Largemouth bass and peacock bass are different species. While they have similar mouth shapes, largemouth belong to the centrarchid family, and peacock bass belong to the cichlid family. Both share aggressive tendencies and use ambush strategies when hunting. Peacocks and largemouths sit atop the freshwater food chain.
Catching my first peacock bass on a fly rod changed my fishing life. I’d spent years catching smallies, largies, walleye, and trout. That first peacock bass introduced me to a new world of power and aggression.
The biggest difference between peacock bass and largemouth is their appearance. Their bodies and color patterns distinguish them from other fish in the water.
Peacock bass have bright, beautiful colors spread across their body. The primary color is green. It’s a brighter shade than on largemouth bass. Pair the green with bright orange bellies and black spots, and you have a traditional peacock bass.
Different subspecies of peacock bass have different color patterns. The green, orange, and black makeup is what most anglers find.
Peacock bass have a football-shaped body with a flat back and round belly. The back of a peacock bass comes to a point right behind the head, which slopes down to their mouths. This point is what sets them apart from most other freshwater fish.
Where many fish have a small point at the top of their backs, peacock bass have a protruding forehead.
Peacock bass have a large mouth and a jaw with a bottom lip that sits further out than the top lip. Their mouths aren’t as giant as largemouths’ but are big enough to swallow most of their prey whole.
Depending on where you’re targeting peacock bass, they can grow over 25 pounds. In the United States, an average peacock bass is 4 to 5 pounds.
Largemouth bass have green and yellow bodies with white bellies. Their football-shaped body has led to nicknames, like “butterballs”. Largemouths’ bodies look similar to rock bass and smallmouth bass. Their most unique feature is their massive mouths.
A largemouth’s mouth extends behind its eyes and its bottom lip sticks out past the upper lip.
Largemouth bass and peacock bass share similar diets. Both are carnivorous and enjoy feasting on things like smaller fish, crustaceans, amphibians, and large insects.
Since largemouth bass have larger mouths, they can swallow prey whole. Largemouth bass eat fish half their body length. If it looks like an appetizing and easy meal, largemouth bass pounce on the opportunity to eat.
Peacock bass prioritize smaller fish and crustaceans. Their mouths don’t extend as far as largemouths, so they must be strategic about what they eat. It may mean a few smaller meals rather than one larger meal like largemouth can eat.
Neither fish wastes a meal. Both have massive diets and feast during prime feeding hours. No prey is safe when these fish are hungry.
You’ll struggle to find freshwater fish that are better hunters than largemouth and peacock bass. They have similar styles, and it’s the perfect combination of calculated and aggressive behavior. No freshwater prey is safe around peacocks and largemouths.
Largemouths and peacocks sit and wait for their food. Unlike smallmouths, they do not cruise the open water for an easy meal. Both fish wait under fallen logs, weed lines, or other protected areas for food.
If a small fish swims by, they’ll dart out of their hiding place, swallow the fish, and return to hiding. Neither fish risks their prey escaping, so they strike with enough aggression to ensure nothing is escaping their jaws.
Both fish are similar to saltwater fish in their hunting habits. They hunt like every meal could be their last.
Largemouths and peacocks feed during the mornings and evenings. Largemouth bass feed in the dark and stay active overnight. Peacock bass, however, mostly feed during the day. They don’t hunt much at night and wait until morning to begin feeding again.
Largemouth bass and peacock bass vary in their native ranges. Largemouth bass can adapt to different water conditions. Peacock bass have specific conditions they need in order to survive. Largemouth can survive where peacock bass live, but peacock bass die if brought into all the places largemouths live.
Largemouth’s native range extends from the Great Lakes Region into Mexico. The Mississippi River basin has plenty of largemouth bass. Local game and fish departments have introduced largemouth bass into bodies of water all around the United States.
Nearly every state has a population of largemouth bass. They can adapt to cold and warm temperatures, but if the water gets above 80 degrees, largemouth slow down and can die.
