Bass Smackdown: Smallmouth vs Largemouth
How to Distinguish a Smallmouth Bass and a Largemouth Bass
If you are a fishing enthusiast, you may have wondered what are the main differences between two of the most popular game fish in North America: the smallmouth bass and the largemouth bass. Both belong to the same genus (Micropterus) and family (Centrarchidae) of freshwater fish, but they have distinct features, behaviors, and habitats that set them apart. Here are some of the key differences between these two species of black bass.
Appearance and Size
One of the easiest ways to distinguish a smallmouth bass from a largemouth bass is by looking at their mouth. The upper jaw of a smallmouth bass does not reach the eye, while the upper jaw of a largemouth bass extends past the eye. This gives the largemouth bass its characteristic “bucketmouth” appearance.
Another difference is the coloration and pattern of their body. The smallmouth bass has an olive-green to brownish body with dark vertical bars or blotches along its sides. The largemouth bass has a greenish-gray to black body with a dark horizontal stripe along its sides. The smallmouth bass also has red or brown eyes, while the largemouth bass has black eyes.
The size of these fish also varies depending on their habitat and age. The smallmouth bass is generally smaller than the largemouth bass, reaching a maximum length of 27 inches (69 cm) and a maximum weight of 12 pounds (5.4 kg). The largemouth bass can grow up to 29.5 inches (75 cm) and weigh up to 25 pounds (11.4 kg). However, these are exceptional sizes and most fish caught by anglers are much smaller.
Habitat and Habits
The smallmouth bass and the largemouth bass have different preferences for their habitat and water conditions. The smallmouth bass likes clear, cool, and flowing water with rocky or sandy bottoms. It can be found in streams, rivers, lakes, and reservoirs with abundant aquatic vegetation and cover. The smallmouth bass is native to the upper and middle Mississippi River basin, the Saint Lawrence River – Great Lakes system, and the Hudson Bay basin. It has been introduced to many other regions by stocking or illegal introductions.
The largemouth bass prefers warm, shallow, and murky water with soft bottoms. It can be found in ponds, lakes, reservoirs, swamps, and backwaters with plenty of weeds, logs, stumps, and other structures. The largemouth bass is native to the eastern and central United States, southeastern Canada, and northern Mexico. It has been widely introduced to many other regions by stocking or illegal introductions.
The smallmouth bass and the largemouth bass also have different feeding habits and strategies. The smallmouth bass is an opportunistic feeder that eats a wide range of prey, including insects, crayfishes, fishes, tadpoles, frogs, and plant material. It is an active hunter that chases its prey in open water or ambushes it near cover. The smallmouth bass is known for its fighting spirit and acrobatic jumps when hooked by anglers.
The largemouth bass is a voracious feeder that eats almost anything that fits in its mouth, including fishes, frogs, snakes, mice, birds, and even baby alligators. It is a stealthy hunter that lurks near cover and waits for its prey to come close before striking with a powerful suction force. The largemouth bass is known for its explosive strikes and strong runs when hooked by anglers.
The smallmouth bass and the largemouth bass are two different species of black bass that share some similarities but also have many differences. They differ in their appearance, size, habitat, habits, and feeding behavior. Both are highly sought-after game fish by anglers who enjoy their challenge and thrill. Whether you prefer fishing for smallies or largies, you will have a great time catching these amazing fish