Spotted Bass vs Largemouth: 9 Key Differences Explained

Written by Patrick Sather
Published: September 10, 2021


Can you spot the differences between a spotted bass vs largemouth? Prized for their size, taste, and tendency to put up a fight, spotted and largemouth bass hold a special place in fishing culture. Native to the eastern and central United States, these carnivorous freshwater fish belong to the genus Micropterus, or black bass, in the sunfish family. Due to several similarities in their appearance, they often get confused for one another. However, regulations governing catching these fish differ from state to state, so serious anglers need to know how to tell them apart. This article will compare these popular game fish and discuss nine key differences that distinguish them from each other.

Comparing Spotted Bass and Largemouth Bass

Spotted Largemouth
SizeNo more than 25 inches long
Up to 11 pounds
Up to 29.5 inches long
Official record of 22 pounds, 4 ounces
Lifespan6 to 7 years10 to 16 years
DietSmall fish, crayfish, and aquatic insectsShrimp, insects, water fleas, worms, snails, crawfish, frogs, snakes, salamanders, bats, and small birds, mammals, turtles, alligators, and juvenile larger fish
HabitatWarmer, fast-moving waterClear, slow-moving water
JawlineStops at eyeExtends past eye
ScalesSmaller cheek scalesLarger cheek scales
Dorsal FinConnectedSeparated
ColorationDark green/brown 
Prominent spots on lower sides in thin, dark lines
Olive greenLight, less noticeable spots on lower sides
Lateral LineDarkLight

The 9 Key Differences Between Spotted Bass and Largemouth Bass

Spotted vs Largemouth: Size

Anglers prize both spotted and largemouth bass as gamefish due to their large size and tendency to put up a fight. However, upon comparing the two fish side-by-side, it’s easy to see that the largemouth is significantly larger. The average spotted bass can grow up to 25 inches long and weigh up to 11 pounds. Meanwhile, the biggest largemouth bass can reach lengths up to 29.5 inches and weigh up to 22 pounds, 4 ounces. The longest, heaviest fish tend to be breeding females, which anglers usually catch and release to maintain the local population. 

Spotted vs Largemouth: Lifespan

While spotted and largemouth bass appear similar, they differ radically in terms of their lifespan. The maximum age of most spotted bass is 6 years in the wild. While some can live up to 7 years, it’s rare for a specimen to live longer. Meanwhile, largemouth bass frequently live between 10-16 years in the wild.  

Spotted vs Largemouth: Diet

As juveniles, spotted bass and largemouths eat fairly similar diets. However, as they grow, their diets begin to vary, notably the diet of the largemouth bass. Spotted bass primarily subsist on insects and crayfish as juveniles and more small fish as adults. Like spotted bass, largemouths’ diet consists of insects, shrimp, worms, crawfish, and water fleas before their maturity. Upon reaching adulthood, their tastes expand exponentially. As apex predators, they will consume almost anything they can catch, including frogs, snakes, salamanders, bats, and small mammals. In addition, they will also eat juvenile turtles, alligators, and younger members of larger fish species. 

Spotted vs Largemouth: Habitat

Experienced anglers know that spotted and largemouth bass prefer different habitats. While both range throughout the central and eastern United States, they tend to congregate in separate bodies of water. For example, you can generally find spotted bass in fast-moving rivers or streams with rocky bottoms. On the other hand, largemouth bass prefer slower-moving, clearer water. In addition, spotted bass tolerate warm water better than largemouths. 

Spotted vs Largemouth: Jawline

Another critical difference between spotted bass vs largemouth bass is in the size of their jawlines. While they both feature the distinctive bass mouth, the largemouth bass’s jawline is more prominent. It’s easy to see that the jawline on a spotted bass ends right in line with its eye. Meanwhile, the jawline on a largemouth bass extends past its eye. This feature is how it got its name “largemouth.”

Spotted vs Largemouth: Scales

In addition to differences in the sizes of their bodies and mouths, the scales on spotted and largemouth bass also differ. Typically, the scales on the cheeks of spotted bass range in size depending on their position. Scales on the upper cheeks are more prominent, while the scales on the lower cheeks are smaller. The scales on the cheeks of largemouth bass do not exhibit this same degree of change between upper and lower cheeks. Furthermore, as a whole, the scales on the cheeks of largemouth bass measure larger than those on spotted bass. 

Spotted vs Largemouth: Dorsal Fin

Unless you know where to look, you’re not likely to notice this slight difference between spotted and largemouth bass. Both species contain spiny and soft dorsal fins, and when laying flat, they appear identical. However, if you raise the fins, the similarities begin to fade. In spotted bass, a membrane connects the two fins. Meanwhile, no such membrane exists, so the two fins stand almost wholly separate from each other. 

Spotted vs Largemouth: Coloration

The coloration on spotted and largemouth bass is very similar. That said, a few slight color and pattern variations exist that allow a trained eye to differentiate the two easily. Spotted bass generally appear brownish-green, while largemouth bass look olive-green. In addition, small dark spots run in thin, dark lines along the lower sides of spotted bass. These dark spots are where it gets its name. While the spots also exist on largemouth bass, they are not as dark, nor do they connect into form lines.

Spotted vs Largemouth: Lateral Line

The final difference between spotted bass vs largemouth is difficult to see, even for a trained eye. The lateral line is a sensory organ that allows fish to detect water motion and pressure gradients. In a spotted bass, the area between the lateral line and its dark horizontal band contains dark-edged, prominent scales. On the other hand, the scales in the same location on largemouth bass look less pronounced, giving them a smooth appearance.

Frequently Asked Questions on the Differences Between Spotted Bass and Largemouth Bass

Are spotted and largemouth bass endangered?

At this time, the IUCN lists both the spotted and largemouth bass as species of Least Concern. Many anglers will catch and release bass to maintain large sport fishing populations. In addition, anglers introduced the fish to Southern Africa, where people now consider them an invasive species. 

When do spotted and largemouth bass breed?

Generally, most bass spawn their eggs in the spring. Males create nests at the bottom of streams and rivers using their tails. Females then lay eggs in the nests, which the males fertilize. Males will guard the nest until the eggs hatch, and the infant bass can swim out on their own, which can take several weeks.