Bass and catfish share many of the same waters. For this reason many people wonder about their differences. Let’s answer, what is the difference between bass and catfish?
Bass and catfish are different families and species of fish. Catfish grows larger and weighs more. Freshwater bass provides more minerals, protein and omega-3 fatty acids than catfish while catfish provides more B vitamins. Freshwater bass contains more mercury than catfish.
This article will compare their tastes, textures, cooking methods, costs, mercury levels and whether one can substitute for the other in recipes. In addition, I’ll do a side-by-side comparison of their habitats, size, weight and discuss their nutritional benefits.
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Bass vs Catfish: Habitats, Size, Weight, Appearance?
When comparing both fish, the species of each has to be determined to make an accurate comparison. Catfish are a diverse group of ray-finned fish from different habitats and many different species. The most common catfish in North America is the channel catfish.
Bass, like catfish, is a name shared with many different species. There are sea bass and freshwater bass. More common freshwater bass which can be found near channel catfish are largemouth, smallmouth and spotted bass.
This article will mainly focus on the channel catfish, smallmouth, largemouth and spotted bass. How can you tell bass from catfish?
The easiest way to tell bass from catfish is by their body shape, scales and mouth. The catfish’s body is wider and flattened compared to the rounder bass. A catfish’s mouth is wider than bass and is surrounded by whisker like barbells which bass don’t have. Bass have scales and catfish don’t have scales, just soft skin.
Scientific Classifications, Families, Species
Spotted bass are from:
- Family: Centrarchidae
- Genus: Micropterus
- Species: M. punctulatus
- Common nicknames: Spotty, spots.
Smallmouth bass are from:
- Family: Centrarchidae
- Genus: Micropterus
- Species: M. dolomieu
- Common nicknames: Brown bass, brownie, small, bronze bass and bronze back.
Largemouth bass are from:
- Family: Centrarchidae
- Genus: Micropterus
- Species: M. salmoides
- Common nicknames: Green bass, bigmouth bass, largies, bucketmouth.
Channel catfish are from:
- Family: Ictaluridae
- Genus: Ictalurus
- Species: I. punctatus
- Common nicknames: Channel cats, cats.
- Spotted bass are native to the Mississippi River and across the Gulf states from Texas to Florida. In addition, they are found in the western Mid-Atlantic states. They have been introduced to Virginia, North Carolina and southern Africa.
- Spotted bass prefer warmer waters with strong currents and turbulence.
- Spotted bass prefer clear, open waters.
- Commonly found in reservoirs and streams.
- Smallmouth bass is native to the upper and middle Mississippi River Basin, the Great Lakes, Saint Lawrence River and the Hudson Bay Basin in Canada. They have been introduced into many cool-water rivers and lakes in the United States and Canada.
- Smallmouth prefer colder waters.
- Largemouth bass are native to the eastern and central United States, southeastern Canada and northern Mexico. They have been introduced into many other areas as well.
- Largemouth bass prefer warmer waters.
- Channel catfish are native to lower Canada, eastern and northern United States and parts of northern Mexico.
- They’re found in rivers, reservoirs, lakes and ponds.
- Spotted bass have a greenish gray body. They have dark, black spots forming a jagged horizontal line down the body.
- Smallmouth have a golden olive to brownish body. They have brown vertical bars or thick stripes down the body. The head has dark brown horizontal bars.
- Largemouth have a greenish gray body. They have dark, black blotches forming jagged horizontal lines down the body.
- Channel catfish have a darkened, grayish upper body with a light, silvery, white belly.
In open waters the smallmouth bass have a lighter color compared to a darker color when found in darker rivers.
- Spotted bass has two dorsal fins clearly connected to each other.
- Smallmouth have two dorsal fins separated by a shallow notch. The front dorsal is shorter with spine rays. The second dorsal is taller with soft rays.
- Largemouth bass have two dorsal fins with no separation. The front dorsal is shorter with spine rays. The 2nd is taller with soft rays.
- Catfish have one dorsal fin.
- The spotted bass jaw does not extend past the eye line.
- The smallmouth bass protruding jaw doesn’t extend past the red or brown eyes.
- The largemouth bass upper jaw extends past the eye socket.
- Catfish have a wide mouth, and the jaws meet before the eye line. Their mouths have four pairs of barbells or whiskers around the mouth.
- The scales on the spotted bass head are smaller than the ones on the remaining part of the body.
- The scales on a smallmouth bass are uniform across the body and head.
- The scales on a largemouth bass are uniform across the body and head.
- Catfish have soft skin with no scales.
- The spotted bass tongue has a course rectangular tooth patch at the center.
