Largemouth Vs. Smallmouth Bass (Know the Differences)

Anglers and fishing enthusiasts often find themselves engaged in debates over the nuances of various fish species, with the rivalry between Smallmouth Bass (Micropterus dolomieu) and Largemouth Bass (Micropterus salmoides) being one of the most popular topics. These two species are not only sought after for their sporting qualities but also play a vital role in freshwater ecosystems. Let’s explore the key differences between Largemouth Vs. Smallmouth Bass, shedding light on their physical characteristics, habitat preferences, and behaviors.

Largemouth Vs. Smallmouth Bass Quick Key Identifiers

  • Smallmouth Bass typically have vertical bars on a brown or bronze body (see below)
  • Largemouth have dark green blotches running along their lateral line
  • A smallmoth bass has a mouth or jaw that typically ends below their eyes
  • A largemouth bass has a mouth or jaw that goes past their eyes
Largemouth Vs. Smallmouth Bass

Physical Characteristics

Body Size:

  • Largemouth Bass are typically larger than Smallmouth Bass. Largemouths can reach lengths of up to 25 inches and weigh 20 pounds or more.
  • In contrast, Smallmouth Bass are usually smaller, with lengths averaging around 12 to 16 inches and weights of 2 to 5 pounds.

Mouth Shape:

  • The most obvious difference between these two bass species is the shape of their mouths. Largemouth Bass have, as the name suggests, a large mouth that extends past their eye when closed.
  • In contrast, Smallmouth Bass have a smaller mouth that doesn’t extend past their eye when closed.


  • Largemouth Bass often have a dark greenish-black coloration along their back with a distinctive lateral line running horizontally. They also have a mottled pattern on their sides.
  • Smallmouth Bass have a bronze to brownish color with vertical bars on their sides, which makes them appear more streamlined and less mottled compared to Largemouth Bass.

Habitat Preferences

Preferred Environments:

  • Largemouth Bass tend to thrive in slow-moving or still waters, such as ponds, lakes, and sluggish rivers, with plenty of vegetation or submerged structures for cover.
  • Smallmouth Bass, on the other hand, prefer clearer and cooler waters, like streams, rivers, and lakes with rocky bottoms. They are often found in areas with faster current.

Temperature Tolerance:

  • Smallmouth Bass are generally more temperature-sensitive than Largemouth Bass. Smallmouths prefer water temperatures in the range of 65 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit, whereas Largemouths can tolerate warmer water, up to 85 degrees Fahrenheit.

Behavioral Differences

Feeding Behavior:

  • Largemouth Bass are ambush predators, relying on their large mouths to engulf prey, often including smaller fish, frogs, and even small mammals. They prefer to strike from cover.
  • Smallmouth Bass are more active hunters and tend to feed on a diet of crayfish, insects, and smaller fish. They are known for their aggressive strikes and fighting spirit.


  • Smallmouth Bass are generally considered more aggressive fighters, putting up a spirited battle when hooked. They are known for their acrobatic leaps and strong runs.
  • Largemouth Bass, while still offering a good fight, are often perceived as less aggressive when hooked compared to their smallmouth counterparts.

In the world of angling, understanding the differences between Largemouth Vs. Smallmouth Bass can significantly enhance your fishing experience. These distinctions in physical characteristics, habitat preferences, and behaviors not only make them distinct species but also provide valuable insights for anglers looking to target them effectively. Whether you’re a seasoned angler or just starting out, learning to identify and appreciate these differences can add a new dimension to your freshwater fishing adventures. So, next time you’re out on the water, keep an eye out for these unique bass species and enjoy the thrill of the chase!

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