Sometimes called a “bronzeback” for its brassy brown hue, the smallmouth is one of the strongest fish for its weight. Many anglers who hook a 2-pounder will swear it’s twice that big until the fish is in the net. Smallmouth are native to the Mississippi River watershed. They are abundant in warm southeast Minnesota rivers, central Minnesota lakes, and in northern waters such as Vermilion Lake and big Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness lakes, where the species was introduced in the late 1800s.
Smallmouth bass look similar to their close cousin, the largemouth. Often they are found in the same waters. To tell the two apart, look at the closed mouth. If it extends only to the middle of the eye, it’s a smallmouth. If it goes way beyond the back of the eye, the fish is a largemouth.