The shoal bass (Micropterus cataractae) is a species of freshwater fish in the sunfish family (Centrarchidae) of order Perciformes. One of the black basses, it is native to subtropical waters in Florida and Georgia. It is also occasionally found in Alabama where it has been declared an endangered species and cannot legally be kept if caught by fishermen. Of typical size for a black bass, M. cataractae reaches a maximum recorded length of 24 inches (61 cm) and a maximum published weight of 8 pounds, 12 ounces.
This species was formerly considered either a redeye bass or subspecies of the redeye bass. In 1999 it was described as a new species.
The red color of eyes associates this species with the redeye and Suwannee bass at first glance. However, it is more closely related morphologically to the spotted bass. Shoal bass are generally olive green to nearly black along the back. A dusky dark blotch about 50 to 67 percent of the size of the eye occurs on the back edge of the gill cover. Three diagonal black lines radiate along the side of the head looking like war paint. Ten to fifteen vertical blotches appear along the sides with tiger-stripes often appearing in between.
The belly is creamy or white and wavy lines may appear slightly above the white belly on the sides. The dorsal, caudal and anal fins are dark olive green to grayish black. Pelvic fins may have a cream colored leading edge with dark spots.
The shoal bass has scales on the base portion of the soft-rayed dorsal fins, clearly connected first and second dorsal fins, and an upper jaw bone that does not extend beyond the eyes.
There are no known subspecies of the shoal bass.
Shoal bass are also popular targets for fly fishers, who find them easy to access in their preferred river environments. The practice of fly fishing for shoal bass is becoming more widespread.
The shoal bass fights harder than its cousin, the largemouth bass, and has more stamina. They prefer moderate to heavy current and will take crawdad patterns aggressively. Five pound shoal bass are considered trophies, but fish above seven pounds are caught each year.