In the United States especially, but abroad as well, largemouth and smallmouth are the two most popular bass subspecies.
If you are a bass angler, it is super important to know the differences between these two fish in order to increase your chances of hooking up with a monster.
We will be laying out everything you need to know about smallmouth and largemouth so you can differentiate between the two. We’ll cover physical distinctions, feeding patterns, popular habitats, and more!
Physical Distinctions between smallmouth bass and largemouth bass
Whether you’ve already caught one of these fish and are wondering how to tell which one it is,, or you’re just trying to learn the difference between the two so you can target one or the other, there are some obvious signs you should know to look for.
Largemouth Bass Attributes
Larger mouth that has an upper jaw extending past the eyes
The bigger largemouth will be larger than a big smallmouth
There is a break between the dorsal fins
Spotted horizontal line that is usually black or of a dark contrast to the green body
Smallmouth Bass Attributes
Smaller mouth that does not open as wide
Different colorations that focus on more browns and greens
Even a very big smallmouth will be much smaller than big largemouth
Vertical lines that are more subtle against the body’s coloration
Knowing these characteristics of both fish will help you learn about the species and know exactly what you are targeting. Although these attributes might be hard to view in the water from shore or a boat, the biggest thing you can look for is that lateral line made of black horizontal patterns on largemouth. This is the most clear sign you have a largemouth near you.
Knowing how any fish tends to feed will put you one step closer to getting that bite of a lifetime. This way, you can cater presentations that best resemble what they eat naturally. The old saying “match the hatch” could not be more true. This means to craft presentations and lures that best match what the natural food source is.
Best Lures for Largemouth
Photo Credit: Drew Pierce
Some of the best lures for largemouth include jigs, swimbaits, crankbaits, and spinnerbaits. All of these have certain action components that may work for both largemouth and smallmouth, but lean toward the former a touch more. You can also take a more finessed approach and use soft plastics to provide a really accurate presentation.
Smallmouth can be quite aggressive and offer a great fight, so there are a few presentations we recommend for them. Examples include tubes, craws, jerkbaits, poppers, and crankbaits. Many of these are reactionary and better represent what smallmouth eat naturally.
There is a fair bit of crossover in baits between these two subspecies of bass, but there are specifications to make in order to yield the best results possible.
Also keep in mind the habitats in which the fish reside. If you are in super clear water, apt for more natural or blue/green colors. If the water is like chocolate milk, you will want blacks and blues to provide a good contrast. So, a big part of lure selection and reading feeding patterns revolves around your surroundings and situations.
Knowing where to find largemouth and smallmouth is super important no matter which one you are targeting. This way, you can specify your presentation to target a certain fish in a certain spot.
Weed beds, brush piles, grass and trees are all favorite structures of largemouth bass.(Photo Credit: Kansas State University)
When it comes to largemouth, it is all about cover and structure. The more structure, the better.
Because largemouth tend not to browse out in the open water for extended periods of time, they can be found latched onto structures such as brush piles, trees, grass, and weed beds.
Targeting these areas and the areas around them is key to sniffing out those finicky bites. Use ledges and drop offs around structure to your advantage as this is where baitfish and other food sources naturally roam.
Smallmouth bass will search for food around thick brush, but love current and will often stay in areas of breaks in that current. (Photo Credit: Oxbow lake Association)
Like largemouth bass, smallmouth will also attach themselves to cover, but the way in which they do and the circumstances around it do change slightly. Rather than sitting in that thick brush, they will hunt around it and sit in eddies and areas with unique water features.
Another key to look for is running water. Smallmouth especially love current and will often sit in breaks of that current. This is because flowing water is a constant food source. So, if you can tap into that source with your lure, you are in for some great bites.
For both of these fish, the dusk and dawn times are when the bites really heat up. In the summer, these are cooler times, so bass will be more active. When they move around more, they are more apt to feed.
Also, read the weather and plan your fishing trip based on that information. If you know a front is moving in at night, that evening can be very active because of pressure changes. So, using the forecast to your advantage is a good idea for both smallmouth and largemouth.
Both of these types of bass are super fun to catch, so no matter what you target, or have access to targeting, you are in for a treat. The key to being successful with either one is knowing what you are targeting and how to maximize your hookups.
Use the tips above to differentiate between smallmouth and largemouth. When you have an educated, specified game plan, you can increase your bites and chances of catching a monster! Good luck, happy fishing, and we hope you put a hook N1!
Bass fishing is exploding in popularity, thanks in part to the internet and social media. With that popularity comes much talk and interest in which lures and strategies work well to put a hook N1 and land that big bass.
