Smallmouth bass tend to be more aggressive than largemouth bass. They’re more willing to roam and hunt in open water, fight until the very end, and don’t shy away from any predators they see. Smallmouth’s lack of fear makes them one of the best freshwater fish to catch.
If I’m after a fight, bass are one of my top freshwater fish to target. They strike hard and refuse to give up until I’ve put them in the net. These ambush predators are calculated and make all the frustration of fishing worth the effort. A challenging question, however, is which is more aggressive: largemouth or smallmouth.
Largemouth Bass vs. Smallmouth Bass
While largemouth and smallmouth are part of the same family, they operate differently. Growing up in Minnesota, I had Lake Mille Lacs as my smallmouth fishery, so I witnessed incredible fights with all sizes of smallmouth. Largemouth are almost everywhere, so I didn’t have to travel far to experience their ambush abilities.
On average, largemouth bass are around 16 inches long but can grow to over 20 inches and weigh four or five pounds. Most freshwater fisheries in the United States have a population of largemouth.
Largemouth bass don’t always live in the best conditions. Often, the water can be muddy or warm, so they have to hunt in different ways. Largemouth don’t have the luxury of swimming around the lake for food.
Largemouths sit hidden near cover and structure, waiting for something to swim by. As soon as they see their prey, they’ll leave their hiding place, swallow their food, and return to their protected areas. Largemouth are not eager to be exposed in open water for too long.
They are true ambush predators. Largemouth know smaller fish, crustaceans, amphibians, and even small mammals will stay near cover and structure, so they use that to their advantage.
As long as they can find a good hiding place, they’ll sit there waiting for the perfect time to strike. Whether it’s weeds, rock piles, or submerged logs, largemouths need a place to hide to ensure they get food.
Their ambush style of hunting is what makes them so fun to target. Whenever I can flip jigs into structure or pull spinner baits along a weed line, I do it. The anticipation of a bass smashing my bait keeps me returning for more.
The strikes from largemouth are exceptional. One second, you’re reeling; the next, your rod is doubled over and almost pulled out of your hands. Largemouth bass often head for cover and structure when they realize they’re hooked.
If they can’t get to cover, the bass will turn towards the surface. When your line rises in the water column, you can assume a jump is about to happen. These acrobatic leaps are part of what makes catching largemouth bass so fun. They’ll leap three feet into the air, shake their bodies, and do everything they can to throw your lure.
If you can withstand these initial runs, you can tire out a largemouth reasonably quickly and get them into your net. The initial fight is phenomenal, but I’ve found that they don’t always fight until the very end.
Smallmouth bass grow to 15-20 inches on average. They like to live in clear, deep, cool water with rocky bottoms and consistent water flow to keep things oxygenated.
While they’re not as popular as their largemouth cousins, smallmouth bass have large populations in the Midwest and parts of the Eastern, Western, and Southern U.S states.
Since smallmouth bass often live in more clear water, their hunting methods differ from largemouths. Smallmouths have the luxury of seeing a baitfish or crustacean that’s 5-10 feet away. As a result, they’re more willing to swim in open water and cruise around for their prey.
Usually, they’re holding in a rockpile, point, or channel break in hopes of seeing into the open water and grabbing their prey. If you make a cast and your bait is 20 feet away, smallmouth have no issue with going to hunt it.
Smallmouths know they’re a top predator in freshwater lakes, rivers, and streams, so they have little fear of venturing too far away from protection. I love going after smallmouth. I know that it doesn’t matter what size of fish I catch; they are going to put me to the test.
I’ve yet to see a smallmouth bass that hasn’t given me a fight until the net. Like largemouth, smallies are acrobatic fish that do everything they can to throw your hook. They will not give up, whether diving into rocks or structure or leaping out of the water.
Some of the most unconventional fights I have ever had have come from smallmouth bass. They’re similar to salmon because they make you think you’ve landed them, and then they suddenly go on a huge run.
Be prepared to keep consistent tension on these fish because if they have an inch of slack, they’ll take advantage of it and throw your lure.
How To Catch Aggressive Largemouth
Stick near structure and cover. Aggressive largemouth bass aren’t going to abandon all their habits and cruise through open water. They’ll stick with their knowledge but be more willing to eat larger baits moving faster.
Don’t be afraid to up the retrieval speed for more aggressive strikes.
How To Catch Aggressive Smallmouth
If you have the luxury of fishing for aggressive smallmouth bass, ensure you have lures that can cover quite a bit of water. Since smallmouth bass are willing to chase after your lure, you can throw it near a point, channel, or rockpile and begin a quick retrieve.
You’ll find that aggressive fish won’t hesitate to put up a chase. Be prepared because as soon as your lure looks like fleeing prey, smallmouths will strike. I usually make three or four hard reels and anticipate a strike.
Smallmouths are a calculated fish, but their eagerness to eat everything that moves away from them can work to your advantage.
Factors That Determine Aggression
Largemouth and smallmouth bass aren’t always aggressive. Their tendencies may change depending on the time of year and their conditions. Understanding how bass behave in different seasons will help you land more fish.
If there are plentiful food sources like smaller fish, crustaceans, leeches, amphibians, and even smaller mammals, bass don’t need to be as aggressive.
Bass know they’ll be able to find whatever they need, so they’ll follow their hunting tendencies, but they won’t go far out of their way to feed.
If the water is cold (35-50 degrees) and dirty, bass are going to hold close to structure and do whatever they can to exert as little energy as possible. They’ll wait for easy meals.
If the water is warmer (50-70 degrees) and clear, bass will be most aggressive. They feel comfortable enough to exert energy, and the ability to see prey from further distances will cause them to hunt harder.
Time of Day
In the mornings and evenings, bass are at their most aggressive. Temperatures are cooler, light is lower, and prey are more active. They can use cool temperatures and low light to their advantage while hunting.
One of the final factors determining their aggression is the presence of other bass in the area. Big bass are going to be territorial and scare away other bass. Depending on the size, some larger bass may even eat the smaller bass.
Largemouth and smallmouth are very particular with what can be close to, so if they feel threatened, their aggression levels heighten.
Largemouth and smallmouth bass are always exciting to target. Whenever I return home to the Midwest in the warmer months, they’re the first thing I want to catch.
While I love how willing both fish are to hit baits and fight hard, smallmouth bass are on a different level. They’re a beast of a fish and a joy to land.