Spotted vs. Largemouth Bass: Differences Explained

John Malcolm
John MalcolmPublished: January 20, 2023
Spotted vs. Largemouth Bass: Differences Explained

Bass fishing is a popular sport that requires knowledge of the bass species, their habitats, and diets, as well as the best lures and baits to use. There are several species of bass found in North America, including largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, spotted bass, and striped bass.

Each species has its own characteristics and behavior, which can help anglers target them more efficiently. Knowing the differences between these types of fish will allow you to choose the right bait or lure for your desired catch.

CharacteristicLargemouth BassSpotted Bass
Jaw LengthExtends past the eye line, indicating a larger body size.Shorter jaw, focusing mainly on smaller prey like insects and larvae.
Dorsal FinSeparate or nearly separate dorsal fin with a jagged and pronounced look.Single, connected dorsal fin with a gentle slope.
Color and MarkingsMay have less pronounced or no spots; lacks a distinct lateral line.Characterized by dark spots along the lower body and a distinct lateral line.
Scale SizeUniform scale size across the entire body.Cheek scales are usually much smaller than the rest of the body.
Habitat PreferencePrefers weedy, murky waters and is often found near the shoreline.Prefers clear, clean water and is more active in cold, often found farther from shore.
DietOpportunistic feeders, consuming a wide range of larger food items.Prefers smaller food items like insects, larvae, and small shad.
AggressivenessLess aggressive compared to spotted bass.More aggressive and powerful, even though smaller in size.
SizeTypically larger, measuring up to 38.2 inches in length and weighing up to 22 pounds.Generally smaller, measuring up to 25 inches in length.

We will compare two closely related species - largemouth bass and spotted bass (sometimes called Kentucky bass). They both belong to the black bass family, but they have different behaviors and habitats. We'll look at their size, power, habitat preferences, diets, and the best baits for each of them.

So whether you're a tournament angler or a weekend warrior looking to catch your next big bass, read on to find out which species is best for you.

Both are a favorite bass species for anglers.

Largemouth Bass Hooked on a Lure in a Lake
Largemouth bass hooked on a plastic lure.

Hitting a natural lake with your bass boat or even tossing a line from a bridge on a sunny fall day can be an angler’s dream.

When it comes to bass fishing, though, it is important for any angler to know the difference between spotted and largemouth bass.

Sure, both are loved by fishermen, and both are of the same family (black bass), but these fish differ from one another and each have their own unique characteristics and traits.

They also have different bag limits and size limits. So knowing the difference is critical for any angler.

Key differences between spotted and largemouth bass.

When comparing spotted bass and largemouth bass you'll see that there are some similarities and differences between them. They might seem like the same type of fish, but each has distinct characteristics that make them unique.

Jaw length differences.

One of the first ways to tell the difference in spotted and largemouth bass is their jaw length. This is a key indicator because it's so pronounced and really shows the differences between the two.

The longer jaw of the largemouth bass, which stretches past the eye line, is an indicator of its larger body size. When you first spot a largemouth you'll see the jaw of the largemouth bass extends past it's big bulgy eye.

This difference allows the largemouth to prey on a much wider range of larger food than the spotted bass can.

The spotted bass has to focus mainly on smaller creatures such as insects and larvae.

We'll get into their diets more, but the takeaway is that their jaw is substantially different.

Dorsal fin differences.

Another primary difference between a spotted bass vs largemouth is their dorsal fins. The dorsal fins, for the uninitiated, are the fins located on the back of a fish.

This, just like the jaw, is one of the most significant differences between spotted and largemouth bass. The shape of their dorsal fin sticks out and grabs your attention, so it's an easy indicator between the two.

Spotted Bass have a single, connected dorsal fin with a gentle slope, while largemouth have a separate or nearly separate dorsal fin.

You'll also notice that the largemouth's dorsal fin has a much more jagged and pronounced look to it.

Color, scale, and marking differences.

The coloring of the scales of the two fish is fairly similar with one major difference - the spots.

Spotted Bass are characterized by dark spots that run along the lower half of their body, which give them their name. These spots gradually fade towards the belly. By contrast, largemouth bass may have less pronounced or no spots.

Additionally, spotted bass has a dark horizontal band that extends down the length of their body. This lateral line is easy to see and stands out among the spots. This line does not appear on largemouth bass.

When looking at their scales, you'll noticed the spotted bass cheek scales are usually much smaller than the rest of their body, whereas largemouths have uniform, same size scales across their entire body.

If you don't first see the jawline or the dorsal fins, surely the coloring of the distinguishable lateral line will stand out enough for you to tell the difference between the two fish.

Habitat differences.

Largemouth and spotted bass share many similarities in their habitats and often share the same waters, such as preferring rocks and quick water movement. They also prefer a warmer water temperature.

The primary difference in their preferred environment is that spotted bass prefer clear, clean water to thrive.

That's not to say that you won't see both species in the same lake, but they usually don't inhabit the same areas.

Largemouth tend to prefer weedy, murky waters while spotted bass are found in more open and clearer parts of a lake.

