There are smallmouth bass in 48 states, with just Alaska and Florida the only holdouts. You can even find ’em in unlikely places like Nevada, Texas, even Hawaii …
Sure, plenty of guys know that states like Pennsylvania, Virginia and Tennessee have so many bronzeback streams it’s hard to count them all. But a lot of smallie fans aren’t aware just how widespread the species has become across North America.
There are smallmouth bass in 48 states, with just Alaska and Florida the only holdouts. Even that tropical vacation paradise, Hawaii, has smallies in both lakes and rivers. And how about another unlikely smallmouth bass haunt, Nevada? You may envision miles of hot dry desert (or maybe miles of gambling) when you think of Nevada, but there is also some pretty good lake smallmouthing.
Then there is Texas, also well out of the smallie’s native range. But now that state’s scenic “hill country” region has plenty of bronze in at least 7 or 8 streams. One being the beautiful Blanco River with its white limestone bottom and water so clear you can sight-fish smallies from 30 feet.
Heading into the heart of Montana’s trout country, you’ll also find smallies prospering. The Flathead River (and several other western Montana rivers and lakes) holds growing numbers of smallmouth bass that are largely overlooked by native Montanans fixated on trout.
And we should never forget about our northern neighbor, Canada. Vancouver Island, off Canada’s Pacific coast, is about as far outside the species’ original waters as you’ll find. But here, too, bronze battlers swim.
Even farther north, you will now find plenty of bronzebacks in giant Lac Seul Lake in northwest Ontario. Lac Seul is far north of the US border, but as the climate warms smallmouth, do better and better in this once-icy 75-mile long lake.
The Super South
Don’t want to travel north? How about heading deep into Dixie? Augusta, Georgia isn’t just the site of a famous golf tournament. Lately smallies are showing up in the Savannah River right in middle of this southern city. And across the state line in South Carolina, you’ll find an excellent smallmouth bass fishery in the Broad River, in the middle of a state most associate only with bigmouth bass.
I could go on, but you get the point.
The hardy smallmouth bass has managed to spread, and often prosper, across a huge swath of our continent. And they’ve done this on the cheap. A state fish department or private party plants a few smallies into a lake or stream and hopes for the best.
Sometimes it doesn’t even take that much effort. The fish simply move up river, then into a tributary and maybe into a connecting lake– perhaps moving a hundred miles, all on their own. And these smallmouth bass expansions have cost only a tiny fraction as much as the massive trout introductions and ongoing stockings that have taken place the past century.
Does this mean smallies are truly the fish of the new Millennia? History will have to judge that.
I do know one thing for certain– now is the prime time to do more traveling for smallmouth.
Sure, your local creek is handy, but there is a wide world of wonderful water out there for you to explore and enjoy.