Largemouth Vs Smallmouth Bass (Fishing Guide)

Largemouth Vs Smallmouth Bass: What’s the Difference?

Smallmouth bass, also known as “brown bass,” possess bronze-colored bodies and vertical black stripes. 

Largemouth bass, commonly referred to as “green bass,” have a vibrant green hue with a lateral line that runs along their sides.

Many anglers enjoy the thrill of pursuing bass. Whether you’re a seasoned bass angler or a novice, targeting these species promises a great fight and many memorable moments on the water.

Let’s dive in and uncover everything you need to know about largemouth and smallmouth bass. 

Largemouth Bass 

Physical Characteristics

These impressive game fish is native to North America and can grow to impressive sizes, reaching lengths between 12 and 18 inches on average, with exceptional specimens surpassing 24 inches.

One of the most notable characteristics of this species of bass is its large mouth, extending beyond the eye, which gives it its name.

The largemouth’s body showcases a vibrant green coloration, often darker than smallmouth bass, with a pronounced lateral line running along their sides. Their dorsal fin, located on the back, is spiny and provides stability during rapid movements.

Habitat and Distribution

They are prevalent in North America and inhabit freshwater bodies like lakes, ponds, reservoirs, and slow-moving rivers. These bass are often found in diverse environments, including warm and murky waters.

They love areas with abundant plants and lily pads because these structures provide essential cover and create ambush points for feeding.


Largemouth bass are opportunistic predators. As with many other freshwater fish, their diet consists of a wide range of prey, including fish, frogs, insects, and even small mammals.

Smallmouth Bass

If you’re curious about smallmouth bass, you’ve come to the right place! 

Largemouth vs Smallmouth Bass

Physical Characteristics

These formidable fish feature a sleek, elongated body with a bronze or brownish coloration.

Fun fact: both largemouth and smallmouth bass are part of the sunfish family! 

Compared to largemouth bass, smallmouths have a smaller mouth that ends before the eye. Smallmouth bass also have dark vertical stripes on their sides. 

Habitat and Distribution

They thrive in freshwater environments across North America and are particularly abundant in clear rivers, streams, and lakes; they like rocky areas and are often found near boulders and submerged rock formations. 


These fish exhibit aggressive feeding behaviors. They are opportunistic predators that primarily feed on crayfish, small fish, and various aquatic insects.

Key Differences Between Smallmouth and Largemouth Bass

There are many differences between these two fish.

Body Size and Mouth Shape 

Largemouth bass can grow larger, reaching lengths of 12 to 18 inches on average, while smallmouth bass typically range between 12 and 16 inches.

One noticeable variation lies in the shape of their mouths. Largemouth bass have a larger mouth that extends beyond the eye, whereas smallmouth bass possess a smaller mouth that stops before the eye.

The dorsal fin of smallmouth bass often features a dark spot or “ear mark,” whereas the dorsal fin of largemouth bass lacks this marking.

Water Temperature

Another difference: Largemouths are generally found in warmer waters (they thrive in temperatures ranging from 77 to 86°F). Smallmouth’s are more tolerant of colder temperature (66 to 75°F). They prefer rocky areas and tolerate clearer water compared to largemouths, which favor more turbid conditions.

Aggressive Behavior

Largemouths display more aggressive behavior and are extremely territorial, whereas smallmouths are generally less territorial.  

Seasonal Activities

Largemouth bass spawn in the spring and construct nests in shallow, protected areas near vegetation, where the females deposit their eggs.

Smallmouth bass, on the other hand, spawn slightly later in the spring when water temperatures range from 55 to 65°F.

Largemouth bass are more sedentary, often staying near their preferred cover. Smallmouth bass tend to be more mobile, frequently moving between deep and shallow water.

Fishing Techniques: Smallmouth Vs Largemouth Bass

Here are my fishing tips for how to get better at catching these two bass. 