So, let’s talk about a lure and type of fishing that has been around for ages… jigging.
So, let’s cover some of the best types of jigs for bass fishing and also some of the modernization that is taking place regarding this traditional style of bass fishing.
(All images courtesy of Tackle Warehouse listings)
Casting jigs are not only the most common, but also very versatile.
We kick off our list with the most common in the bass fishing world. Casting jigs keep it simple and are very versatile. The jig heads are made in a way to stand the jig up when resting on the bottom while also swimming well with a slower pace.
Swim jigs provide action while on the move and work with many types of bass.
One of the most popular jig styles in the bass world right now is the swim jig. Swim jigs, as the name implies, are meant to have some pace and provide action while on the move. It is similar to using a spinnerbait or any other moving lure.
The head of the jig is designed in a way to cut through the water and provide excellent action when moving the lure. The hooks are light and sharp, and when a bass is committed, you are in for a ride. This is another type of jig that works for most types of bass, so keeping it versatile can make it happen with the swim jigs.
The head of a finesse jig looks different than other jigs, highlighting action near the hook and head.
The finesse jig is one that gets a bit more specific in the approach. This one has the most unique look, but it is still not all that different. The jig head is much smaller and the weight should not be very heavy. If you are going over ¼ ounce, it will be considered a large finesse jig.
The skirt is tied in a way to give action down by the hook and up above the jig head. So, when you are fishing slower and in holes, the subtle action will be very enticing.
Finesse jigs can be used for largemouth, but river smallmouth love to hop all over this presentation. It can be complemented with a subtle trailer that does not take too much action away from the skirt.
Flipping jigs tend to be a bit heavier than other jigs, helping them in working structures deep in the water column.
Another more specific presentation revolves around the flipping jig. Flipping structure is a great way to get huge largemouth bites. Largemouth love to cling to structure, and flipping jigs have been engineered to enter these areas and leave with a monster on the other end.
These are usually a bit heavier because the jig needs to get down in the water column and dive into the structure. So, spring for a ⅜-⅝ jig depending on the body of water. In places like Texas and Florida, some anglers even go up to a full ounce for a flipping jig.
The creature bait trailer is super important for flipping jigs. This is where the true action is. When you can put a craw or chunk on the end, it will be like an actual creature is falling through the structure. So, line up your colors, and put a fair bit of effort into your trailer.
Football jigs have heads similar to a football shape, allowing them to more easily navigate hard structures.
The football jig gets its name from having a jighead that resembles the shape of a football. When fishing rocky bottoms and areas with a lot of hard structure, these are great jigs. This is because they tend to hop off of those elements rather than get stuck in them.
Another aspect of the football jig is the weed guard. A couple of the other jigs on the list have them as well, but they are generally beefier on the football jig. Because you will be in the structure, you need that extra protection. Plus, don’t be afraid to go a little heavier with the weight so you can really get into the structure.
Also make sure you add a nice trailer to the jig for that really solid action. Matching up sizes and colors is the best way to get the most use possible out of your football jig.
The hair jig, although very traditional, should not be overlooked, especially for smallmouth bass.
Finally, there is the hair jig. This is one of the most underrated jigs on the market because it is not used often in the mainstream. A hair jig is a traditional lure that used to be all the rage. Although current technology and advances in the industry pushed the hair jig to the side, it is still an excellent presentation.
As the name implies, this is a jig head with long strands of hair-like materials covering the hook on the back. Whites and black and blues are great colors for creating bites. More so than any of the others, smallmouth love to target hair jigs. Especially in rivers and flowing water, hair jigs can help you target those larger smallmouth bass.
Generally, keep hair jigs somewhat light. You will not want to make it too heavy, because the action will start to falter. Since hair jigs are made to be pretty big, you don’t have to overcompensate with a heavier jig head.
All of these jigs have differing uses due to the build and patterns on the jig itself. So, when you can specify your presentation to the environment you are in, you will be in a good position to get bites.
If you want to bass fish, the United States is the place to be. But, while U.S. is home to tons of bass fishing opportunities, not all of the locations are created equal.
Best lakes for bass fishing in the U.S.
So, where are the best bass fishing lakes located?
Let’s take a look at 7 of the best lakes for bass fishing. And, while catching that 10+ pounder is not guaranteed, fishing at one or more of these lakes could certainly increase your chances.
Lake Okeechobee is a popular bass fishing destination, especially in the winter months, due to the steady temps.(photo credit: Britannica)
Located in Okeechobee, Florida, Lake Okeechobee is one of the best bass fishing lakes in the country. Although Florida is known for many great fishing opportunities, this lake is the king of them all.
