Smallmouth bass are arguably the gamest freshwater fish that swim. They are wildly distributed across the United States and into Canada. They are beautiful, tough fighters, glorious leapers and cooperative biters — making them one of our most prized fish. Today we will take a look at some incredible underwater footage of spawning smallmouth bass.

Their mating rituals are theatrical. They are bedding fish that spawn when water temperatures are around that sixty degree mark, usually during the middle of May. The male will come in early to fan out a circular nest and expose the hard bottom; interestingly, the biggest females are attracted to the largest nests.

When all conditions are right, the female arrives on the scene, welcomed by the excited male. Once they are together a spawning smallmouth bass dance will begin. The male will chase and whirl around the nest, herding the female into submission. He will prod and push her, often nipping her belly to loosen the eggs and prompt her to shiver and release her eggs.

Smallies are exceptionally prolific spawners. A prime 3-pound female can lay over 20,000 eggs.

The bass will generally mate for a couple of hours, laying eggs in many sessions; the male will release his milt as the eggs drop. During this process the fertilized eggs attach to the hard bottom.

When they are done, the female will evacuate the nest leaving the male to guard the nest until the eggs hatch. He is ferocious in protecting the bed, fending off other bass, rock bass, bluegills, perch and any other intruders that may be looking to eat the eggs. During there time guarding the nest the male smallmouth bass are very vulnerable to hook and line. Taking them off the nest — even for a short period — can wreak havoc on the fry.