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Yellow Bass

Yellow Bass


A laterally compressed, slab-sided, spiny-rayed fish, it has a yellow-olive to silvery-yellow coloration along the back and sides that shades to yellowish-white along the belly and pelvic fins. Six to seven prominent, dark horizontal stripes along the sides are broken and offset above the front of the anal fin. The dorsal fin has two slightly connected lobes. Nine spines make up the first lobe and one spine and 12 soft rays are found in the second. The anal fin usually has 9 soft rays and 3 spines that are unevenly graduated. The first spine is much shorter than the other two, which are nearly equal in length. The mouth is scarcely oblique and the lower jaw projects slightly beyond the upper jaw.


Yellow Bass Distribution

Mississippi River, Maquoketa River, North Twin and Clear Lakes, Lake Manawa


Fish, insects, and crustaceans

State Record

1 pounds, 9 ounces - Lake Manawa, Pottawatamie County, April 1991 - Bill Campbell, Council Bluffs, Iowa

Expert Tip



Yellow Bass live in natural lakes, reservoirs and the backwaters of large rivers. It prefers clear to slightly turbid water and a firm bottom substrate of sand, gravel, rock rubble and mud. It is uncommon in abundance, but widespread in the Mississippi River. It is abundant in Hartwick Lake, an impoundment of the Maquoketa River. At one time it was one of the most numerous game fish in North Twin and Clear lakes and may be in other natural lakes. Yellow Bass are found in Lake Manawa. This fish has historically been distributed in the many man-made lakes and water-supply impoundments in southern Iowa. Their origin in these waters is unknown, but probably resulted from fish transported from the Mississippi River.

Yellow Bass looks like White Bass, but it differs in many physical features. In Yellow Bass, the dorsal fin lobes are not completely separated, the first stripe below the lateral line is distinct and complete to the tail, and the base of tongue is lacking a tooth patch.

Yellow Bass reproduction in Iowa usually takes place in May when the water temperature is 60 degrees. Like White Bass, Yellow Bass move into tributary streams for spawning, but otherwise spawns over rock reefs and gravel bars in lakes. Spawning occurs in 2 to 3 feet of water and starts when a male and female pair off, swimming slowly about, releasing eggs and milt. Yellow Bass eggs are small, averaging about .031 inch in diameter, and are semi-buoyant. Fertilized eggs sink slowly to the bottom where they hatch in 4 to 6 days at a water temperature of 70 degrees. No care is given the eggs or sac-fry.

In Iowa, Yellow Bass grow fast, reaching an average of 4-inches in the first year, 7-inches the second, 9-inches the third and 10-inches at the end of the fourth year of life. Both sexes mature at age 3 and few adults live beyond 4 or 5 years. Being the smallest  fish in the temperate bass family in Iowa, Yellow Bass rarely exceed three-fourths pound. 

Adults are known to eat large numbers of their own larval-fry. Yellow Bass, like White Bass, feed in mid-water or near the surface during evening and early morning hours when natural light is at low intensity.

Recent stream sampling information is available from Iowa DNR's biological monitoring and assessment program.


Present in these Iowa water bodies:

Lake/Stream County Location Acres/Length
Pool 18, Mississippi River Louisa Amenities listed are for the Toolsboro Ramp. The ramp at Toolsboro is paved but the road to the ramp is gravel. There is some shore fishing along the parking area and at the outlet of Lake Odessa. Amenities vary by location in pool 18 13300.00
Pool 17, Mississippi River Muscatine Amenities list for Muscatine City Ramp. This ramp is located in downtown Muscatine. Amenities vary by location in Pool 17. 7580.00
Spirit Lake Dickinson One mile North of Spirit Lake 5684.00
West Okoboji Lake Dickinson northwest edge of Arnolds Park 3847.00
Clear Lake Cerro Gordo south edge of Clear Lake 3684.00
East Okoboji Lake Dickinson east edge of Okoboji 1835.00
Lost Island Lake Palo Alto 3 miles north of Ruthven 1162.00
Three Mile Lake Union 3 miles northwest of Afton 880.00
DeSoto Bend at DeSoto National Wildlife Refuge Harrison 5 miles west of Missouri Valley at DeSoto National Wildlife Refuge 811.00
Lake Manawa Pottawattamie Southwest edge of Council Bluffs 784.70
North Twin Lake Calhoun 4 miles north of Rockwell City 453.00
Brinker Lake Black Hawk N edge Waterloo, located within George Wyth State Park. 270.00
Lower Gar Lake Dickinson ½ mile south of Arnolds Park 251.00
Little Wall Lake Hamilton 1 1/2 miles south of Jewell 249.00
Lake Cornelia Wright 3 1/2 miles north, 2 miles east of Clarion 243.00
Minnewashta Lake Dickinson 1/2 mile south of Arnolds Park 118.00
Union Grove Lake Tama 4 miles South of Gladbrook 100.00
Diamond Lake Poweshiek 1 mile West of Montezuma 98.00
Centerville Upper Reservoir Appanoose South edge of Centerville in Lelah Bradley Park along 210th Avenue 96.00
Grays Lake Polk Fleur Drive, Des Moines 96.00
Sand Lake Marshall On the Northeast edge of Marshalltown 95.00
Beeds Lake Franklin 2 miles west, 1 mile north of Hampton 90.00
Cedar Lake Madison 2 miles northeast of Winterset 90.00
Cedar Lake Linn 84.00
Pony Creek Lake Mills 3 1/2 miles northwest of Glenwood 83.00
George Wyth Lake Black Hawk N edge Waterloo 75.20
Otter Creek Lake Tama 6 miles Northeast of Toledo 74.00
Prairie Park Fishery Linn 1.5 miles SSE of Cargill on Otis Road, along the Cedar River in Cedar Rapids 66.80
Skunk River (Coppock to Mississippi River) Des Moines Mac Coon Access is located five and one-half miles north of Lockridge just east of Willow Blvd. 65.00
Big Sioux Recreation Area Sioux 65.00
Cedar River (Cedar Rapids to Moscow) Cedar This stretch is found in Linn and Cedar County. A popular access is found in Palisades State Park which is on Hwy 30 between Cedar Rapids and Mount Vernon. 55.00
Folsom Lake Mills 2 miles west of Glenwood 45.00
Upper Gar Lake Dickinson east of Arnolds Park 36.00
Albia Lower Reservoir Monroe 1 mile north of Albia on the east side of Highway 5 35.00
Centerville Lower Reservoir Appanoose South edge of Centerville in Lelah Bradley Park along 210th Avenue 32.00
Arrowhead Lake Sac south side of Lake View 31.00
Plainfield Lake Bremer 25.00
Albia Upper Reservoir Monroe 1 mile north of Albia on the east side of Highway 5 22.00
Black Pit Cerro Gordo SW Edge Mason City 16.00
Arrowhead Pond Pottawattamie 1 1/2 miles southeast of Neola 14.00