- The smallmouth bass can have a round patch of teeth on the tongue.
- The largemouth bass has a smooth tongue.
- Catfish have no tongue.
Size and Weight
- A spotted bass can grow up to 25 inches long and weigh up to 11 pounds. The average spotted bass is 8-15″ long and weighs 1-2 pounds.
- Smallmouth bass average 12-16 inches long and weigh up to 10 pounds.
- Largemouth bass average 15 inches and grow up to 20 pounds.
- Channel catfish average 22 inches and 30 pounds but can grow up to 50 pounds.
- Spotted bass average lifespans is 7 years.
- Smallmouth bass oldest reported age is 26 years.
- Largemouth bass average lifespans is 10-16 years.
- Catfish average lifespan is 14-16 years.
Spotted bass consume the following:
- Other smaller fish
Smallmouth bass consume the following:
- Other small fish
Largemouth bass consume the following:
Channel catfish consume the following:
- Small birds
Bass and catfish are renowned for being a part of many diets like keto or heart healthy.
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Bass and Catfish: Tastes and Textures
One of the most important things people takes into consideration when choosing a fish is its taste. When comparing the two fish, does bass taste like catfish?
Bass and catfish taste mild to sweet. Wild catfish may taste a little fishier and more similar to largemouth bass. Bass and catfish have a firm texture. Catfish and largemouth bass are moisture than smallmouth and spotted bass.
- Spotted bass has a mild to sweet taste. Spotted bass is only slightly fishy but not overly strong. It’s much less fishier than a largemouth bass. The flesh is white and has a firm texture.
- Smallmouth bass has a mild to sweet taste. Smallmouth is only slightly fishy but not enough to turn people away who don’t prefer a fishy taste. The flesh is white and has a firm texture.
- Largemouth bass has a strong flavor and is a little fishy, more than smallmouth bass. Largemouth has white flesh which can be watery but is firm and meaty.
- Catfish has a mild to sweet taste. Its texture is moist, firm and doesn’t have much flakiness. Wild catfish may taste a little fishier than farmed.
Find out how trout compared to bass in my recent article, Trout vs Bass – What’s The Difference? Let’s Compare.
Bass and Catfish Substitutions
When preparing recipes for dinner it’s not always possible to locate the type of fish called for. If you have some bass, you may ask, can I substitute bass for catfish?
Bass and catfish can substitute for each other due to their similar textures and tastes. Bass and catfish have a firm texture and a mild to sweet taste. They both can be cooked using similar methods like grilling, baking, broiling and frying.
Smallmouth bass substitutes:
- Freshwater trout
- Lake herring
Spotted bass substitutes are:
- Freshwater trout
- Lake herring
Largemouth bass substitutes:
- Mahi mahi
- Black Sea bass
Catfish substitutes include the following:
- Striped bass
When substituting bass or catfish always stick to the following:
- Same size and weight.
- Stick with similar fillets, whole fillet or cross section.
- Stick with skinless or skin when the recipe calls for one.
- Texture is more important for certain cooking methods. Like using a firmer texture when grilling 1.
Check out all the differences between spotted and largemouth bass in my article, Spotted Bass vs Largemouth Bass: What’s The Difference?
How To Cook Smallmouth Bass
Smallmouth bass doesn’t have the same fishy flavor and smell that a largemouth contains. Smallmouth doesn’t have to be seasoned as much to cover up the fishiness.
Smallmouth can be pan fried, grilled, baked, sautéed and broiled.
Smallmouth flavor pairings:
- Olive oil
- Black pepper
How To Cook Largemouth Bass
Frying largemouth bass indoors can create a fishy smell which many people dislike. By adding many of the spices below can help lessen the fishy smell or taste. In addition, removing the skin and bloodline before cooking will help with the fishy taste.
Largemouth can be deep fried, baked, broiled, grilled and sautéed.
Largemouth flavor pairings:
- Olive oil
- Black pepper
How To Cook Spotted Bass
Spotted bass doesn’t have the same fishiness and smell that a largemouth contains. For this reason spotted bass doesn’t have to be seasoned as much to cover up the fishy smell and flavor.
Spotted bass can be grilled, broiled, pan fried, baked and sautéed.
Spotted bass flavor pairings:
- Black pepper
- Olive oil
How To Cook Catfish
Catfish can be baked, fried, deep fried, broiled, grilled, beer battered or sautéed.
Catfish flavor pairings:
- Tarter sauce
- Cajun seasoning
- Olive oil
- Cayenne pepper
- Smoked paprika
For a complete comparison between smallmouth and largemouth bass check out my article, Smallmouth Bass vs Largemouth Bass: What’s The Difference?
