Yellow Bass (Morone mississippiensis)

Yellow Bass

A popular light-tackle quarry and usually lumped into the category of panfish, the yellow bass is a scrappy fighter and provides good sport on light tackle. With white, flaky flesh, it is also a good food fish, on a par with or exceeding white bass and compared by some to the yellow perch.

Many anglers are unfamiliar with this member of the temperate bass family because it is largely restricted to the middle portion of the United States and is smaller than its relatives; a true bass, the yellow is related to the striped bass, the white bass, and the white perch.

Those fishing with larger lures and bait for largemouth bass or stripers are likely to encounter only the occasional, and larger, yellow bass specimen, although they can be caught with great frequency where they are abundant and by anglers using light tackle.


The body shape of the yellow bass is very similar to that of the white bass: moderately long and stocky, with the deepest part between the dorsal fins, as opposed to round and compressed. It has a small head, a large mouth, and connected dorsal fins.

Its coloration is a brassy, silvery, or bright yellow, sometimes with a grayish olive on the back, and it has clear to blue-gray fins that are particularly blue when the fish is in water. Five to eight distinctively dark horizontal stripes line the sides, and the lower stripes may be irregularly interrupted and offset above the anal fin; these markings are different on either side of the fish.

The yellow bass can be distinguished from the white bass by its golden coloring and broken stripes. Also, the second spine of the anal fin is longer and thicker than the third on the yellow bass; in the white bass it is noticeably shorter. The yellow bass has even jaws, whereas the white bass has a projecting lower jaw.


Yellow bass are smaller than the largest bluegills, and the usual size caught by anglers ranges from 4 to 12 ounces. They can grow to 2 pounds and 18 inches, although few are seen over a pound; the all-tackle world record is a 2-pound, 4-ounce Indiana fish caught in 1977.

These fish grow slowly after becoming juveniles and rarely achieve the size of white bass, perhaps because they are extremely prolific and often become stunted. In some places, their small size and bait-stealing tendency brand them a nuisance. They have a short life expectancy of about 4 years on average and may live to age 7.


Yellow bass spawn in the spring and move into tributary streams when the water temperature reaches the upper 50s. They spawn on shoals and abandon their nesting sites without protecting the young.

Food and feeding habits

Yellow bass feed on insects, minnows, small shad, and small sunfish. Insects and insect larvae constitute a good portion of their diet, especially in smaller sizes. Similar to white bass, they will maraud baitfish in schools, although with less of a tendency to do so on or near the surface. Yellow bass are more active in shallow and nearshore environs early and late in the day and roam deeper open-water expanses during the day.

Other Names

barfish, brassy bass, stripe, striped bass, streaker, yellowjack, jack, streaks, gold bass.


Yellow bass inhabit the Lake Michigan and Mississippi River basins from Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan south to the Pearl River drainage in Louisiana, the Galveston Bay drainage in Texas, the lower Coosa and Mobile Bay drainages, east to western Indiana and eastern Tennessee, and west to western Iowa and eastern Oklahoma.

Found mostly in the central Mississippi Valley area, they have been stocked only within their native range and transplanted to nearby states and have been generally unsuccessful elsewhere. They are scattered within this range and vary in abundance from lake to lake.


Yellow bass thrive in quiet pools, ponds, back-waters of large streams, small to large rivers, large lakes, clear to turbid waters below lakes, and reservoirs; they are somewhat tolerant of weedbeds, more so than are white bass, and are fond of warm water.