Can Largemouth Bass Have Red Eyes? Sick and Aggressive Fish

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Fisherman with Largemouth Bass by Blue Lake.

Largemouth bass can have red eyes. Many experts agree that largemouth bass have red eyes because of pigment discoloration. Others argue that largemouth that live in deep waters have red eyes to help them see better in darker waters. Either way, largemouth bass with red eyes aren’t common.

In nature, nothing is guaranteed. Unexpected things can happen at any time, and all rules get thrown out the window. In the world of largemouth bass, unique events are a regular occurrence. Whether it’s a blue largemouth bass or one with red eyes, these strange happenings raise many questions. 

Red Eyed Largemouth Bass

If you scour Reddit and bass forums, you’ll see pictures of largemouth bass with red eyes. I’ve caught a couple of red-eyed largemouth bass and many smallmouth bass with red eyes in my day. 

The red color makes them more menacing-looking, but it’s rare to catch them.

Many forum experts claim to know why largemouth bass eyes turn red. Like humans, largemouth bass have things that happen to them that are out of the ordinary. 

Largemouth bass have to fend for themselves and do their best to survive without access to modern medicine and care facilities. 

So, if red eyes meant a higher survival rate for largemouth bass, they’ll adapt and evolve to get to that point. But in today’s world, red-eyed largemouth bass are rare, meaning their current eye color is good enough for them to stay atop the food chain in freshwater. 

If red eyes meant largemouth bass were sick, they’d eventually die and potentially spread whatever the disease is to the bass around them, but this isn’t the case. A red-eyed largemouth bass population isn’t a problem, so wildlife biologists aren’t searching for a cure. 

Eye Pigmentation

If a bass has red eyes, the pigment is discolored. When the pigment is red, the entire eye turns red, revealing a frightening-looking fish. It doesn’t mean the fish is unhealthy, but it does point to pigmentation issues.


Genetics always dictate some of the appearance of a fish. If the male or female largemouth has red eyes, they will pass those traits down to their offspring. The trait will continue to pass down to other generations until replaced with a different eye color from a “normal” bass. 

Redeye Bass

If you are fishing in Alabama, Georgia, Tennessee, or South Carolina, you can land a redeye bass. Redeye bass are small and mighty. In South Carolina, Redeye bass grow to 6-9 inches and rarely exceed two pounds. 

Redeye bass have green sides and vertical stripes. Their mouths extend a little behind the eye, and they have 9 to 11 spines on their dorsal fin. 

Fisherman catches a rock bass, also known as goggle-eye!

They differ from shoal bass because their tails have white lines. During the spawn, males’ throats turn bluish-green. 

The state record for the largest redeye bass caught in South Carolina was set in 2001, weighing 5 pounds

Redeye bass need structure like vegetation, boulders, logs, and cut banks. They primarily live in rivers and streams and prefer a moderate current. Like other bass species, they’ll eat smaller fish, insects, and crustaceans. 

Redeye bass are not easy to find, and their population is dwindling. Anglers in the abovementioned states know where to find redeye bass and work hard to protect the subspecies. 

Smallmouth and spotted bass can coexist with redeye bass, but they do harm the populations.

Largemouth bass and redeye bass are related but not the same. So, don’t automatically assume you landed a largemouth with a rare pigment disorder. 

It’s likely a redeye bass, which are also rare. 

Largemouth bass fish swim beneath the water.

Frequently Asked Questions 

What Kind of Bass Has Red Eyes?

Redeye bass have red eyes. Their native range is the Southeast United States, and they rarely grow over 15 inches long. Spotted and smallmouth bass are also known to have red eyes, but it’s not their natural eye color. 

What Color Eyes Do Largemouth Bass Have? 

Generally, largemouth bass have dark brown or golden eyes, depending on the water they live in. If they live in darker or deeper water, they’ll have darker eyes. They have a golden or brown eye color if they live in clear water. 

Are Redeye Bass Rare?

Yes, redeye bass are rare in the United States. Anglers can find them in only a few states and river systems. Their populations are healthy, but you’ll have to travel to the Southeast United States to find them. 


As anglers, any time we catch a rare fish, it gets us excited. While traditional fish are fantastic to catch, landing something new can reignite a fire within us. 

Plus, experienced anglers know an abnormal fish when they see one, so the untrained eye may appreciate a rare fish less than we do. Largemouth bass with red eyes are rare, but they’re not unhealthy. Next time you land one, take a picture to remember it.

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