Bass vs. Trout: Complete Guide on DNA, Behaviors, and Techniques

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Salt River in Arizona

Bass are aggressive, less skittish than trout, are carnivorous, and live in all types of water. They survive in water temperatures over 80 degrees and below 40 degrees. Trout can’t live in water warmer than 65 degrees and feed mainly on insects while spending time hiding from larger predators.

Trout anglers and bass anglers tend to run in different circles. While they’re both freshwater fish, they thrive in different conditions and attract different anglers. Bass are powerful, thrive in warm water, and require aggressive fishing techniques. Trout are sensitive, live in cold, moving water, and need finesse fishing techniques.

Differences in DNA 

Trout and bass have tendencies and habits that make them great fish to target. Their unique appearances and behaviors set them far apart from one another in the eyes of many anglers.

Rainbow Trout inside the net.
Rainbow Trout


Trout belong to the Salmonidae family. They are classified into two primary genera: Salvenlinus and Oncorhynchus. The family also includes salmon and char. Trout need water that consistently stays below 65 degrees and has high oxygen levels. 

Trout are known for their unique colors and spots all over their bodies. Depending on the trout species you catch, they have orange, purple, silver, brown, red, and green spots on their bodies. Paired with these colorful spots, trout are among the most beautiful freshwater fish. 

Their slender bodies are perfect for darting in and out of currents and hiding in tight places. Trout don’t need much room to hide, and the torpedo-like shape prevents them from getting hung up in strong currents. They have fins without spines and a small fin near their tail. 

One of the final unique details of trout is its teeth. They have teeth on their vomer, and different trout species have teeth that sit along the front and shaft. Sometimes, the vomer is a boat shape, and other times it’s flatter. 

While it’s easy to identify a trout, more of the challenge appears when identifying the specific type. Look for the streamlined body, eyes on the side of the head, and bright colors. 

Some of the most popular trout species include rainbow, brown, brook, cutthroat, and bull.

Danny fly fishing for bass.
Fly Fishing for Bass


Bass are members of the Centrarchidae (sunfish) family. They thrive in warm water and can survive in freezing water. They’re some of the heartiest freshwater fish you’ll find. Most bass are fine in water that sits in the 70s. In the Midwest, they live through freezing winters under the ice. 

They’re known for their dark green bodies with black strips and larger mouths that extend beyond their eyes. Their football-shaped bodies blend well with most aquatic vegetation in lakes and warm rivers. 

They eat fish, minnows, crayfish, and other meaty prey. The sandpaper teeth near their jaws and sharp teeth in their throat keep the prey in their mouth and allow them to feast on some sizable prey. They’re known to eat food that’s nearly half the length of their body. 

Some of the most popular bass species are largemouth, smallmouth, white, spotted, and striped. 

Differences in Habitat

Bass and trout live in different locations within lakes and rivers. Both are ambush predators that tend to avoid open water. 


Trout can live in lakes, rivers, and streams. As mentioned, they prefer highly oxygenated water below 65 degrees. In rivers and streams, they hide in slack water where they don’t have to fight the current. 

They hide behind rocks, under logs, and near other cover and structure and watch for food that swims nearby. You’ll find them in pockets, pools, riffles, and under cut banks. 

In lakes, trout spend time in varying depths. In the mornings and evenings, they move shallow when the light isn’t as bright, and temperatures are lower. In the middle of the day, they move towards deeper parts of the water and wait for the prime feeding hours. 

They’ll move through open water if the feeding is good. 


As mentioned, bass thrive in warm water. However, they like clear water with large amounts of vegetation and hiding places. Sections of lakes and rivers with sand, mud, or gravel bottoms fit their habits well. 

They grow faster in warm water than in colder waters in the northern states.

You’ll find them along weed lines, deep in rock piles, up near docks, and any other place they stay hidden. They’ll wait for food to swim nearby, dart into the open, and return to hiding. 

Smallmouth bass are more willing to cruise through open water than largemouth bass, but both fish like to stay hidden. 

Depending on their access to food, they’ll venture between deep and shallow. They want to spend time near bait pods or smaller panfish whenever possible. 

Differences in Feeding Styles

Anglers love bass and trout because of their aggressiveness. When they’re in the mood to feed, nothing stops them from eating. Even though their diets look a little different, their heightened desire to feed makes them a dangerous predator.


Trout look to feed during the insect hatches. Hatches occur at different times depending on the insect, time of year, and location. Trout start feeding on the nymphs as they move toward the surface and then aggressively feed when the emerging insects start drying their wings on the surface. 

Hatches occur a few times a day most of the year. Trout abandon their safe locations and solely focus on feeding as much as possible. While they still eat minnows, crayfish, and other smaller prey, most of their diet is insects. 

Mornings and evenings are the prime feeding hours for trout. Low light and cooler temperatures allow them to expend more energy to find the perfect meal, and they want to stay as hidden as possible. 


Bass also feed during the mornings and evenings. They spend most of their time ambush feeding, so the low light protects them. They wait on the edges of weed lines and near other structures and wait for the perfect food to swim past. 

Bass rarely say no to anything. Sunfish, crappie, smaller bass, perch, crayfish, minnows, small mammals, and even smaller bass are on their menu. Whenever they can feed, they do it. They’ll feed into the dark of night if the opportunities present themselves. 

Differences in Fishing Gear and Techniques

Anglers who spend time fishing for trout and bass understand that the same methods don’t always work for each fish. Bass aren’t as picky with presentation and lures, while trout know exactly what they want, and you must present it naturally

I spent most of my early trout fishing years frustrated because I thought I had the perfect fly, but they weren’t biting. It wasn’t until I focused on my presentation that I started landing fish. 

