Rock bass are native to the St Lawrence River and Great Lakes system, the upper and middle Mississippi River basin in North America from Québec to Saskatchewan in the north down to Missouri and Arkansas, and throughout the eastern U.S. from New York through Kentucky and Tennessee to the northern portions of Alabama and Georgia and Florida in the south.
While fairly good eating cooked fresh, rock bass are generally not regarded by most anglers as a food fish of the quality of bluegill or perch. Fishing with live bait such as nightcrawlers is the most effective method to catch rock bass, although they are often caught with lures while fishing for bass.
A. rupestris, the largest and most common of the Ambloplites species, has reached a maximum recorded length of 43 cm (17 in), and a maximum recorded weight of 1.4 kg (3.0 lb). It can live as long as 10 years. These fish have the ability to rapidly change their color to match their surroundings. This chameleon-like trait allows them to thrive throughout their wide range. Ambloplites constellatus, a species of rock bass from the Ozark upland of Arkansas, and Ambloplites ariommus are true rock bass, but regarded as separate species.
The rock bass prefers clear, rocky, and vegetated stream pools and lake margins. Rocky banks of northeastern lakes and reservoirs are a common habitat for rock bass. It is carnivorous, and its diet consists of smaller fish, insects, and crustaceans.
Rock bass can be surprisingly unflustered by the presence of human activity, living under lakeside docks and near swimming areas.