Spotted Bass vs Largemouth Bass – The Differences

Main Things That Differentiate:

  • Notch between fins
  • Width of mouth
  • Broken lateral stripe

Knowing the difference between largemouth and spotted bass can be pretty important when it comes to fishing, especially if you plan to keep any of the fish you catch, as there will often be different limits on different species.

You may find that there might be some similarities between the largemouth and the spotted bass, which can make it difficult to tell the difference. 

"Spot" The Difference!
—Known morphological characteristics for identifying largemouth bass (top) and spotted bass (bottom) and used for comparison with genetic identification of fish in Lake Norman, North Carolina, 2007–2008 (scale is cm). Intermediate descriptions (from hybrids) also were developed for each trait depicted (Table 1).

Courtesy James Rice

But there are some unique features on both species that can make it easier when it comes to identifying them. So we’ve compiled a short guide to help you learn what to look out for.

Largemouth vs Spotted: How To Catch Them

When it comes to fishing for both largemouth and spotted bass, you may find that a lot of the techniques and lures might be similar. However, where you find each species may differ slightly.

Spotted bass will usually be found in clear water, whereas largemouth bass don’t seem to have the same preference and can be found in both clear and brackish water. However, you may find that spotted bass may be found in deeper water compared to the shallow zones where largemouth tend to spawn and feed.

You may also find that spotted bass will tend to stay active all year long, compared to largemouth which tend to require slower presentations in winter when they slow down themselves. Smaller lures can work well for spotted bass but to catch largemouth you might want to increase the size of your lure slightly.

Spotted bass may form schools more readily than largemouth bass and may also prefer rocky structure to vegetation, compared to largemouth, which can usually be found close to or in cover.

Both spotted and largemouth species tend to spawn in spring, but the actual time of the year will usually depend on the water temperature and the weather or climate.

Spring can be a good time to target both of these fish, when they can usually be found in shallower waters. 

Jig fishing can be useful for spotted bass at any time of the year and they tend to remain aggressive even in winter, although they will likely be slightly deeper.

Largemouth bass can also be caught with various jigs throughout the year.

Video: How To Identify The 3 Different Bass Species

What Makes Largemouth Bass Unique?

Fins

One of the main features that you might notice on a largemouth bass is that the dorsal fins are often separated. However, while they might not always appear distinctly separate, there will often be a deep notch in between the two sections.

Coloration

Largemouth bass tend to be a dark green color on the top half of their bodies, with dark patches along the sides. Sometimes the dark patches can form a horizontal band along the side but the colors may become less prominent in more brackish water.

The largemouth is generally white on the lower half and underside, with the coloration fading from the top down.

Scales

The scales on a largemouth bass will tend to be the same size all over its body, with the scales on its cheeks being similar in appearance to the scales on the rest of its body.

Unlike the spotted bass, the dorsal and anal fins on a largemouth will generally not have scales.

Jaws

The jaws on the largemouth bass are where its name comes from. The largemouth has a large mouth, where the upper part of its jaw, when closed, extends beyond the back of its eye.

The tongue will tend to be smooth, with no tooth patches. However, there may be discoloration on the tongue which may be confused with the rough patch found on spotted bass.

Habitat

The largemouth bass adult tends to grow to around 12 to 30 inches and can be found in a range of waters across the United States, from rivers to lakes and reservoirs.

Largemouths tend to favor vegetation and cover and can be found in a range of water clarity levels.

What Makes Spotted Bass Unique?

Mouth

One way to identify a spotted bass is from its mouth. Its jaw is not as large as a largemouth bass, with the upper jaw reaching to its eye but not beyond the rear of its eye.

A spotted bass will also usually have a rectangular shaped rough tooth patch on its tongue.

Coloring

Probably one of the most noticeable features on a spotted bass is the coloring of its skin. These patterns and markings are what give the spotted bass its name. Generally the spots will be located in rows along the lower half of the fish around its stomach area.

Spotted bass also tend to be greenish in color, with paler undersides. They also have a series of dark blotches forming a horizontal pattern along each side where they reach the tail, creating a dark spot at the base.

Scales

The scales on a spotted bass will tend to be slightly smaller around its face, or cheeks, compared to the scales on the rest of its body. It may also have scales at the base of its rear dorsal fin.

Dorsal Fins

Another identifying feature of the spotted bass is that the two sections of the dorsal fin are joined together to create one dorsal fin, with a slope between the front and rear sections.

Habitat

Sometimes called Kentucky bass, spotted bass don’t tend to grow as large as largemouth bass, with adults ranging from around 12 to 17 inches in length. They can be found in slow moving freshwater rivers, streams and reservoirs, often around structure and vegetation, and particularly around rocky areas.

You probably won’t find spotted bass in natural lakes or in brackish water.

In Conclusion 

Largemouth and spotted bass can often be found in the same bodies of water, which can add variation to your fishing trip. They can sometimes be similar in appearance but hopefully you now know some of the telltale features to look out for when you next reel one in.

Remember, the extended jaw of the largemouth will usually be one of the most identifiable features, but also look for the differences on the dorsal fins, tongue and colors.

Do you have more success catching one over the other or maybe you prefer catching spotted to largemouth? Leave us a comment to let us know. And remember to share this to help keep your angling buddies informed. 

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