Bass and Catfish Nutrients
Bass and catfish provide a wide variety of nutrients, vitamins and minerals. Below is the nutrients contained in 4 ounces of freshwater bass and channel catfish.
|Nutrient||Freshwater Bass, raw (4 Ounces)||Channel Catfish, raw (4 Ounces)|
|Fat||4.2 g||3.2 g|
|Saturated Fat||0.9 g||0.8 g|
|Cholesterol||77 mg||66 mg|
|Protein||21 g||19 g|
|Sodium||79 mg||49 mg|
|Omega-3||0.77 g||0.53 g|
|B-6||0.1 mg||0.1 mg|
|B-12||2.2 mcg||2.5 mcg|
|Thiamin||0.08 mg||0.23 mg|
|Riboflavin||0.08 mg||0.08 mg|
|B5||0.8 mg||0.8 mg|
|Iron||1.6 mg||0.3 mg|
|Niacin||1.4 mg||2.1 mg|
|Folate||17.0 mcg||11.3 mcg|
|Potassium||403 mg||405 mg|
|Magnesium||34 mg||26 mg|
|Phosphorus||226 mg||237 mg|
|Calcium||90.7 mg||15.8 mg|
|Zinc||0.7 mg||0.5 mg|
|Selenium||14.2 mcg||14.2 mcg|
Both fish contain a good number of minerals and vitamins. At first glance it’s difficult to determine which fish provides more. Therefore, is bass or catfish healthier?
Bass is better than catfish due to its higher percentage of healthy omega-3 fatty acids. Bass provides more iron, folate, magnesium, calcium and zinc than catfish. Bass contains more protein, 21 grams per four ounces compared to catfish’s 19 grams.
Catfish is no slouch either and provides more B12, thiamin, niacin, potassium and phosphorus. Bass and catfish have a similar number of selenium, B5, riboflavin and B6. It’s difficult to argue against either fish’s nutrient profile.
The omega-3 fatty acids are what separates the two. Keep reading the next section below about health benefits and find out why omega-3 fatty acids are important to your health.
Find out how channel catfish compared to blue catfish in my article, Channel Catfish vs Blue Catfish: What’s The Difference?
Bass and Catfish Mercury Levels
The EPA and The Food and Drug Administration have issued warnings and suggestions regarding mercury levels in fish and how often they should be consumed 18. This is especially important for young infants, developing children and pregnant women.
They established a list of best fish, good choices and ones to avoid based on their mercury levels. Therefore, does bass or catfish have more mercury?
Freshwater bass have higher levels of mercury than catfish. Catfish is listed on the FDA’s best choice of fish regarding mercury levels. Bass has been listed on some states advisory warnings in regards to high levels of mercury.
If you’re pregnant, breast feeding or has a young child, Always check with a physician prior to eating new foods or changing your dietary habits.
These mercury warnings can change over time or affect only a particular area or state. Please check with your local EPA and FDA for the current recommendations 19.
Check out the detailed comparison of the spotted and smallmouth bass in my article, Spotted Bass vs Smallmouth Bass: What’s The Difference?
Bass and Catfish Health Benefits
Both fish provide the same nutrients and therefore the same benefits. Although I broke down the benefits by which fish offers the higher percentage of each nutrient 20.
Bass Health Benefits
Omega 3 Fatty Acids
Bass provides 0.77 grams of omega-3 and catfish 0.53 grams per four ounces raw. Omega-3 fatty acids are heart healthy and help keep arteries healthy. The omega-3s in bass and catfish may help with the following:
- Keeping bad cholesterol low.
- Keeping good cholesterol high.
- Reducing inflammation.
- Reducing plaque build-up.
- Lowering triglycerides
- Help keep the heart rhythms more normal.
DHA and EPA, two of the fatty acids, are associated with lowering blood pressure and improving the health of blood vessels 21.
Studies suggest omega-3s can help reduce joint pain and stiffness in people with rheumatoid arthritis. They may also boost the effectiveness of anti-inflammatory drugs.
Bass provides 90.7 mg of calcium per four ounces. Calcium is important for blood pressure and the heart. Harvard Health reports calcium helps maintain blood pressure because it helps to control the relaxing and tightening of blood vessels 22.
Calcium also helps the following:
- Build and maintain strong bones.
- Muscles need calcium to function properly.
- Improve nerve function.
There are 34 mg of magnesium per four ounces provided by catfish. Magnesium calms and relaxes the whole body including blood vessels. Magnesium has been shown to help improve sleep related problems like insomnia 23.
