Spotted Bass vs. Largemouth Bass: Same Family, Different Lives

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Spotted Bass near sunken log hideout in Springs.

Largemouth and spotted bass have different features, prefer different water conditions, and hunt differently from one another. Largemouths don’t need to spend time around other largemouths, whereas spotted bass spend most of their time in schools. Both are aggressive and willing to do whatever it takes to get their meal.

The black bass family has all different types of fish. While their appearances may be similar, each species has different tendencies that make them unique. Largemouth and spotted bass are two of my favorite black bass species to catch. 


Largemouth bass and spotted bass have similar appearances. Both fish have rounded bodies with large mouths. But a few key differences help people determine the differences. 

Largemouth Bass

Largemouth bass have green and yellow bodies with white bellies. Their football-shaped body has led to nicknames, like “butterballs”. The black stripe along the middle of their bodies is a dead giveaway of largemouth bass. 

Largemouths’ bodies look like that of rock bass and smallmouth bass. Their most unique feature is their massive mouths. 

A largemouth’s mouth extends behind its eyes and its bottom lip sticks out past the upper lip. The size of their mouths allows them to swallow their prey whole.

The average weight of largemouth bass is four or five pounds. They can grow above 10 pounds, depending on where you’re fishing. They’re around 13 to 20 inches long on average.

Spotted Bass

Since spotted bass also belong to the Centrarchidae (sunfish) family, they have similar appearances to largemouth bass, but they don’t grow as large. On average, they’re one to four pounds and grow to between 10 to 20 inches long. 

One of the most defining features of spotted bass is the dorsal fin. A spotted bass’s dorsal fin is connected. A largemouth has more of a disconnected dorsal fin. 

Also, spotted bass’s jaws don’t go past the eye line like largemouths. 

The black spots spread across their bodies and their patchy line across their side helps anglers identify what they’ve caught. Largemouth bass don’t have pronounced spots on their sides. The solid black line and the occasional dark spot are normal.

The smaller size, connected dorsal fin, smaller jaw, and black spots provide all the defining features you need. 

Fisherman proudly shows off big bass by the peaceful lake with tall pines.


The only difference between the diet of largemouth bass and spotted bass is the amount of food they eat. Largemouth bass grow larger than spotted bass and eat almost twice as much as them. 

Spotted and largemouth bass eat smaller fish, crustaceans, insects, amphibians, and small mammals. Both species are aggressive predators willing to eat and hunt for any delicious meal. 

Hunting Habits

Largemouth bass operate as lone rangers. Largemouths can’t depend on other largemouths to help them find food. Largemouths use their ambush habits and skills to pick and choose their feeding time. 

Largemouths sit in rocks, weed lines, underwater logs, and other areas that can provide protection. They wait in anticipation for food to swim by and then pounce. Largemouths have little fear of anything. They’ll take on whatever meal they can find.

Spotted bass tend to spend more time in schools than largemouths. Spotted bass stick together to hunt shad in the spring and summer as the temperatures warm. Once you find one spotted bass, you’ll usually find more. 

Largemouth bass eat spotted bass. When a school of spotted bass is hunting, a largemouth is nearby. They’ll wait for a spotted bass to venture too far from the school and make their move. If the largemouth has structure and cover to hide in, they’ll hunt spotted bass.


Largemouth Bass

Largemouth’s native range extends from the Great Lakes Region into Mexico. The Mississippi River basin has large populations of largemouth bass. Local game and fish departments have introduced largemouth bass into many parts of the United States. 

Nearly every state in the country has a largemouth bass population somewhere within it. They can adapt to freezing temperatures as well as hotter conditions. However, if the water gets above 80 degrees, largemouth slow down and can die. 

Spotted Bass

Spotted bass are native to the Mississippi River basin. You will find them in Ohio, West Virginia, Indiana, West Virginia, Oklahoma, Kentucky, Louisiana, Georgia, Florida, Texas, Mississippi, North Carolina, and Alabama. 

The Southeastern United States has the most native populations of spotted bass. They can live in lakes, rivers, ponds, and streams. Non-native populations spread throughout the country in states like Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona, California, Nevada, Washington, and Idaho. 

Spotted bass are hearty and able to adapt to more challenging conditions. Whether the water is frozen over or it’s the heat of summer, spotted bass can withstand various water conditions. 

Big 5 lb bass caught. Caught on spinnerbait & set free. Great season ender; water's chilling


Largemouth Bass

Largemouth bass enjoy warm, clean water with plenty of structure and cover. Weeds, rock piles, and woody areas allow largemouth bass to use their ambush skills when hunting. 

Largemouths can also live in cold waters. Growing up in the North, we’d catch largemouth bass through the ice all winter. Largemouths slow down to conserve energy in the winter but don’t die because of the cold temperatures.

Largemouths even survive in brackish water. As long as the salinity levels sit low enough, largemouth bass live in a mix of salt and freshwater. Their bodies tell them when to move towards freshwater areas if salt water dehydrates them. 

Largemouths need to feel protected. If they’re too exposed to open water, they will not thrive. Regardless of how easy food is to find and capture, they prefer using their ambush skills.

Largemouths don’t ever venture too deep. They’re happy if they can explore the shallows, stay protected, and catch prey.

Spotted Bass

Spotted bass primarily live in streams and rivers. They prefer clear, slow-moving water with rocky bottoms. They prefer those same conditions if they’re living in lakes or ponds. While they spend time near cover and structure, they feed in open water since they spend time in schools. 

If they are on their own, spotted bass spend time in hiding. 

Spotted bass cannot live in brackish water like their largemouth bass relatives. They need clean, clear water with a current.

Fishing for Largemouth Bass and Spotted Bass

Fishing strategies vary since largemouth and spotted bass prefer different conditions and have different tendencies. Understanding how each fish operates before you fish for them is important. 

Largemouth Bass

Largemouth bass sit in five to 15 feet of water depending on water temperature, food, and time of day. They sit in cover and structure, waiting to ambush their prey. It doesn’t matter if the water is stained; they’ll still hide and wait for the perfect opportunity to feed. 

Spinnerbaits, jigs, and crankbaits are the most successful lures when you’re targeting largemouth bass. 

Focus on weed lines, fallen logs, and rock piles. Cast near them and wait for the largemouth to strike. 

When water temperatures are above 80 degrees, you’ll find that largemouths slow down and become less willing to feed. In temperatures below 50 degrees, their metabolism slows. 

Largemouth bass feed any time of the day or night. If it’s an easy meal, they go for it. 

Spotted Bass

Spotted bass go deep in the water column. Finding them in the open water as deep as 35 feet is common. Jigs, spinnerbaits, crankbaits, small plastic worms, and crayfish imitations work well for spotted bass. 

If you aren’t sure where they’re holding, look for them near rock piles and other structure. 

Frequently Asked Questions 

Are Spotted Bass More Aggressive than Largemouth Bass? 

Spotted bass are less aggressive than largemouth bass. Largemouth bass spend most of their time alone. They rely on their aggression to ensure they get enough to eat. 

Spotted bass spend some of their time in schools. They’ll look for schools of shad and get their food. 

Is a Spotted Bass a Largemouth? 

No, largemouth bass and spotted bass are different. They’re both part of the sunfish family but look different. 


Largemouth and spotted bass are part of the same family but operate differently. Largemouths spend time alone and depend on their hunting skills to survive. At young ages, they’re susceptible to larger predators and other bass.

Spotted bass spend time in cool water in rivers and streams around other spotted bass. Both species have aggressive tendencies and go out of their way to feast.

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