Kelp bass have the elongate and compressed body characteristic of sea bass. Coloration is brown to olive green, with pale to white blotches covering most of the sides, fading to whitish on the belly. They have a large mouth, a pointed dorsal fin with 10 to 11 spines and a broom-shaped tail fin.
Adult kelp bass feed on small fish (anchovies, sardines, surfperch, queenfish), crustaceans and squid, while juveniles eat mainly plankton. Adults have two major feeding periods before and after the breeding season, which takes place from May to September.
Kelp bass are ambush feeders that hide behind structure before lunging to grab their prey.
Baja California, Mexico to Washington, though they are mostly found off of Southern California and fairly rare north of Point Conception.
Kelp bass are strongly associated with structure of all kinds, from shipwrecks to reefs, kelp beds, and rock jetties. They are drawn to structure because they use it both as protection from predators and as areas from which they can ambush prey.
For the most part kelp bass are an inshore species found mainly near the surface, though older members can be located in areas up to 200 feet deep.
Kelp bass will jump from the water while pursuing baitfish.