This study examined how interactions between natural landscape features and land use influenced the abundance of smallmouth bass, Micropterus dolomieu, in Missouri, USA, streams. Stream segments were placed into one of four groups based on natural-occurring watershed characteristics (soil texture and soil permeability) predicted to relate to smallmouth bass abundance. Within each group, stream segments were assigned forest (n = 3), pasture (n = 3), or urban (n = 3) designations based on the percentages of land use within each watershed. Analyses of variance indicated smallmouth bass densities differed between land use and natural conditions. Decision tree models indicated abundance was highest in forested stream segments and lowest in urban stream segments, regardless of group designation. Land use explained the most variation in decision tree models, but in-channel features of temperature, flow, and sediment also contributed significantly. These results are unique and indicate the importance of natural-occurring watershed conditions in defining the potential of populations and how finer-scale filters interact with land use to further alter population potential. Smallmouth bass has differing vulnerabilities to land-use attributes, and the better the natural watershed conditions are for population success, the more resilient these populations will be when land conversion occurs.