Smallmouth Bass vs Largemouth Bass: Which One is Better

Largemouth bass (Micropterus salmoides) and smallmouth bass (Micropterus dolomieu) are two of North America’s most popular game fish species. 

While they belong to the same genus, there are difference between smallmouth and largemouth bass:

Size: Largemouth bass generally grows larger than smallmouth bass. On average, largemouth bass range between 12 to 20 inches in length and weigh between 1 to 10 pounds, although they can grow larger in exceptional cases. 

On the other hand, smallmouth bass sizes are typically smaller, ranging from 10 to 15 inches in length and weighing between 1 to 5 pounds.

Appearance: The most noticeable physical difference is in their mouths. Largemouth bass have a large, extendable mouth that extends beyond their eyes when open, while smallmouth bass have a smaller mouth that does not extend as far. 

Smallmouth bass have vertical stripes along their body, whereas largemouth bass have a dark lateral line that runs horizontally.

Habitat: Largemouth bass is generally found in warmer and more vegetated freshwater habitats, such as lakes, ponds, and slow-moving rivers. 

They prefer areas with abundant vegetation for cover. Smallmouth bass, on the other hand, tends to inhabit cooler and clearer waters, such as rivers, streams, and rocky lakes. 

They are more tolerant of colder water temperatures and can be found in areas with more current.

Behavior: Smallmouth bass are known for their aggressive and acrobatic fighting behavior. 

They are generally more active and tend to make energetic jumps when hooked. Largemouth bass, while also strong fighters, tend to rely more on their size and strength to resist being caught. 

They are more likely to seek cover in vegetation or structure when hooked.

Diet: Both species are opportunistic feeders and have a similar diet, consisting of small fish, crayfish, insects, and other aquatic organisms. 

However, largemouth bass have a larger mouth, allowing them to feed on relatively larger prey than smallmouth bass.

Fishing Techniques: Due to their different habitats, the fishing techniques used for smallmouth and largemouth bass can vary. 

Smallmouth bass are often caught using techniques like casting lures or jigs around rocky structures, using live bait such as crayfish or minnows, or fly fishing. 

Largemouth bass are frequently targeted with topwater lures, plastic worms, crankbaits, or live bait around vegetation or structure.

Both smallmouth bass vs largemouth bass offer exciting fishing experiences and are highly sought after by anglers. 

Their unique characteristics and habitats provide diverse opportunities for fishing enthusiasts.

Smallmouth bass vs largemouth bass

Smallmouth bass vs largemouth bass identification

Body Shape: 

Smallmouth bass have a streamlined body shape with a slightly elongated and cylindrical appearance. Their body is generally proportionate, with a moderate-sized head.

Largemouth bass have a stockier and more robust body shape than smallmouth bass. They have a deeper and wider body, particularly around the belly area.


Largemouth Bass: The defining characteristic of largemouth bass is its large mouth. When the mouth is closed, it extends beyond the back edge of the eye.

Smallmouth Bass: Smallmouth bass’s mouth is smaller than largemouth bass’s. When the mouth is closed, it typically does not extend beyond the back edge of the eye.


The coloration of smallmouth and largemouth bass can vary based on their environment, age, and other factors. However, there are some general differences:

Smallmouth Bass: Smallmouth bass usually have a bronze or brownish coloration on their back, transitioning to a lighter shade on their sides and a white or yellowish belly. 

They also have vertical dark stripes along their body, which can be more pronounced on younger individuals.

 The overall coloration helps them blend in with rocky or sandy bottoms.

Largemouth Bass: Largemouth bass typically have a darker greenish color on their back, fading to a lighter green or olive on their sides. 

They often have a mottled pattern with dark blotches or spots along their sides. The belly of largemouth bass is usually a lighter shade of green or white. 

The coloration helps them camouflage in vegetation or murky water.


Both smallmouth and largemouth bass utilize structure as cover and ambush points while hunting, but they have some preferences:

Smallmouth Bass: Smallmouth bass are often associated with rocky structures such as underwater boulders, rock ledges, and rocky shorelines. 

They are agile swimmers known for holding in current breaks, eddies, or behind rocks, waiting for prey to come by.

 They also relate to submerged vegetation, especially in lakes with clear water.

Largemouth Bass: Largemouth bass prefer areas with abundant vegetation, such as submerged aquatic plants, lily pads, weed beds, or fallen trees.

 They use these structures as cover to hide and ambush their prey. 

Largemouth bass are well adapted to living in more sluggish or still waters and are often found in lakes, ponds, and backwaters of rivers where vegetation is plentiful.

It’s important to note that these preferences can vary based on the specific conditions of the water body and the seasonal changes. 

Both species can adapt to different environments and exhibit some overlap in their habitat and feeding preferences. 

Individual variations can occur, and factors such as habitat and environment can influence the appearance of both species. 

