 inches in length. The all-tackle world record is an 8-pound, 12-ounce fish taken in Florida in 1995.
Spawning occurs in spring, when water temperatures are between 60° and 70°F, usually over coarse gravel at the head of a pool. Males build the nest and guard the eggs and fry.
Redeye feed primarily on terrestrial and larval insects, crayfish, and small fish.
Redeye bass are found in the Alabama, the Savannah, the Coosa, the Chattahoochee, and the Warrior River systems in Georgia and Alabama, and in southeastern Tennessee (Conasauga drainage). They have been introduced to a limited degree in California, Puerto Rico, and Kentucky’s upper Cumberland River drainage. Shoal bass occur in the Apalachicola River system in Florida and in the Chattahoochee, the Chestatee, and the Flint Rivers in Georgia.
Inhabiting the rocky runs and pools of creeks and small to medium rivers, redeye bass prefer the cold headwaters of small streams. They seldom exist in natural lakes, ponds, or reservoirs, and they prefer water temperatures in the mid-60s. Shoal bass are most likely to thrive in main-channel habitats.