Black bass are an important component of a
complex aquatic ecosystem. Effective predators in both heavy cover
and open water, their large mouths enable them to swallow a variety
of prey and help keep forage fishes in balance. All black bass
species exhibit nesting behavior during spring, with males fanning
out an oval depression on a firm substrate and stimulating a female
to deposit her eggs. Males fertilize the eggs and then guard them
through hatching, and protect schooling bass fry until the young
fish reach about an inch, at which time they begin to disperse and
fend for themselves. Feeding first on tiny zooplankton (microscopic
animals), they soon shift to live fish and other prey. The life of
young bass is difficult, but of the tens of thousands produced by a
female during her lifetime, only two survivors are required to keep
adult population levels stable.
The genetically unique Florida largemouth bass,
which is native only to peninsular Florida, is renowned worldwide
for producing trophy-size catches. Further north and west through the
Panhandle, "intergrade" largemouth bass populations have genes from
both Florida largemouth bass and northern largemouth bass (M. s.
salmoides) subspecies. Because of rapid growth and top weights
that exceed 12 pounds in warmer climates, Florida largemouth bass
have been stocked in many states and foreign countries to enhance
existing fisheries and create trophy-size fish.