Home > BASS, Follow-Up > Genetic Science Confirms that Alabama Bass are Distinct and Unique

Genetic Science Confirms that Alabama Bass are Distinct and Unique

Note:  This is part 1 of a 2 part article on the “Alabama Spot” bass species.  Part 2 will cover how Alabama Spots will be targeted at the 2010 Bassmaster Classic on Lay Lake.

On the most recent episode of our podcast we spent a great amount of time discussing how spotted bass would factor in the 2010 Bassmaster Classic on Lay Lake.  Following that discussion, I did some research on the differences between the “Alabama Spot” and the “Kentucky Spot”.

What I discovered blew me away.  It turns out these fish are more different than most of us bass fishermen thought.  “They are not even related”, says Dr. Carol E. Johnston, Associate Professor of Ichthyology at Auburn University.

It turns out that the Alabama Bass are technically not Spotted Bass at all.  Dr. Johnston contributed to the research contained in, “The Alabama Bass, Micropterus henshalli (Teleostei: Centrachidae),from the Mobile River basin”, which outlines the morphological and genetic data that supports the elevation of the Alabama Bass to species status.

As a recreational bass fisherman, I will not pretend to understand all the data contained in that report.  But the bottom line is that Ichthyologists agree with the research and have concluded that the Alabama Bass, Micropterus henshalli, is a distinct species from the Spotted Bass, Micropterus punctulatus.

“We don’t have Spotted Bass” in the Mobile River Basin explains Dr. Johnston.  “The bass that we used to think were Spotted Bass are really not.  They are really a unique species called the Alabama Bass.  Scientist agree that they are a distinct species…this is not remotely controversial”.

The American Fisheries Society will soon release an updated list of common names for freshwater fish.  The Alabama Bass will be recognized as a unique species distinct from the Spotted Bass on that list.

Sorry, James Hall and company.  Based on this new information an entire species is missing from your Bass Slam list. You will need to do some make up work before you can lay claim to a successful Bass Slam.

The Mobile Basin includes the Alabama and Coosa Rivers, including Lay Lake.  Dr. Johnston explains that in these waters, “We don’t have Spotted Bass.  The bass that we used to think were Spotted Bass are not.   They are really a unique species called the Alabama Bass. ”

Considering the two species look so similar, how is the average fisherman to tell the difference between the Alabama Bass and the Spotted Bass?   Dr. Johnston says the first question one should ask is where are you fishing?  She explains that if you are fishing in the Coosa River, you have caught an Alabama Bass.

The Chattahoochee River contains both Spotted Bass and Alabama Spots.  Identifying the difference between the two can be tough.  The dark splotches are darker on the Spotted Bass, and the dark splotch can actually touch the first dorsal fin.  Alabama Bass have slighter lighter splotches that do not touch the first dorsal fin.  The Alabama Bass is frequently chunkier than the Spotted Bass.

Although the officially recognized common name will be the “Alabama Bass”, local anglers will continue to treat the Alabama Bass as a type of Spotted Bass by referring to them as “Alabama Spots” or “Coosa Spots”.

Jay Haffner is Fisheries Biologist for District 3 of the Alabama DNR ( Lay Lake is currently in District 3).  Mr. Haffner has conducted extensive field research with rod in hand and foot on trolling motor.  He explains, “Alabama Spots and Kentucky Spots look similar but they are distinct and unique genetically.  Alabama Spots grow bigger, are faster, are stronger, are meaner, and we know a good thing when we see them.”

Mr. Haffner continues, “Ask anyone who as ever swam a jig on Lay Lake.  They can tell you the difference between a regular spot and an Alabama Spot.”.

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