Difference Between Largemouth And Smallmouth Bass

A largemouth bass has a jaw bone that extends back beyond the eye. By contrast, the smallmouth bass’ jaw bone extends back to the middle of the eye at most. Additionally, largemouth are generally green in color with with a broad horizontal stripe. Smallmouth are more brown in color with vertical stripes.

Largemouth Bass

The largemouth bass (Micropterus salmoides) is a member of the sunfish family and specifically a black bass species. They’re native to north america. It is the state fish of Georgia, Mississippi and Indiana. Normally green in color, they have a broad horizontal stripe. The darkness of the green can vary from pale green when they come from deep clear water. Or it can be a very dark green almost black when they inhabit shallow weedy areas. 

Camouflage is a big part of their hunting tactics. Their coloration helps this.

Juvenile largemouth bass feed on small fish, freshwater crustaceans and insects.

As they become adults, they continue to feed on larger baitfish, and sunfish. They also feed on crustaceans, insects,  and terrestrial creatures including birds and lizards.

The world record largemouth was caught in 1932 in Georgia and weighed 22 lbs 4oz. This record was tied in 2009 in Japan with a bass that weighed 22lbs 5oz. For a new record to be declared, it must beat the previous record by 2 ounces.

Smallmouth Bass

The smallmouth bass (Micropterus dolomieu) is also a sunfish that is a member of the black bass species. It is also native to north america. 

The smallmouth bass is usually a brownish bronze color. They’re known as bronzebacks, smallies, or brown bass.

They have vertical stripes that run up and down the body.  They gill plate can have diagonal stripes as well. 

The darkness of their coloration can vary just like largemounth bass. 

Smallmouth are more at home in rocky structure. They also can be commonly found in rivers. They feed on baitfish, other sunfish, crustaceans, insects, etc.

Their diet is similar to that of the largemouth bass.

The world record smallmouth bass weight 11 lbs. 15 ounces. It was caught in Dale Hollow Reservoir, Tennessee in 1955. 

Smallmouth bass do not inhabit waters as far south as the largemouth bass does. They are more closely associated with temperate or colder waters.

Differences In Largemouth vs. Smallmouth Bass Behavior

While their behavior can have some overlaps, there are some behavioral differences.

Largmouth bass are more normally associated with ambush predation. This means that they will hide in well camouflaged locations. Then, they wait in ambush for prey to come too close.

Of course, this is not their only feeding tactic, but it’s a very common one. 

Largemouth bass will use their exceptional camouflage to hide in dense weeds. This can make them virtually disappear.

Once an unsuspecting baitfish, comes by, Largemouth will dart out and attack.

They are known to use their large jaw like a water vacuum. They open their moth suddenly when they’re near their prey.

As they open their mouth, water is pulled in rapidly. The water is expelled out through their gill openings.

As the water is pulled in, the prey is pulled in with it.

Largemouth bass can also feed as a school. This is normally done by small to average sized bass. They will gather in large groups to corral small baitfish schools.

Smallmouth bass also use camouflage to ambush prey. However, their color scheme is often better suited to rocky areas. They also use shadows and moving water for ambush tactics. 

In rivers, smallmouth bass will wait behind a rock or log that is blocking the current. Then, as prey passes, they’ll dart out and ambush it. 

Smallmouth bass in colder climates are much more likely to move to deeper waters in the summer. They can be found in water over 50 feet deep. It is in the spring and fall when you see smallmouth bass returning to shallower water.

Largemouth can also be caught in deep water. This is especially true is reservoirs with deep flooded timber. However, you will always be able to find some Largemouth bass in shallower waters. Even in the middle of summer with water temperatures in the 90s, there will be largemouth in less than 3 feet of water. 


Largemouth and Smallmouth bass are two of the most popular game fish in North America. They’ve even become popular in parts of Asia where they have been imported.
While the main difference between the two will appear to be their coloration, there are many other differences.
Smallies and Largies don’t just have biological differences, they have behavioral differences too.

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