Danny fly fishing for trout.
Fly Fishing for Trout


Trout eat live bait, lures, and flies. You have to understand how to present all different types of bait to be successful when targeting them. An accurate and natural presentation is much of the battle when trying to catch trout. 


You don’t need to target trout with heavy-duty gear. If you’re fly fishing, rods between 1 and 6-weight get the job done. Pair these with the same weight reel and line as your rod, and you’re good to go. My favorite versatile setup is an 8’6” 5-weight moderate fast action rod paired with a weight forward floating 5-weight line. 

You’ll want 7-11 foot 0x – 4x leader and 3x to 5x tippet to attach to the fly line and leader. From here, choose the flies that match the hatches in the water you’re fishing. 

Some of the most popular flies for trout include Woolly Buggers, Clouser Minnows, Chubby Chernobyls, Royal Wulffs, Elk Hair Caddis, Parachute Adams, Prince Nymphs, Pheasant Tail Nymphs, RS2s, Pat’s Rubber Legs, eggs, and Bunny Leeches. 

Spin anglers want a light or ultralight 6’ rod paired with an ultralight reel. Tie on 2-6 pound fluorocarbon line to keep yourself hidden in the ultraclear water. 

Some of the most popular lures include Panther Martins, Mepps Spinners, Jerk Baits, Jigs, soft plastics, and Power Bait. 


When fishing rivers, you want your bait to drift into the holding areas. You must cast upstream of the area you want your lure, bait, or fly to get. Having your bait drift into the strike zone looks more natural than a lure, bait, or fly thrown directly into the holding area. 

As your lure, fly, or bait drifts downstream, reel in any extra slack, raise your rod tip and wait for the trout to strike. If the trout detect anything unnatural, they won’t eat. Trout hold in pools, riffles, river bends, and under cut banks.

Do your best to accomplish the most natural drift possible, and you have a chance to catch them. 

Another common trout fishing tactic is known as swinging. You cast your lure or fly up and across the stream. As your fly or lure drifts downstream, reel in a little of the slack. Once it drifts below you, the lure or fly will start swinging across the stream towards you. This is one of the most common times when trout eat. 

That natural swing is exactly what they want. 

In lakes, you’re responsible for creating the action. Cast near cover and structure, let your lure, bait, or fly sit, and then begin the retrieve. Short, quick retrieves, long, slow reels, and everything in between works to attract trout. 

You never know what the trout want, so be ready to vary your retrieve until you do. Look for changes in depth, fallen logs, rock piles, and food sources. Trout want easy access to safety and food. 

Fly fishing flies in a box and fish net.
Fly Fishing Flies


Anglers have the most success with lures and live bait when fishing for bass. You’ll catch them if you can take advantage of their aggressive behaviors. Aggravate them and entice them to feed in whatever way you can. 


Bass needs heavier gear than trout. A medium-light or medium rod paired with a spinning or baitcasting reel works well. Many anglers use 10 to 20 lb braid paired with a 6 lb fluoro or monofilament leader.

Some of the most popular lures for bass include frogs, Senko Worms, poppers, jigs paired with soft plastics, jerk baits, Rapalas, spinners, crankbaits, and chatter baits. 

If you’re fly fishing, you’ll need a heavier rod than you do for trout. I like to use a 6-weight or 7-weight 9’ fast action paired with a 7-weight reel and weight forward 7-weight floating line. I tie on a 7’ 0x leader and get to fishing. 

Some of the most popular flies for bass include poppers, clouser minnows, woolly buggers, sex dungeons, leeches, crayfish, and Pat’s Rubber Legs. 


When you’re fishing for bass, spend most of your time near cover and structure. Docks, weed lines, rock piles, and anything else you can find is perfect. Bass congregate near the cover, and so do other food sources. Bass sit deep within these areas and venture out to eat. 

Flipping jigs into timber, throwing spinners along weed lines, and crankbaits through drop-offs are some of the best strategies to catch bass. In the mornings and evenings, you’ll also have success throwing topwater lures like frogs. Bass like lures that make noise, flash, and move water. 

Combine their desire to feel protected with their need to protect their areas, and you’ll catch them. 

Frequently Asked Questions 

Can Bass Eat Trout?

Yes, if bass and trout live in the same water, bass eat them. As long as the trout fits in the bass’s mouth, they have no problems eating it. Bass aren’t picky. 

Will Trout Bite Bass Lures? 

Yes, trout eat small bass lures. Spinners, Rapalas, Senkos, and crank baits work well for trout. 

Why is Trout Fishing So Popular?

Trout live in beautiful places and are challenging to catch. Anglers from all over the world enjoy targeting them. Healthy populations are all over the United States, so they’re accessible. You can find them in the middle of cities or the mountains. 

Why is Bass Fishing so Popular?

Bass live in almost every state and aren’t overly complicated to catch. They fall for most lures and can grow upwards of 15 pounds. Combine their size with aggression; they’re an awesome fish to target. 

Why is it So Hard to Catch Trout? 

Trout are sensitive. If the water conditions aren’t right, they won’t eat. They avoid it if they don’t like how your lure, bait, or fly is presented. You must target them in the mornings and evenings when they’re ready to feed. 


Bass and trout have similar tendencies but look drastically different and require different habitats to survive. Look for bass in large lakes and reservoirs with temperatures that don’t reach above 80 degrees. As long as the water has plenty of cover and structure, you’ll catch them. Look for trout in rivers and streams with water temps below 65 degrees and plenty of insect life. 

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