Spotted Bass vs. Largemouth Bass: All You Need to Know
Mar 12, 2021 | 3 minute read Comments
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Reading Time: 3 minutes

Spotted Bass and Largemouth Bass are two of the most popular freshwater game fish. Not only do the two species share the same waters, but they’re also very similar if you don’t know what to look for. Seeing as fishing regulations for the two fish vary from state to state, telling Spotted Bass vs. Largemouth Bass apart is very important. Using this quick guide, you’ll be able to tell a Spotty from a Largemouth in no time.

A close up of an angler holding a Largemouth Bass

Before we get to the differences between Spotted Bass and Largemouth Bass, let’s cover a few common facts about them. 

Both Spotted Bass and Largemouth Bass are native to the eastern and central United States, but have been widely introduced throughout the nation. Apart from the Gulf states, you can often find the two species in waters from Georgia to Virginia.

Spotted Bass and Largemouth Bass are not only exciting game for anglers, they’re also considered good eating fish, too.

Spotted Bass vs. Largemouth Bass

When telling Spotted Bass and Largemouth Bass apart, there are several key features that you should look at. These are jaw length, cheek scales, the dorsal fin, the tongue, and belly markers.

  • The jaw on a Spotted Bass does not extend past the eye line. On a Largemouth, the jaw is longer, and it does reach past the eye line.
  • The cheek scales on a Spotted Bass are usually much smaller than those on the rest of their body. Largemouths have uniform scales across their body.
  • The dorsal fin on a Spotted Bass is clearly connected, with a gentle slope. On a Largemouth, the dorsal fin is separate, or nearly separate. This is probably the most significant distinction between the two species.
  • The side of a Spotted Bass usually has a dark, spotted lateral line. Largemouth Bass don’t have a distinguishable lateral line.
  • Spotted Bass have a coarse rectangular patch at the center of their tongue. Largemouths have smooth tongues. This is one of the more difficult differences to spot, but it is there.
  • Spotted Bass boast lines of dark spots on the lower half of their bodies. These spots fade gradually towards the belly. On Largemouth Bass, the spots are not as pronounced, if at all.
spotted bass vs. largemouth bass

Sometimes, you won’t be able to recognize each of these features as clearly as you’d like. Even the dorsal fins can be “neither here or there” on occasion. That’s when you’ll take a look at the spots, or the jaw, or any of the other features we mentioned.

Other Differences

Largemouth Bass have an average life span of around 16 years. Spotted Bass, on the other hand, only live six years. In terms of behavior, Largemouth Bass are solitary fish, whereas Spotted Bass tend to school more often. When hooked, Largemouth Bass tend to jump out of the water in an attempt to break free. Spotted Bass, on the other hand, tend to dive deeper into the water.

Fishing for Spotted Bass vs. Largemouth Bass

Spotted Bass like clear waters, and you can often find them out in the open. You can catch these guys as deep as 30 feet! Largemouth generally keep to shallower waters, and don’t care much for water clarity. Spots remain active during winter time, while Largemouth tend to slow down when the water temperatures drop.

an angler holding a spotted bass

You can catch both species with a variety of baits and lures, but the general rule of thumb is that larger bait and lures work better for Largemouth as opposed to Spotted Bass.

Largemouth and Spotted Bass are two equally exciting game fish. They’re both great fighters, and are sure to put your angling skills to the test. If that’s not enough, the two species provide great eating, too. The best part is, you don’t have to choose between these two. Largemouths and Spots are neighbors, so catching an exciting Bass combo is more than likely.

an angler holding a spotted bass

There you have it – now you know how to tell if your catch is Spotted Bass vs. Largemouth Bass. 

Your turn. Have you ever caught one of these two fish before? What was the fight like? Let us know in the comments below.

Comments (19)
  • David

    Dec 4, 2021

    Thank you for this information,I’ve been fishing in Tennessee for over 50 years and have had many of my fishing friends pass in the last few years they would always tell me that’s a nice spot when we would catch a fish and I never really paid attention now I know and can pass this on to my sons and grandson as we go wet a line
    Thanks again

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      Rhys

      Dec 6, 2021

      Hi David,

      Thanks for reading and I’m glad you found the information useful. I’m even more delighted to hear that you’ll pass it on to your kids and grandkids – we believe knowing exactly what your doing is an important part of fishing. I’m sure they’ll enjoy casting a line with you!

