smallmouth vs largemouth bass

Largemouth vs Smallmouth Bass: What are the differences between the two fish?

Some people get confused on the difference between a largemouth bass and a smallmouth bass. There are slight differences but once you know how to identify each one, you’ll be able to recognize them easily.

By the end of this guide, you should be able to tell the difference between a largemouth bass and smallmouth bass.

We have a 3 acre lake on our property and do a lot of fishing. We pull in bluegill, crappie and bass. Sometimes it’s hard to tell the difference between a small and largemouth bass. In this guide, we’ll take a look at the two fish.

Smallmouth vs Largemouth

The appearance of the two bass species is one of the main traits that separate these two fish apart.

Largemouth bass are olive green in color with a dark horizontal stripe along their sides and a jaw that extends beyond the back of the eye, while Smallmouth bass are olive brown with vertical dark bars on their sides and a jaw that doesn’t extend past the back of the eye.

largemouth bass
Photo of largemouth bass with an olive green color and dark horizontal band

Both species are freshwater game fish that are found in the majority of the United States but there are differences in their habitat that they thrive in.

Largemouth like to stick to the calm waters and hide near cover in lakes, ponds or creeks. They are still and wait for their prey to come to them. When they see their prey, they strike it quick and aggressive. That’s the reason why I love fishing for them.

Smallmouth are typically found in areas where there is moving water such as a clear stream with a slight current. They are aggressive and will chase down their prey.

smallmouth vs largemouth bass
Side by side comparison of Largemouth vs Smallmouth bass

View the large printable version of the side by side comparison

Smallmouth Bass Attributes

  • Somewhat of a large mouth
  • Olive brown color, sometimes bronze
  • Jaw doesn’t extend past eye
  • Faint vertical bars along the body
  • Aggressive and likes streams and creeks
  • Less than 7 lbs
smallmouth bass photo
Smallmouth bass photo from Kentucky Fish & Wildlife, Matthew Thomas

Largemouth Bass Attributes

  • Large mouth
  • Jaw typically extends past the eye
  • Long dark horizontal bar along the body
  • Likes to stay near brush in lakes and ponds
  • Can get to 22 lbs
largemouth bass caught in lake
Photo of largemouth bass with dark horizontal band


Both largemouth and smallmouth bass are fun to catch. As long as you are out on the water, no matter what you target, you should have a good time fishing. Me and the boys love getting some worms wet and casting a lure into the water not matter if we’re catching something or not.

Hopefully the guide above has helped answer your question on the differences between large and smallmouth bass.

Good luck fishing!


  • Hey folks! I'm Trey Copeland, founder of Made To Hunt. I'm from Kentucky and love the outdoors. I've been hunting or fishing in many states including KY, MO, MS, AR, TN and FL as well as Mexico and Costa Rica. For more updates follow me on Twitter.

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