Magnesium helps keep blood pressure levels balanced and stable. A recent study researched 22 studies and concluded magnesium supplementation decreased diastolic and systolic blood pressure 24.
Magnesium provided by catfish helps control muscle and nerve function, blood sugar and blood pressure.
In the muscles and heart, magnesium competes with calcium to help the muscles relax after contracting. When the body is low in magnesium, calcium can over stimulate the heart muscle’s cells causing a rapid or irregular heartbeat.
Folate, also known as B9, bass provides 17 mcg per four ounces. A deficiency in folate has been linked to depression in people with epilepsy. Low folate has been associated with an increased risk of depression 25.
Folic acid (B9) can improve blood flow and help blood vessels to relax. In a study of over 3,000 women, the findings suggest that using folic acid containing supplements may lower the risk for high blood pressure during pregnancy and preeclampsia 26.
Find out how channel catfish compared to flathead catfish in my article, Channel Catfish vs Flathead Catfish: What’s The Difference?
Catfish Health Benefits
The B vitamins provided by catfish include B1 (thiamin), B2 (riboflavin), B3 (niacin), B9 (folate) B6, B12 and B5. B vitamins help support the following:
- Energy levels.
- Red blood cells.
- Cardiovascular disease.
- Nerve function.
- Brain function.
There are 237 mg of phosphorus per four ounces of raw catfish. It has been shown in scientific research to help with the following:
- Muscle recovery after exercise.
- Muscle contraction.
- Help the body store and manage energy.
- Help the kidneys remove waste.
- Promote healthy nerve conduction.
- Promote teeth and bone strength.
There are 405 mg per four ounces of raw catfish. Potassium helps the body get rid of excess sodium which helps reduce fluid build-up. These help keep systolic and diastolic blood pressure lower 27.
The more potassium you consume, the more sodium your body will lose. Consuming too much sodium or not enough potassium throws off the delicate balance the kidneys need to remove the excess water 28.
According to Harvard Health, a number of studies have shown a connection between low potassium levels and increased blood pressure 29.
Find out how bullhead compared to flathead catfish in my article, Bullhead Catfish vs Flathead Catfish: The Differences.
Will a bass eat a catfish? A bass will eat a catfish if the catfish is small enough for the bass to consume. A bass will eat other small fish, crayfish, frogs, insects and crustaceans.
Is catfish a bass? A catfish is not a bass. A catfish and a bass are different species, genus and families of fish. Channel catfish are from the Ictaluridae family and freshwater bass are from the Centrarchidae family.
Do catfish compete with bass? Catfish does compete with bass especially when they grow larger. A large catfish will consume many fish and compete with bass and bluegill while sharing the same waters. A larger catfish will also consume smaller bass.
Read Next – More Fish vs Fish Articles!
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- Sea Grant North Carolina: Fish Flavors and Substitutions
- Wikipedia: Smallmouth bass
- Wikipedia: Largemouth bass
- Wikipedia: Bass (fish)
- U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service: Smallmouth bass
- U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service: Largemouth bass
- Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission: Spotted Bass
- Wikipedia: Spotted bass
- UK College of Agriculture, Food and Environment: Spotted Bass
- Texas Parks and Wildlife: Spotted Bass (Micropterus punctulatus)
- Wikipedia: Channel catfish
- U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service: Channel catfish
- Maryland Department of Natural Resources: Channel Catfish
- Wikipedia: Catfish
- Nutrition Value: Fish, raw, wild, channel, catfish
- Nutrition Value: Fish, raw, mixed species, fresh water, bass
- NutritionData: Fish, bass, fresh water, mixed species, raw
- FDA: Advice about Eating Fish
- National Center for Biotechnology Information: Mercury accumulation in largemouth bass (Micropterus salmoides) in a Florida lake
- FDA: Seafood Nutrition Facts
- National Center for Biotechnology: Marine Omega-3 Supplementation and Cardiovascular Disease
- Harvard Health: Key minerals to help control blood pressure
- National Institutes of Health: Magnesium
- National Center for Biotechnology Information: Effect of magnesium supplementation on blood pressure: a meta-analysis
- National Center for Biotechnology Information: Is Depression Related to Low Folate Levels in People with Epilepsy? An Observational Study and Meta-analysis
- Women And Birth: Folic acid supplement use and the risk of gestational hypertension and preeclampsia
- American Heart Association: How Potassium Can Help Control High Blood Pressure
- National Center for Biotechnology Information: The Effect of the Sodium to Potassium Ratio on Hypertension Prevalence: A Propensity Score Matching Approach
- Harvard Health: Potassium lowers blood pressure