Spotted Bass vs Smallmouth Bass: What’s The Difference?


Spotted bass and smallmouth bass have many similarities. For this reason many people ask about their differences. Let’s answer the question, what is the difference between spotted bass and smallmouth bass?  

Spotted bass and smallmouth bass are different species although they are from the same family. Spotted bass prefer warm, clear, open waters and smallmouth bass prefer colder water. Spotted bass are commonly found more south in the Gulf states while smallmouth can be found as far north as Canada.

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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Spotted Bass vs Smallmouth Bass: Habitats, Size, Weight, Appearance?

How can you tell the difference between a spotted bass and a smallmouth bass?

The easiest way to tell the difference between a spotted bass and smallmouth bass is by their body markings and dorsal fins. Spotted bass have black spots forming a jagged horizontal line dow their body. Smallmouth have brown vertical bars on their sides. Spotted bass dorsal fins are less separated.

Another easy way to tell the difference between a spotted and smallmouth is their scales. The head scales on a spotted bass are smaller than the remaining part of the body. Smallmouth bass scales are uniform on the head and body.

Another way to tell the difference is by examine their tongue. Spotted bass have a rectangular tooth patch at the center of the tongue while smallmouths have a round patch of teeth. 

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.

Habitats

Spotted Bass

  • 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

  • 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.

Colors

  • 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.

In open waters the smallmouth bass have a lighter color compared to a darker color when found in darker rivers.

Appearance

Dorsal Fins

  • 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.

Mouth

  • 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.

Scales

  • 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.

Tongue

  • 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.
picture comparison of a smallmouth bass and a spotted bass
Smallmouth bass and spotted bass

Size and Weight

How big does a spotted bass get? 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.

How big does a smallmouth bass get? Smallmouth bass average 12-16 inches long and weigh up to 10 pounds.

Is smallmouth bigger than spotted bass? A smallmouth bass is bigger than a spotted bass. The average smallmouth bass is 12-16 inches long and the spotted bass 8-15″ long. A smallmouth bass weighs up to 10 pounds. A spotted bass weighs 1-2 pounds.

Age

  • Spotted bass average lifespans is 7 years.
  • Smallmouth bass oldest reported age is 26 years.

Diet

Spotted bass consume the following:

  • Copepods
  • Crustaceans
  • Insects
  • Crayfish
  • Other smaller fish

Smallmouth bass consume the following:

  • Crayfish
  • Plankton
  • Insects
  • Other small fish

The spotted bass and smallmouth bass are less predatory than the largemouth bass.

Find out how trout compared to bass in my recent article, Trout vs Bass – What’s The Difference? Let’s Compare.

Spotted Bass and Smallmouth Bass: 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 spotted bass taste better than smallmouth bass?

Spotted bass taste similar to smallmouth bass. They both have a mild to sweet, clean flavor. Spotted and smallmouth doesn’t have a fishy taste like the largemouth bass has. Their textures are both firm and their flesh are white.

What does spotted bass taste like? 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.

What does smallmouth bass taste like? 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.

How about smallmouth bass compared to largemouth bass? Find out in my recent article, Smallmouth Bass vs Largemouth Bass: What’s The Difference?

Spotted Bass and Smallmouth Bass Substitutions

When preparing recipes for dinner it’s not always possible to locate the type of fish called for. If you have some spotted bass, you may ask, can I substitute spotted bass for smallmouth bass?

Spotted bass and smallmouth bass can substitute for each other due to their similar textures and tastes. Smallmouth and spotted bass 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 include the following:

  • Freshwater trout
  • Lake herring
  • Mackerel
  • Snapper
  • Grouper
  • Halibut

The best spotted bass substitutes are:

  • Halibut
  • Grouper
  • Snapper
  • Freshwater trout
  • Lake herring
  • Mackerel

Since both bass have similar tastes and textures their substitutes are similar. When substituting spotted or smallmouth bass 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 the differences between spotted and largemouth bass in my article, Spotted Bass vs Largemouth Bass: What’s The Difference?

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 pan fried, broiled, grilled, baked and sautéed.

Spotted bass flavor pairings:

  • Garlic
  • Lemon
  • Dill
  • Mustard
  • Black pepper
  • Parsley
  • Olive oil

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 grilled, pan fried, baked, broiled and sautéed.

Smallmouth flavor pairings:

  • Garlic
  • Lemon
  • Dill
  • Mustard
  • Black pepper
  • Parsley
  • Olive oil

Spotted Bass and Smallmouth Bass Nutrients

Both spotted and smallmouth bass provide a wide variety of nutrients, vitamins and minerals. Below is the nutrients contained in 4 ounces of freshwater bass.