South America has native peacock bass. The warm temperatures of the rivers and lakes provide the perfect conditions for peacock bass to thrive. In the 1980s, peacock bass found themselves in the waters of Southern Florida.
Speckled peacocks struggled to establish themselves, but butterfly peacock bass continue to grow and thrive in the waters of South Florida.
They are also found in other parts of the United States, like Texas and Louisiana. Biologists closely monitor the peacock bass population in these states to ensure it’s thriving in the local canals, lakes, and rivers.
Peacock and largemouth bass have different habitats where they thrive. Since largemouth can adapt better than peacock bass, they have a few different habitats that work for them.
Largemouth bass enjoy warm, clean water with plenty of structure and cover. Weeds, rock piles, and woody areas allow largemouth bass to use their ambush skills when hunting.
Largemouths can also live in cold waters. Growing up in the North, we’d catch largemouth bass through the ice all winter. Largemouths slow down to conserve energy in the winter but don’t die because of the cold temperatures.
Largemouths even survive in brackish water. As long as the salinity levels sit low enough, largemouth bass live in a mix of salt and freshwater. Their bodies tell them when to move towards freshwater areas if saltwater dehydrates them.
Largemouths need to feel protected. If they’re too exposed to open water, they will not thrive. Regardless of how easy food is to find and capture, they prefer using their ambush skills.
If water temperatures fall below 60 degrees, peacock bass cannot survive. Generally, they like clear water around 80 degrees with plenty of areas to hide. Like largemouths, peacock bass have strong ambush skills. They want to use cover and structure to their advantage.
They’ll sit in rock piles, under trees, and on the edges of weed lines, waiting for the perfect opportunity to make their move.
Largemouth and peacock bass respond well to crankbaits, Whopper Ploppers, spinners, jigs, and top water baits. I don’t switch up my methods for either fish. I rely on finding their holding areas and letting my bait do the work.
I can count on more aggressive strikes from peacock bass. I tend to retrieve faster and create more movement to entice the fish. If I see a fallen tree up shallow near a drop-off, I assume a fish is there.
I’ll cast up next to the log, let my bait sit for a few seconds, and begin the retrieve.
That first spin of my reel is when I get most of my strikes. Peacock bass can’t stand to see a large meal escape.
I’ll start the full retrieve if I don’t get the bass to strike on that first reel. The bass tend to like quick reels followed by a couple of slower reels and some movement of my rod tip.
Again, finding areas of cover and structure near shallow water is where I like to spend most of my time. Peacock bass follow the bait. When they’re ready to feed, it’s some of the most fun fishing I do.
They hit my lures like a bus and refused to give up the fight. They’ll dive toward trees, jump, and give me as many headshakes as possible.
Peacock bass put up a challenging fight, but I’ve learned that patience and taking advantage of the still moments gives me the most success landing them.
Like I fish peacock bass, I look for cover and structure near drop-offs and shallow areas. Weed lines are always a good target. I’ll cast my spinner or crankbait along the edge of a weed line and wait for a bass to dart out from its hiding place to take it.
Largemouths don’t strike and fight like peacock bass. Yes, they’re aggressive and strong, but they can’t keep up with peacocks. They’ll jump and dive toward cover, but I’ve found they give up more easily than peacocks.
Largemouths know when to give up. The fight’s final 10-15 feet is relatively easy.
As long as the largemouth has the hook secured, you can use the power of your rod and reel to make quick work of the bass. Don’t be aggressive with your retrieve, but don’t waste time babying them either.
Largemouth bass and peacock bass provide top-of-the-line freshwater fishing experiences. Their craftiness and aggression give anglers a run for their money every time they hook into one.
Largemouth bass make it more exciting, but they don’t have the same power as peacocks. If you haven’t done so yet, do yourself a favor and fish for peacock bass. That first one you land ignites a whole new passion for freshwater fishing.