How Rare is a Golden Largemouth Bass? Strange Occurrences

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A largemouth bass's mouth shines in the sun after it's set free from a fisher's hook.

Golden largemouth bass are rare. Anglers have reported a few golden largemouth bass over the years, but catching them is rare. Experts say the gold color comes from a genetic mutation called Xanthism. The mutation lowers the number of black melanophores, which allows the yellow xanthophores to dominate.

With more and more anglers hitting the water yearly, the chances of catching a rare or unique fish increases. While largemouth bass have a similar complexion and appearance no matter where you catch them, there is always the chance of finding one that doesn’t fit the norm. 

Genetic Mutations

Genetic mutations happen in different fish species all the time. Whether it’s different growths on their bodies or coloration, fish change for various reasons. 

At times, these genetic mutations make fish more susceptible to predators. Xanthism is a genetic mutation that leaves fish at their most vulnerable. 


Golden largemouth bass exist because of a mutation called xanthism, which is similar to albinism, melanism, and leucism. 

When largemouth bass have a lack of melanophore expressions, the yellow pigment becomes dominant. The dominant xanthophores cause fish to turn bright yellow and orange. This genetic mutation is extremely rare. 

Xanthism doesn’t only affect fish; many other animals have the potential to get it. Birds and reptiles experience it on occasion too. 

A fisher proudly shows off a big bass they snagged with a Texas-style fake worm.

Largemouth Bass with Xanthism

Xanthism is hereditary. Like albinism and leucism, it can be passed from one generation to the next. It doesn’t guarantee that the largemouth bass will show it, but it is passed down to future generations

The fish wouldn’t likely show the xanthism until they grow into younger adults. 

When largemouth bass have xanthism, they lose the ability to turn their scales green. A largemouth bass with xanthism isn’t unhealthy. They’re perfectly healthy. But they’re at risk from other predators in the water. 

Largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, pike, muskie, and birds see them more easily, and they immediately become targets. 

Early in my fishing career, I often fished private water. The largemouth in private waters tended to have different mutations and appearances than the ones I caught in public waters. 

A guy snags a big bass with a frog lure by some lilies.

Landowners had more control of the largemouth populations. They would feed them different foods and do their best to control the environment. As a result, I caught many blue largemouth bass, oversized bass, and one golden largemouth. 

People have caught golden largemouth in Michigan, Virginia, Texas, Ontario, and Minnesota. 


Golden largemouth bass aren’t a mix of goldfish and bass. They’re a perfectly healthy bass that looks different from most others. Golden largemouth bass have the same life expectancies, grow to the average size, and can live the same lives as all other largemouths.

While they’re susceptible to predators due to their bright colors, they are no different from other largemouths.

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