      Tight lines,

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  • Thomas Nunnally

    Nov 15, 2021

    The photo of the LMB doesn’t seem to conform to this statement in your article: “Largemouth Bass don’t have a distinguishable lateral line.” Did you mean something like a distinguishably spotted line or broken line in many places? Please clarify. I enjoyed the clear and informative article, except for that one problem.

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      Katie Higgins

      Nov 15, 2021

      Hi Thomas,

      Thanks for your comment. Yes, you’re correct. Largemouth Bass do have a lateral line that can sometimes be distinguished, but unlike the Spotted Bass it’s not dark or spotted, and can sometimes be hard to see.

      We hope this helps. Please let us know if you have any more questions!

      Tight lines,

      Katie

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  • Scott Uhrich

    Sep 22, 2021

    I lost a friend cause of this situation he told me there is no such thing there all the same thing no difference just generic names I knew better but chose to cut him out as a friend so sad.

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  • Craig Carter

    Aug 21, 2021

    Hi I’m curious to know if whoever makes the call to name an official state record fish for the state Missouri has an obligation to be able to identify between the two in order to correctly record it in the books?

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      Andriana

      Aug 23, 2021

      Hello Craig,

      Thanks for reading and for your question. My guess is that yes, whoever gets to name the state fish, should be able to identify it. It’s probably not one person alone who makes the decision, but professionals in the field (marine biologists, fishermen) are involved in the process. In the case of Missouri, that would be the Channel Catfish.

      All the best, Craig!

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  • Steve

    Mar 28, 2021

    Can a Largemouth have red eyes? If so, how common is it?

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      Sean

      Mar 29, 2021

      Hi Steve,

      Thanks for reading.

      An encounter with a red-eyed Largemouth Bass is possible, but it’s a lot less common than seeing red-eyed Spotted Bass.

      It’s believed that some Bass species get red eyes as they’re preparing to spawn. However, since both Largemouth and Spotted Bass can have red eyes, this is not the most reliable way of telling them apart.

      I hope you’ll find this helpful.

      Have a great day!

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  • Corey

    Jun 8, 2020

    Thanks for sharing! I was just out today and caught several bass, but wasn’t quite sure how to tell what specific species I’d hooked. When you mentioned the jumping, that’s when I knew it was definitely largemouth I was hooking because they all did this. Do Spotted also have the red eyes, as my fish did not.

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      Albert

      Jun 9, 2020

      Hi Corey,

      Thanks for getting in touch. I’m glad you found the article helpful!

      Spotted Bass don’t always have red eyes, but they can. Because of this, it’s best to focus on the reliable differences like their jaw and dorsal fin.

      Tight lines!

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  • Drury Bagwell

    May 23, 2020

    Hey Sean, just wanted to say thanks for helping me understand, that I didn’t know what heck I’ve been catching! But now I do and will always have your article as back up, if I ever have trouble, figuring which bass I’ve landed!!
    Not to mention now, I’m even more excited to hit the waters, to start identify the right Bass!!
    Tight lines at work!!
    Thanks again!
    Thanks again!

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      Sean

      May 25, 2020

      Hey Drury,

      Thanks for reading!

      That’s awesome, I’m glad to hear that the article was useful.

      Tight lines!

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  • Bill G.

    Apr 4, 2020

    It appears all the pics above are spotted. Dorsal fin connected. Is that a good ‘go/no-go’ on determining spotted and largemouth?

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      Sean

      Apr 6, 2020

      Hi Bill,

      You’re absolutely right, thanks for pointing that out.

      We’ve corrected the first picture in the article now, so that the distinction is more clear.

      Thanks again, and have a great day!

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  • Charles Knapp

    Nov 6, 2019

    I recently caught a 3 pound 4 oz spotted bass at Lake Ozarks, MO. They are beautiful fish and fun to catch in the fall period! I never used to pay much attention but from now on I’ll check and see if it might be a spot or a largemouth. Thanks!!

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      Sean

      Nov 7, 2019

      Hi Charles,

      Nice catch, and thanks for sharing!

      Yes, the difference between Spotted and Largemouth Bass can be tricky to spot sometimes. I’m glad we made the job a little easier now.

      Hope you catch a bunch of them this fall.

      Tight lines!

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  • Paul A Hale

    Aug 17, 2019

    Thanks for the rundown on Spotted Bass & Largemouth. I have both in my 8 different ponds here in Texas. Sometimes I can’t tell them apart. This article will help very much.

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      Sean

      Aug 19, 2019

      Hi Paul,

      Thanks for reading! I’m glad to hear that you find the article useful.

      Tight lines!

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