The key differences lie in the size, body shape, mouth size, and coloration, which can help distinguish smallmouth bass from largemouth bass.

How to catch largemouth bass vs. Smallmouth bass

Various techniques and strategies can be effective for each species in catching large and smallmouth bass. Here are some popular methods for targeting each:

Catching Largemouth Bass:

Casting and Retrieving Lures: The plastic worm, crankbait, spinnerbait, and topwater lures are often used to catch largemouth bass.

Cast your lure near vegetation, fallen trees, or other structures where largemouth bass may hide.

Retrieve the lure with intermittent pauses and twitches to mimic wounded prey, attracting their attention and triggering a strike.

Flipping and Pitching: Fishing lures, such as jigs or soft plastics, into specific targets, such as pockets within vegetation or under docks, is done using a shorter fishing rod. 

Let the lure sink, and then use a quick upward motion of the rod to simulate a fleeing baitfish or crawfish.

Live Bait: Largemouth bass can also be targeted using live bait, such as shiners, minnows, or nightcrawlers.

 Hook the live bait onto a suitable hook, cast it near structures, or allow it to swim freely in the water, enticing the bass to strike.

Fishing with Plastic Worms: Plastic worms are one of the most effective techniques for largemouth bass.

 Texas or Carolina rigging a plastic worm allows you to present it near vegetation or structure where largemouth bass tends to hide. 

Cast the worm and let it sink, then retrieve it slowly with occasional pauses to mimic natural movement.

Topwater Fishing: Largemouth bass are known for aggressive strikes on topwater lures. 

Buzzbaits, poppers, and frog imitations are popular choices. Cast near cover or over shallow areas and use a twitch-and-pause retrieve to entice bass to strike.

Crankbaits and Spinnerbaits: These lures effectively cover water and entice reaction strikes.

 Choose crankbaits that imitate baitfish and retrieve them at different depths.

Spinnerbaits with blades that create flash and vibration can be retrieved around vegetation or structure.

Catching Smallmouth Bass:

Casting with Lures: Smallmouth bass is often caught by casting lures like crankbaits, jerk baits, jigs, or soft plastics around rocky structures, such as points, drop-offs, and rock piles. 

Retrieve your lure with a steady and rhythmic motion, imitating the movement of prey or covering water until you locate active fish.

Live Bait: Smallmouth bass can be targeted with live bait such as minnows or crayfish. 

Use a hook or jighead to present the live bait near rocky areas or deeper pools. Allow the bait to move naturally, and use a slow retrieve if necessary.

Drift Fishing: Smallmouth bass inhabit rivers and streams with currents.

 Drift fishing involves floating downstream in a boat or wading and casting lures or live bait upstream, allowing them to drift naturally with the current. 

This technique can effectively cover a larger area and naturally present your bait.

Fly Fishing: Smallmouth bass are a popular target for fly anglers. Streamers, poppers, and crayfish imitations are commonly used fly patterns.

 Cast your fly near structures, seams, or pools by stripping and pausing the action to entice smallmouth bass to strike.

Bottom Bouncing: When fishing from a boat, you can use a bottom bouncing technique with live bait, such as a live minnow or crayfish. 

Rig your bait on a weighted jig head or a Carolina rig, allowing it to bounce along the bottom as you slowly retrieve it.

It’s important to adjust your techniques based on specific conditions, such as water clarity, temperature, and the behavior of the fish. 

Experiment with different presentations and locations to increase your chances of success. 

Additionally, local fishing regulations should always be followed, including catch-and-release practices to help conserve bass populations.

When to Fish for Large and Smallmouth Bass

Knowing the optimal time to fish for largemouth bass and smallmouth bass can greatly increase your chances of success.

Here are some general guidelines for each species:

Largemouth Bass:

Spring: Spring is considered one of the best seasons for largemouth bass fishing.

 As the water temperature begins to warm up after winter, largemouth bass becomes more active. 

Look for them in shallow areas near vegetation, such as weed beds, lily pads, and submerged brush. 

They tend to feed aggressively during the pre-spawn and spawn periods, which can vary depending on the location and water temperature.

Summer: Largemouth bass tends to move to deeper water or seek shade during the hottest parts of the day.

 Early morning and evening can be productive times to fish, as the bass may be more active. 

Target them around structures, such as submerged rocks, fallen trees, or vegetation, where they can find cooler temperatures and ambush prey.

Fall: Fall is another excellent season for largemouth bass fishing. As the water cools down after summer, largemouth bass becomes more active again. 

Look for them near shallow to mid-depth areas, especially around submerged vegetation or near points and drop-offs. 

They will be feeding heavily in preparation for the colder months.

Smallmouth Bass:

Spring: Similar to largemouth bass, smallmouth bass become more active during the spring as the water temperature rises. 

They often move from deeper wintering areas to shallower water in preparation for spawning. Look for them near rocky areas, points, and gravel bottoms in rivers, streams, or clear lakes. 

