The body of the kelp bass is elongate and compressed. The head is relatively elongate, compressed and has a pointed snout. The mouth is large. The color is brown to olive green, with light blotches, becoming lighter below. Kelp bass can be easily distinguished from sand bass by the fact that the third, fourth and fifth dorsal spines of kelp bass are about the same length; while in sand bass, the third dorsal spine is much longer than the fourth and fifth spines.