Spotted & Smallmouth: The Differences Between the Two Bass Types

Even the most experienced fishermen need help to differentiate the types of bass fish. The USA is home to various bass species, with Florida carrying the largemouth bass as their state symbol. But, if you compare the spotted bass vs. smallmouth bass, there are more differences than just physical appearance.

Since these two are equally important and a delight to catch, smallmouth and spotted basses are considered national treasures. Some states have more smallmouth, while others spotted basses. If you are just starting your angler’s journey, you need to brush up on some “Fish 101”. 

In this article, we will let you know the secret of recognizing whether you caught a spotted bass vs smallmouth!  

A Spotted Bass Description

Spotted bass vs Smallmouth BassThe spotted bass is a stunning fish at first glance. It belongs to the species of sunfish, and it’s included in the black bass family. It’s also substantial, and similarly to the largemouth bass, it has a recognizable large mouth. The spotted bass has a distinctive underbite, and the eyes are closer to the upper jaw than other breeds. As the name suggests, the spotted bass has dark spots arranged in horizontal streaks on the underbelly of its body which is the spotted bass identification for newbie anglers. 

A spotted bass has three distinctive colors, green, white, and black, which help the bass better hide in its environment. The spotted bass’ belly is white with dark spots, while the rib cage and back are green with darker undertones with a distinctive horizontal line spread horizontally across the bass’ body. 

The cheeks are much smaller than the rest of the spotted bass’ body scales, and the tongue has a distinctive rough patch. Spotted basses are 10-25 inches long and can weigh up to 11 lbs. A native to the Mississippi River, the spotted bass is expected to live 7 years. 

A Smallmouth Bass Description

Smallmouth vs Spotted BassThe smallmouth bass is recognizable by its unusual eye color, which can be red or brown. Their bodies are slender, so they can swim through strong currents. A smallmouth’s prominent colors are olive-green, golden, and dark brown, which intertwine and can depend on the bass’ age, water quality, habitat, diet, and spawning cycle. 

Smallmouth bass has a jawline that extends to its eye, not beyond it like a largemouth. Unlike the largemouth, the smallmouth bass has a dorsal fin that is not as protruding. The most interesting part about smallmouths is that their females are significantly larger than males, and they can range from three to 7 pounds. Smallmouth bass can grow up to 30 inches long, depending on their habitat.

The smallmouth bass is adaptable to the environment and can be oval-shaped in lakes and torpedo-shaped in rivers. They also change color depending on the habitat, with reservoir smallies being lighter while ones from streams tend to be dark brownish. 

A Comparison of Spotted Bass vs Smallmouth Bass

Although smallmouth and spotted basses come from the same sunfish family, they are widely different species. The reason why anglers can’t tell them apart are their dorsal fins. Besides differing in size, comparing a smallmouth vs spotted bass leads to a list of other opposites. 

One key difference between the smallmouth and the spotted bass is the environment in which they thrive. In this case, the spotted bass prefers warm, clear open waters, while the smallmouth enjoys cold currents. The smallmouth enjoys the north climate, while the spotted is commonly found in the south. 

Here’s a comparison table to sum up all the differences between smallmouth vs spotted bass

Type of bass  Smallmouth Spotted 
Climate  Cold water, North  Warm, South 
Size  12-16 inches, 10 pounds 8-15 inches long
Weight  10 pounds  1-2 pounds, record breaker 11 pounds
Appearance  Olive-green, brownish scales and thick stripes across the body and head. The eye is red or brown  Greenish-gray body, dark black spots, and a horizontal line across the body
Life span and diet  26 years. Plankton, crayfish, insects, and other small fish.  7 years. Crustaceans, crayfish, insects, and other fish
Habitat  Upper and middle Mississippi River, the Great Lakes, st.Lawrence River Mississippi River, Texas, Florida, Virginia, and North Carolina(usually found in streams and reservoirs). 

Spotted Bass vs Smallmouth: How to Choose One?

Both the smallmouth and spotted bass are beautiful fish to catch, though one puts up more of a fight than the other. Nevertheless, both of them are a joy to behold and look scrumptious, served with some chips. 

The smallmouth is an aggressive little guy that fights for his freedom, which is why they are enjoyable for anglers who are looking for a thrilling fishing journey. Smallmouths are easily targeted in lakes or ponds, especially in rocky areas. Because they are predators, smallmouth basses enjoy blending in with the surrounding. 

Anglers can catch the best and most smallmouth basses from spring through fall, usually in the mornings. If the day is light and bright, there will be plenty of smallies to fight. 

The spotted bass is not easier to catch than the smallmouth, but it’s rarer. Anglers can expect to catch the most amount of spotted bass in the post-spawn period in early summer. They are not as widely available as the smallmouth, and fishermen usually catch some in deep waters. Because spotted bass moves with the tides, it’s best to fish against it.

Spotted bass fishing is recommended for those who go fishing with boats, on fishing charters, cruises, etc. 

Final Words on Smallmouth vs Spotted Bass

We hope that now you know what is a spotted bass and how it differs from its cousin, the smallmouth. Both types of basses are stunning fish and a true joy to catch. Usually, fishermen like to catch smallmouths more since they are heavier, but they are not recommended for inexperienced anglers.

The spotted bass, on the other hand, is seldom seen and usually swims in deeper waters. To get plenty of spotted bass, you might need a boat and an entourage because spotties are fast and have a lot of fights in them. 

If you are looking for the best place to fish smallmouths, make sure to visit Lake Erie. The best spotted bass locations in the states are the Ohio River and the Central Mississippi River. Whichever bass type you decide to fish, make sure to bring plenty of bait and strength to reel them in. Because of their unique ways of being caught, they are both good species to plan a bass fishing trips around.!


How do you identify a spotted bass?

A spotted bass is identified through the dark spots on its underbelly. 

Can Spotted bass mate with largemouth?

Naturally, the spotted and largemouth bass don’t mate because they live in separate types of water. But because they are from the same sunfish family, they can interbreed if they are stuck in the same environment. 

How big can spotted bass get?

Spotted bass can grow to be a maximum of 20 inches weighing between 2-7 pounds. 

People Also Ask

What lures do spotted bass like?

You can catch a spotted bass by using baits such as plastic worms, crayfish, jigs, spinners, and crankbaits

Can you catch spotted Bass Fishing at Night?

Yes, it is possible to catch spotted bass while fishing at night. Spotted bass vs smallmouth bass are known to be more active during low-light conditions, such as dawn, dusk, and nighttime. They often exhibit increased feeding behavior during these periods.

Do spotted bass eat worms?

Yes, a spotted bass enjoys both worms and leeches. But not the best 


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