That's why you'll usually find spotted bass living farther out from shore and largemouth near the shoreline. You can often find spotted bass as deep as 30 feet, which isn't usual for largemouth.

This difference in habitat also make spotted bass a better option for ice fishing. Sure, they both prefer warm water, but spotted bass are more active in the cold. That's not to say you can't catch spotted bass and largemouth bass under the ice, it's just you'll see spots more lively.

Diet differences.

This difference in habitat also lends itself to the difference in diet between spotted and largemouth bass.

The largemouth bass tend to have a much bigger appetite than the spotted bass; their larger body size requires them to consume more food constantly.

Largemouth bass tend to be more opportunistic feeders as well, meaning they will eat anything that passes by them such as minnows, frogs, crayfish, and worms. You might even see them go after juvenile turtles or small aquatic birds. Although rare, not unheard of during spawning season. Most of these are what you'd expect to find in the shallower, muddier parts of a lake.

Spotted bass by comparison prefer smaller food items such as insects, larvae and small shad. You'll find these types of creatures living in more open water areas where spotted bass can pick them out with ease.

Just like other areas we've compared, you'll see that some of their diet overlaps with one another.

Is a spotted bass the same as a largemouth bass?

They're not the same by any means, although they do share some similarities. The most significant differences between the two species include their jaw shape, dorsal fins, coloration, scale patterns and preferred habitats.

Chances are if you hooked either one of them you wouldn't be able to tell until you got them in the boat and had a good look at them.

Are spotted bass bigger than largemouth?

No, actually largemouth bass are typically larger than spotted bass. Largemouth Bass typically measure 16 inches in length, with a maximum recorded length of 38.2 inches. The heaviest reported weight for largemouth bass is 22 pounds, and the maximum reported age is 23 years.

On the other hand, spotted bass generally measure up to 14-16 inches and max out around 25 inches.

Are spotted bass more aggressive than largemouth?

Yes they are! That's why when you hook a spotted bass, even though smaller, feels like a larger largemouth.

Spotted Bass are powerful predators that are more aggressive and powerful than both largemouth and smallmouth bass. So don't be confused by their smaller size - they are still the top predators in the lake.

Fishing for largemouth bass and spotted bass.

Angler Holding Spotted Bass in Pond
Spotted bass being released into a pond.

While there are countless differences between the two species, they can both be targeted when fishing.

Largemouth bass will usually take a variety of lures and different types of bait, while spotted bass tend to prefer smaller lures such as soft plastics or small crankbaits.

When targeting either one, make sure to adjust your technique accordingly depending on the environment you're fishing in.

Their habitats such as natural lakes and diets are similar enough that you might be targeting one type and actually catch the other. They often attack the same baits such as small fish and aquatic insects.

What is the best bait for largemouth bass right now?

Live bait such as shad, minnows, and shiners are some of the best baits for Bass, particularly in deeper water to target larger fish. Baitfish come in different sizes and are productive in a variety of bass waters.

We find that rubber baits cranked in shallower waters with weeds is a great choice for largemouth bass. Plastics like worms and lizards with a jig at the end of your line are also great options.

You may have to try different colors at different lakes and times of the year as bass can be picky.

What lures to use for spotted bass?

Spotted Bass are an important game fish that fight strongly when caught on lighter rods and tackle. Popular lures and baits for spotted bass include—

  • Jigs: Versatile and effective for deeper water fishing, ideal for mimicking crawfish and other bass prey.
  • Crankbaits: Designed to mimic small fish, these lures are great for covering a lot of water quickly.
  • Spinners: Flashy and vibrating, spinners attract bass through both sight and sound.
  • Small Plastic Worms: Excellent for a more subtle approach, imitating the natural prey of bass.
  • Crayfish: A natural bait that closely resembles the diet of spotted bass, effective in areas where crayfish are abundant.

Stock your pond with spotted bass, smallmouth bass, and largemouth bass.

Whether you want to catch and release in your backyard pond, or stock it for a fishing tournament, having a mixture of bass species can be beneficial.

Spotted Bass are great fighters and will provide plenty of fun when caught on light tackle. They tend to school together more often than the other two species, so they're easier to target if you know where they are.

Largemouth bass are the most popular species of bass and can be caught with a variety of lures and natural baits. They're also well known for their large size, making them great for trophy fishing.

The best thing, though, is that they can cohabitate just fine. You can have a pond stocked full of largemouth bass, spotted bass, smallmouth bass, striped bass, Guadalupe bass - all of which are types of black bass.

Hit the lake and toss a line!

We hope this article has given you a better understanding of the differences when comparing spotted vs. largemouth bass, as well as what lures to use for each species. Fishing for these two types of bass can be an enjoyable experience – whether it’s just in your backyard pond or at a nearby lake. So get out there, stock up on bait and tackle, and see if you have what it takes to catch one (or all) of these amazing fish.

John Malcolm

John Malcolm

Expert Angler

John is a highly skilled angler with over two decades of experience and a passion that has led him to participate in numerous tournaments, including reeling in a remarkable 9lb bass on Lake Okeechobee. His dedication to fishing and willingness to share his expertise make him a respected ambassador for the angling community, inspiring others to appreciate the sport.