When you talk about bass fishing, almost everybody jumps straight to the largemouth bass.
There’s a good reason for that. Largemouth bass fight hard, hit often, and are found in pretty much every lake or pond in the US.
With that being said, the fishing community gets caught up in the popularity of largemouth sometimes. There are plenty of other bass species out there that provide exciting experiences, and an angler who loves to catch fish isn’t going to fixate on one species when there is so much more to experience.
One of the top alternative targets is the spotted bass.
These aren’t everywhere, but they are common, and if you haven’t targeted spotted bass before, we have the perfect guide for you.
We’re going to go over their physical traits, behavioral traits, where they are, and how to catch them in one big guide.
Let’s get to it.
What is a Spotted Bass?
Spotted bass are some of the smaller bass species available,and they’re not as common as largemouth bass. They’re not rare. Spotted bass are available in roughly 1/3 of the country, and many anglers mistake them for largemouth. Of course, those anglers are usually casual anglers who aren’t overly serious about bass fishing.
Spotted bass are part of the black bass family, and they’re technically sunfish, just like every other bass.
However, they certainly don’t fight like the pumpkin seed and bluegill that you see as sunfish. They fight just like largemouth, but they’re physically smaller, and you won’t get the massive blow-up that largemouth are known for.
You can tell a spotted bass from other bass species by its green coloring spotted pattern.
Even when they’re smaller, they have a spot pattern that’s undeniable. Their jaws are also on par with normal smallmouth jaws, which are, on average, with all bass species, and their other features are reminiscent of all other bass species in the black bass family (America’s game fish).
The spotted pattern isn’t immediately noticeable. Spotted bass still have a vertical line. However, spotted bass have spots reaching up from their body to their lateral line, and they’re overall covered in a lot more spots than a largemouth with the occasional blemish.
Also, the jaw is socketed right beneath the eye. With a largemouth, the jaw extends behind the eye. This is likely the best way to tell with younger fish or if you’re a little cautious about identifying bass in general.
Where Do You Catch Spotted Bass?
Spotted bass aren’t rare, but they are mostly caught in one section of the country.
Predominantly, you’ll find spotted bass around the Mississippi area and surrounding regions. It’s a Midwest fish for the most part.
The best lakes to catch them in are in Mississippi, but there are lakes around the US that stock them regularly. If you live on the coasts, check a fishing companion app such as BassForecast fishing app to see if there are spotted bass in your area.
How to Target Spotted Bass
Targeting spotted bass is a lot like targeting largemouth. So, if you have already been targeting largemouth, you have a good understanding of how to target their smaller cousins. There are only a few differences.
1: Know Your Target and Location
First and foremost, you need to know what fish are in the water you’re fishing in. If you're in the central southern region of the US, then you might catch some spotted bass. As such, you need to know how the spotted bass are going to behave.
We’ll go more into spotted bass behavior later, but knowing there’s a possibility of catching one is crucial. Even if it’s a secondary target, you want to know how to go after a fish and where it is to get it on the end of the line.
2: Use Smaller Baits
Spotted bass can get fairly large, but they’re still smaller than largemouth. You don’t need to use the smallest baits available, but you do need to use smaller baits than you would while targeting the biggest largemouth possible.
Spotted bass, even the larger ones, tend to target smaller fish than largemouth bass. Their jaws simply aren’t as large.
A good tactic to use while targeting smallmouth bass is to downsize your lures by a ¼ of an ounce.
That’s not a lot, but it’s enough to ensure that the lure is small enough to entice both largemouth and spotted bass without having hooks that are simply too much for spotted bass to eat.
Remember, a big part of bass fishing is matching the food that the bass fish naturally eat.
Spotted bass eat smaller fish than massive largemouth.
3: Fish the Bottom
Largemouth are found all over the lake. They’re the apex predators of all inland American waters, and they don’t care about getting into position other than when the weather changes. Spotted bass do care.
They tend to hand out in the bottom of the water column in case they can pick up an easy craw or worm, and that’s where you’re going to catch them.
As such, the best place to target spotted bass is to fish sinking lures like jigs a few feet off the bottom. That’s where spotted bass tend to suspend, looking for prey they can attack from above. It’s your job to present your lure as that prey within the water column.
4: Prepare for a Deep Fight
When you hook a largemouth, it rushes to the surface and explodes. This is why largemouth are known for the explosive gill flair that makes them look like the apex predator they are. However, a spotted bass takes a different approach. First and foremost, a spotted bass won’t rush to the top or try to flair its gills.
Instead, it will dive to the bottom and try to fight against you with pure strength.
That makes a unique fight possible. You’re not trying to fight against errant splashes and crazy attempts to spit the lure. You’re trying to fight the raw strength of the bass while it dives lower.