This is a very popular destination in the winter months, as temperatures are steady and bass are still feeding. Whether you hire a guide or have your own boat, you can spend days exploring this large system of lakes while hunting down double-digit bass.
With big worms and natural swim jigs, you can seek out some insane bites.
They say everything’s bigger in Texas. That can certainly apply to the bass on Lake Fork. This largemouth bass haven is home to the Texas state record(photo credit: Official Lake Fork Trophy Bass).
Along with Florida, Texas is also known to have really big bass. The shining star of fishing in Texas is Lake Fork. Lake Fork is a huge body of water that can hold double-digit bass that you only dream about.
Other than in the summer, any other time of year is great for targeting bass. Especially in the spring, you can take advantage of pre-spawn and spawning months to really focus on the big bites.
The Largemouth bass record weight is over 18 pounds, and bass in the 8-12 pound range are found every year. In fact, that Lake Fork record is also the Texas state record, so big bass are truly born and bred here.
Lake St. Clair, between Ontario and Michigan, is a hot bed for smallmouth bass fishing.
Although the southern states are best known for big largemouth, smallmouth fishing is super fun as well. Finding big smallmouth can be tricky anywhere in the states, but Lake St. Clair is the epicenter for making it happen.
This is a lake near the St. Lawrence River, which is a great fishing location in its own right. 4-5 pound smallies are large in any area, but Lake St. Clair has ones that are even larger.
This lake is located in Michigan and holds many tournaments throughout the year. Whether it be on a boat in the summer or through the ice in the winter, there are fishing opportunities to be had on Lake St. Clair.
Plus, the lake does border part of Detroit. So, you will not be fishing in the middle of nowhere. Being in a city can provide a different element in terms of things to do and see.
Mille Lacs is one of the most popular lakes in Minnesota, and for good reason: large smallmouth bass are plentiful.(photo credit: Explore Minnesota)
Staying up north, there is Mille Lacs. This is the unofficial smallmouth capital of the United States as they come in droves and in great sizes. Minnesota is known as the Land of 10,000 Lakes, and Mille Lacs is a very large one. It is also one of the most popular lakes in the entire state.
Catching more than one 4-6 pound smallmouth every day is absolutely achievable, which is crazy in comparison to other lakes. Plus, the walleye fishing is insane here. So, year round fishing is done in the open water or through the ice for a number of species.
Mille Lacs can be a location where you spend many days fishing all different spots. Due to the size and smallmouth fishing opportunities, you can fall in love with the area.
Mille Lacs has a reputation for huge largemouth bass and the beautiful surrounding scenery of the Angelina National Forest. (photo credit: FLW)
Also known as Big Sam, Sam Rayburn is one of Texas’s most famous lakes. With a storied history and legacy for giant bass, this is a bucket list location. It is known for a high density of double-digit largemouth, so putting yourself in a good position to hook up with one can happen here.
Plus, Sam Rayburn is a gorgeous lake with beautiful surroundings. The Angelina National Forest surrounds much of the lake, so the picturesque nature of fishing here adds a really cool element.
Those big Texas rigs and swimbaits can get you hooked up with a trophy in no time.
Lake Guntersville is the largest lake in the state of Alabama and home to several species of bass.(photo credit: Alabama State Parks.)
Located in Northern Alabama, Lake Guntersville is a largemouth haven. As the largest lake in the entire state, thousands flock to this lake every year to try their luck at catching a big one.
One unique aspect of Lake Guntersville is the number of bass species in the lake. Although the largemouth are the biggest, you can find spotted, smallmouth, white, and striped bass here. So, if you want to challenge yourself to catch them all, it can absolutely be done here.
Due to the accessibility and great fishing, it is a top notch bass fishing lake that is worth the trip.
Lake Erie is one of the best Great Lakesfor bass fishing. (photo credit: Fishing Booker)
Although the Great Lakes are not necessarily known for fabulous bass fishing, Lake Erie is one of the best for it. Many anglers go as far to say that Lake Erie is the best Great Lake for fishing overall.
If a body of water is categorized as a “Great Lake,” you know it is going to be quite large. So, having a pretty big boat is the best way to navigate these waters safely while fishing.
If you do not have a larger boat, you can hire a charter, or you could bank fish in some different spots. One of the best is at Presque Isle State Park. Presque Isle Bay is one of the best harbors on the lake, and fishing here is tremendous.
Those are the best bass fishing lakes in the United States! If you want to form a bucket list of the best, you cannot go without these. Each offers a host of unique aspects and you can really get some great experiences simply out of fishing in the right spot.