This section is from the book "American Game Fishes", by W. A. Perry. Also available from Amazon: American Game Fishes: Their Habits, Habitat, and Peculiarities; How, When, and Where to Angle for Them.
Sixteen years ago I penned the following prediction in regard to the Black Bass: "That it will eventually become the leading game-fish of America is my oft-expressed opinion and firm belief." Also: "That by the use of suitable tackle it would not suffer by a comparison with other game fishes."
That my opinion was correct and my belief well-founded is proved by the complete verification of this prediction; for at the present day no fish is more constantly and more eagerly sought for by bait-fisher and fly-fisher than the Black Bass. And if further proof were necessary to establish the claim that the Black Bass is now the leading game fish of America, it is only necessary to refer to the fact that follows:
When the above prediction was made there was not a single tool or article of tackle made expressly for Black Bass fishing, and advertised as such, except the trolling-spoon. True, the "Kentucky reel" had been manufactured by Meek and Milam for a number of vears, but it had never been advertised, and was comparatively unknown, except to a few western anglers.
How is it now? Every manufacturer of fishing-tackle is making articles especially for Black Bass fishing-rods, reels, lines, flies, leaders, etc.-and it is only necessary to refer to the advertising columns of our sportsmen's journals to make this fact apparent.
Of course, the deplorable scarcity of Brook Trout fishing, and the continual and inevitable decrease of that noble game fish in our dwindling and polluted Trout streams, have a great deal to do with the manifest interest and pronounced favor with which the Black Bass is at present regarded by the angling fraternity; but, in my opinion, the greatest reason for this marked appreciation of this grand game-fish is the introduction of proper and suitable tools and tackle for its capture.
Regarding the game qualities of the Black Bass I also, years ago, hazarded this apparently heretical sentiment: "I consider him, inch for inch and pound for pound, the gamest fish that swims." The lapse of years, and a more extended experience in angling, from the lordly Salmon of Canadian streams to the legion of finny acrobats of Floridian waters, only confirm in my own mind this seemingly broad and sweeping assertion.
As to a comparison of game qualities as between the Small-mouthed Bass and the Large-mouthed Bass, I still hold that, all things being equal, and where the two species inhabit the same waters, there is no difference in game qualities; for while the Small-mouth is probably more active in its movements, the Large-mouth Bass is more powerful, and no angler can tell from its manner of "fighting" whether he is fast to a Large-mouth or a Small-mouth Bass until he has the ocular evidence.
As there is but little difference in habits, and still less in game qualities as between the species, and as the methods of angling for both are the same, my remarks in this paper will apply to either species under the generic name of "Black Bass," unless otherwise distinctly stated.
Prior to the establishment of our now popular journals and periodicals of out-door sports, there was very little information concerning the Black Bass in books devoted to angling. Both species of Black Bass being originally absent from the waters of the Atlantic Slope of the New England and Middle States, and our early angling authors residing in eastern cities, they either knew very little or absolutely nothing of this now well-known game-fish.
John J. Brown ("American Angler's Guide," 1849), says of the Black Bass:
"It has a thick oval head; large mouth, with rows of small teeth; a wide dorsal fin near the center of the body, another toward the tail, with corresponding pectoral and anal fins. The body is quite thick near the head, and tapers regularly, terminating in a swallow tail."
The italics are mine; but could any description be more misleading?
Again, being misled by the name "Trout," as applied in the Southern States to the Black Bass, he classifies it under the head of "Brook Trout," and innocently states:
"They grow to a much larger size than northern Trout, varying in length from six to twenty-four inches; they are of a darker color, and do not possess that beauty of appearance when out of the water, or that delicious flavor when upon the table; neither do they contribute so much to the angler's sport, as those of northern latitudes."
However, he gives, in other portions of his book, brief notes from several western and southern anglers containing rather fair descriptions of the appearance and habits of both species of Black Bass.
Henry W. Herbert ("Frank Forester's Fish and Fishing," 1850) knew no more of the Black Bass than Mr Brown. He compiled the description of the species from De Kay and Agassiz, and quotes the same western correspondent of Buffalo, New York, as Mr. Brown in reference to Black Bass fishing, saying, wisely: "I prefer quoting him to writing of this fish myself; as, although not unacquainted with his habits, I have never yet myself enjoyed the pleasure of catching him either with the fly, the spoon, or the shiner."
Robert B. Roosevelt ("Game Fish of the North," 1862) writes more intelligently of Black Bass and Black Bass fishing than any of his contemporaries, because he wrote in the light of considerable personal experience in fishing for this magnificent game-fish in the St. Lawrence basin.
Thad Norris ("American Angler's Book," 1864), although having no personal experience in Black Bass fishing, is, as usual, quite correct, for his day, in his description of the species, for he described them carefully from actual specimens and the best authorities (Holbrook, Agassiz), but beyond very fair descriptions he gives very little information.
Genio C. Scott ("Fishing in American Waters," 1869), although the latest angling writer of the period under consideration, has less to say, and apparently knew less of the Black Bass than any of his predecessors.