This translates to your rod movement, too.
You can tell when a spotted bass bites your lure because it will jerk downward and try to run to the bottom. The exact opposite of a largemouth bass.
This does two things.
First, it makes you challenge what you know about bass fishing.
Second, it makes you learn how to pull a fish up from lower in the water column rather than just yanking it across the top. If you try to fight a spotted bass the same way you fight a largemouth, you’ll break your line. It’s an entirely different fight.
5: Go In With a Plan
If you’re in an area that can possibly hold spotted bass, then you need to have a plan to deal with spotted bass specifically. You need to use different tactics, pull them in differently, and generally handle the fish in a different manner than usual.
Get to know how a spotted bass reacts to being hooked, and be prepared for that the entire time you’re fishing.
This is a lot like ultralight fishing. If you forget there are bass in the water, you can burn out your smaller reel, trying to target bluegill and catching bass. The same concept applies. You should be prepared to switch up your strategy according to what ends up on your line.
Does the Difference Between Spotted and Largemouth Bass Matter?
If you’re a casual fisherman, you probably wonder if this even matters. Well, it does to a certain extent.
If you’re just a weekend warrior who wants a good fight, a pretty fish picture, and a sense of accomplishment, then no. Other than knowing what you caught, it really doesn’t matter. Big spotted bass are just as fun to catch as mid-sized largemouth, and you’ll love the experience.
However, if you love bass fishing and want to target specific fish to get the best catch possible, then telling the difference is crucial.
Here are a few reasons why.
This is huge for many bass anglers. When you catch a big fish, you must know exactly what species it Is to ensure you’re checking the right records. After all, a 14-pound spotted bass is very different compared to a 14-pound largemouth.
If you’re pursuing records, understanding the difference is key to prevent wasting your own time and excitement and to prevent wasting the time of the various authorities in charge of verifying the catch.
2: Knowing What You Catch
Again, understanding exactly what you catch isn’t 100% important if you’re just out to have fun every once in a while. It’s really only important to know the exact difference between bass if you care,A serious angler wants to know what they’re catching, how big it is, and whether or not it beats their personal best record.
If you can’t tell from the spots and distinct visual appearance of spotted bass, you can’t really tell whether your new personal best is a high-weight spotty or a mid-sized largemouth you’ve caught larger versions of.
3: Adapting Your Strategy
Finally, every fish demands that you use a certain strategy to catch them. Spotted bass are no different.
The strategies you use for largemouth and smallmouth bass are wildly different than what you use for spotted bass. Namely, you'll want to use bottom-dwelling baits instead of mid-to-top column baits that buzz right over the head of the fish in most situations.
The Fight: What to Experience from Spotted Bass
The main difference between spotted bass and other bass species is that they dive straight downward when hooked. However, there are other differences that need to be talked about.
First and foremost, you need one of three different lures to target spotted bass specifically.
You can use topwater lures, walking plugs, and “prop baits”. In general, they tend to bite on baits that sit there a bit longer and draw their attention over time. They’re not as aggressive and predatory as largemouth despite being top predators in their own right.
So, many of the faster-paced lures you use for largemouth won’t do much for spotted bass.
Of course, many largemouth anglers accidentally catch spotted bass anyway. So, there’s always a chance that one will lock onto a faster bait.
In general, spotted bass don’t tend to find as hard as largemouth.They’re still hard-fighting fish, but their smaller average size makes them less of a problem than monster largemouth that constantly makes you worry about snapping your line. Some 12-pound mono, and you will almost certainly keep any spotty on the line without an issue.
Finding Spotted Bass
As we said, spotted bass aren’t all over the country. They’ve been exported to various areas around the globe, but they are naturally found in Mississippi and neighboring states. Of course, you can only find them in freshwater ponds. So, the Mississippi tributaries aren’t going to be good spots.
They also tend to hide around cover and drop-offs in lakes to sneak up on bait fish and take them out without warning. So, that’s where you should use your spotty-friendly lures if you really want to target them.
Of course, if you’re unsure of where to go to catch spotted bass, or maybe you don’t live in the central south and want to find some imported spotties, you can just use the BassForecast fishing app.
The BassForecast app provides all the information you need to fish for bass efficiently.
Namely, you’ll be able to check the weather conditions at any American body of water, including the coasts, for temperature, atmospheric pressure, moon phase, and more. Every bit of fishing-related data is covered.
However, you also get an in-depth breakdown of what you can catch at any specific spot. So, you’ll be able to see if spotted bass are naturally in the lake you’re close enough to fish at or if you need to go somewhere nearby where they’ve been imported.