Springtime can offer excellent smallmouth bass fishing, particularly during the pre-spawn and spawn periods.

Summer: Smallmouth bass are more tolerant of cooler water than largemouth bass and remain active throughout summer. 

They can be found near deeper water, rocky structures, drop-offs, and ledges. Fishing early morning and late evening can be productive when smallmouth bass are more likely to move into shallower areas to feed.

Fall: Fall is considered another great season for smallmouth bass fishing. As the water cools down, smallmouth bass becomes more active and feeds heavily to prepare for winter.

 Look for them in deeper areas near rocky structures, submerged points, or along steep drop-offs.

 They can be caught using similar techniques as in the spring.

Fishermen should be aware that fishing conditions can vary depending on location, weather patterns, and the behavior of the fish. 

Additionally, local fishing regulations and any seasonal restrictions should always be followed.

Largemouth Bass vs. Smallmouth Bass: Which is Better?

Determining which is better between largemouth bass and smallmouth bass is subjective and largely dependent on personal preference and the fishing experience one seeks. 

Both species offer exciting fishing opportunities and have their unique characteristics. Here are some factors to consider:

Size: Largemouth bass generally grows larger than smallmouth bass. If catching a larger fish is a priority, largemouth bass may be preferred. 

However, some anglers enjoy the challenge and acrobatic fights that smallmouth bass provide despite their smaller size.

Fighting Behavior: Smallmouth bass are known for their aggressive fighting behavior, making them highly sought after by anglers who enjoy the challenge of reeling in a strong and energetic fish. 

Largemouth bass, while also strong fighters, may rely more on their size and strength to resist being caught.

Habitat and Fishing Techniques: Largemouth bass are commonly found in warmer, more vegetated waters such as lakes, ponds, and slow-moving rivers.

They are often targeted using techniques like casting lures around vegetation or using live bait. Smallmouth bass prefers cooler, clearer waters like rivers, streams, and rocky lakes. 

They are often caught using techniques like casting lures around rocky structures or fly fishing.

Availability: The availability of largemouth bass and smallmouth bass can vary depending on the region and specific bodies of water. 

While both species can be found in various parts of North America, the prevalence of one species over another may differ depending on the location.

Ultimately, the “better” species is subjective and can vary based on personal preferences, fishing goals, and the specific characteristics of the fishing location.

Large and smallmouth bass provide exciting angling experiences and are highly valued by anglers.

Largemouth Bass vs. Smallmouth Bass taste

In terms of taste, large and smallmouth bass are highly regarded as delicious freshwater game fish. 

However, there can be some differences in flavor and texture:

Largemouth Bass: Largemouth bass have a mild, slightly sweet flavor with a firm and meaty texture.

 The flesh is white and flaky when cooked. Largemouth bass that inhabits clean, clear waters are often considered to have the best taste.

 A fish’s diet and habitat can affect its flavor, however.

Smallmouth Bass: Smallmouth bass also has a mild, delicate flavor with a slightly sweeter taste than largemouth bass.

 The flesh is firm and has a finer texture. Smallmouth bass caught in cold, clear waters are often regarded as having excellent taste.

Both species can be prepared and cooked in various ways, including grilling, frying, baking, or even as part of fish tacos or chowders. 

The flavor can also be influenced by the cooking method and seasoning used.

It’s important to note that local fishing regulations and any size or catch limits should be followed when fishing for largemouth bass or smallmouth bass.

Additionally, practicing catch-and-release whenever possible is recommended to help conserve fish populations and ensure sustainability.


Smallmouth bass and largemouth bass are two distinct species of game fish that offer unique angling experiences. 

Check out the Texas Rig Setup available on our website.


What is the largest bass ever caught?

According to the International Game Fish Association (IGFA) records, the largest bass ever caught weighed 22 pounds, 4 ounces (10.12 kilograms).

 This record-breaking largemouth bass was caught by George Perry in Montgomery Lake, Georgia, United States, on June 2, 1932. Perry’s record remains unbroken to this day.

Does smallmouth bass eat?

Yes, both smallmouth bass and largemouth bass are predatory fish that actively feed on various prey. 

They are opportunistic feeders with similar diets, including small fish, crayfish, insects, frogs, worms, and other aquatic organisms. 

While their specific preferences and feeding habits may vary slightly, both species are voracious hunters and actively pursue and consume food to sustain themselves.

What is the biggest smallmouth bass ever caught?

According to the International Game Fish Association (IGFA) records, the biggest smallmouth bass ever caught weighed 11 pounds, 15 ounces (5.44 kilograms).

David L caught this record-breaking smallmouth bass. Hayes in Dale Hollow Reservoir, Tennessee, United States, on July 9, 1955.

Hayes’ record-setting catch remains the largest smallmouth bass ever recorded.

Leave a Comment