To find largemouth bass in open water, look for structures like points, drop-offs, or submerged humps. Thick cover (lily pads, vegetation, fallen timber, etc.) also serves as excellent hiding spots for largemouth bass. 

Topwater lures, like poppers or buzzbaits, can be effective during low-light periods or when the bass are actively feeding on the surface.

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Target rocky areas and use jigs, tube baits, or drop-shot rigs. Smallmouth bass prefer crayfish imitations like jigs or soft plastic tubes. Slow, finesse presentations often yield better results, allowing the bait to imitate natural movements.

Try a few natural-colored lures that match the surrounding environment. Experiment with crankbaits, live bait, and your retrieval speeds and depths to determine the most productive approach.

Adjusting Your Fishing Methods 

You need to adapt based on the specific conditions during both spring and fall. In heavily vegetated areas, consider using weedless lures or frog fishing. 

In rocky areas use drop-shot rigs or jigging. 

In clear water, opt for more natural presentations; in turbid or stained water, choose lures with vibrant colors.

Understanding the seasonal patterns and movements of each species is essential. During the spawning season, both largemouth and smallmouth bass tend to move shallower, providing opportunities for successful angling. Try spinnerbaits when they’re spawning.

Fighting Characteristics 

The fighting characteristics of these two bass species are different as well.

Largemouths are known for their powerful initial strikes and aggravating battles. They often seek cover in an attempt to break free. This provides anglers with an exhilarating fight and a sense of accomplishment when successfully landing a largemouth bass.

Smallmouth bass are renowned for their acrobatic leaps and powerful bursts of speed. They exhibit an impressive fighting spirit, testing an angler’s skill and finesse. 

Both species offer unique challenges and rewards. It’s fun to catch both types!


Largemouth bass are known for their larger size, green coloration, and preference for warmer, vegetated waters. Smallmouth bass are smaller with a bronze hue and thrive in rocky habitats with clear water. 

Fishing for these two species is exciting and challenging. 

Whether you’re an experienced angler or new to the sport, learning the nuances between largemouth and smallmouth bass is important. You have a leg up now that you’ve read this article. Well done!


What are the differences between largemouth and smallmouth and black bass?

Largemouth and smallmouth bass are two distinct species of black bass. Largemouth bass are bigger with green coloration and prefer warmer waters, while smallmouth bass are smaller, bronze-colored, and thrive in cooler, rocky habitats.

Why should I choose bass fishing over other types of fishing? 

Bass fishing offers exciting challenges, as bass are famous for their aggressive strikes and fighting abilities. Additionally, bass fishing provides the opportunity to explore diverse habitats and use a wide range of techniques and lures.

What types of bass live in the Atlantic Ocean?

In the Atlantic Ocean, the most common bass species is the striped bass, also known as striper or rockfish. Striped bass are highly sought after by anglers due to their size and hard-fighting nature.

What do these bass eat?

Bass have varied diets depending on their habitat, but common prey includes crayfish, minnows, insects, and smaller fish. They are opportunistic feeders and can be caught with a variety of bait.

What lure should I use if I want to catch both?

A versatile lure that works well for both largemouth and smallmouth bass is a soft plastic worm rigged Texas-style. This bait can mimic various prey and be fished in different ways to attract both species.

Do they live in different areas?

Largemouth and smallmouth bass have overlapping ranges in North America, but they do have distinct habitat preferences. Largemouth bass are more commonly found in warmer, vegetated waters and smallmouth bass prefer cooler, rocky habitats.

What is the best bass for frying?

Both largemouth and smallmouth bass can be suitable for frying, but many anglers prefer largemouth bass for its larger size and firm flesh, which holds up well during cooking.

Image Credits
Photo 1: Largemouth bass chromolithograph (1879) by Samuel Kilbourne. Original from Museum of New Zealand.
Photo 2 by Timothy Knepp, US Fish and Wildlife Service
Photo 3 by Joshua J. Cotten
Photo 4 by Richard R

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