Nutrient Freshwater bass
(4 ounces, raw)
Calories 129
Fat 4.2 g
Saturated fat 0.9 g
Cholesterol 77 mg
Protein 21 g
Omega-3 0.77 g
B-6 0.1 mg
B-12 2.2 mcg
Thiamin .08 mg
Riboflavin .08 mg
B-5 0.8 mg
Niacin 1.4 mg
Folate 17.0 mcg
Iron 1.6 mg
Potassium 403 mg
Magnesium 34 mg
Phosphorus 226 mg
Calcium 90.7 mg
Zinc 0.7 mg
Selenium 14.2 mcg

Nutrient Resources 2 3

Smallmouth and spotted bass provide a high percentage of omega-3 fatty acids, minerals and B vitamins. These nutrients are beneficial for maintaining health which you can read about in the next section of this article.

It’s difficult to duplicate the nutritional value of most fish. Even chicken breast can’t fully equal the benefits due to its lack of omega-3 fatty acids most fish provide.

If you’re wondering how white bass compared to striped bass check out my article, White Bass vs Striped Bass: The Key Differences.

Spotted Bass and Smallmouth Bass Mercury Levels

The EPA and The FDA have issued warnings and suggestions regarding mercury levels in fish and how often they should be consumed 4. 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 spotted bass or smallmouth bass have more mercury?

Spotted and smallmouth bass have similar levels of mercury. They have both been listed on some states advisory warnings in regards to high levels of mercury. Typically, the recommendation is to consume these fish only once per week total for all fish considered higher in mercury. 

Everyone, especially if you’re pregnant, breast feeding or have 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. For eight bass or any fish, check with your local EPA and FDA for the current recommendations 5.

Spotted Bass and Smallmouth Bass Health Benefits

Since both fish provide the same nutrients the benefits of smallmouth and spotted bass are similar. I’ll list each nutrient and explain how each one benefit you starting with omega-3 fatty acids.

Omega-3 Fatty Acids

There is 0.77 grams of omega-3 fatty acids per four ounces of raw freshwater bass. Omega-3 fatty acids help maintain artery health which helps keep the heart healthy.

The omega-3 fatty acids provided by spotted and smallmouth bass help with the following health benefits:

  • Lower fat cells in the blood (triglycerides).
  • Reduce inflammation.
  • Reduce plaque build-up.
  • Helps keep bad cholesterol low and increase good cholesterol.
  • Helps maintain normal heart rhythms.

Potassium

There are 403 mg per four ounces of raw freshwater bass. Potassium helps the body get rid of excess sodium which helps reduce fluid build-up. These helps keep systolic and diastolic blood pressure lower 6.

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 7.

According to Harvard Health, a number of studies have shown a connection between low potassium levels and increased blood pressure 8.

Calcium

Smallmouth and spotted bass provide a good amount of calcium. 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 9. Calcium also helps the following:

  • Build and maintain strong bones.
  • Muscles need calcium to function properly.
  • Improve nerve function.

Magnesium

There are 34 mg of magnesium per four ounces provided by freshwater bass. Magnesium calms and relaxes the whole body including blood vessels. Magnesium has been shown to help improve sleep related problems like insomnia 10.

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 11.

Magnesium in bass 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.

B Vitamins

The B vitamins provided by smallmouth and spotted bass 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.
  • Digestion.
  • Nerve function.
  • Brain function.

Selenium

There are 14.2 mcg of selenium per four ounces of freshwater bass. Selenium is a nutrient which doesn’t receive much press. I’m unsure why many don’t write about it more because studies 12 show selenium may help to protect the following:

  • Heart disease
  • Thyroid
  • The immune system
  • Cognitive issues

Phosphorus

There are 226 mg of phosphorus per four ounces of raw freshwater bass. 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.

I did a side-by-side nutrient and benefit comparison between sea bass and cod. Find out which was better in my article, Sea Bass vs Cod – Is One Better? Let’s Compare.

Species Resources 13 14 15 16 17

Read Next – More Fish vs Fish Articles!

White Perch vs White Bass: Which Is Better?

Sea Bass vs Salmon: Which Is Better?

Farm Raised or Wild Caught Shrimp – Which Is Best?

Brook Trout vs Brown Trout – Let’s Compare The Differences

Anchovies vs Sardines – What’s The Difference? Let’s Compare

Alaska Pollock vs Atlantic Pollock: Which Is Better?

 

Article Resources: Foods For Anti-Aging follows strict guidelines to ensure our content is the highest journalistic standard. It's our mission to provide the reader with accurate, honest and unbiased guidance. Our content relies on medical associations, research institutions, government agencies and study resources. Learn more by reading our editorial policy.
  1. Sea Grant North Carolina: Fish Flavors and Substitutions[]
  2. Nutrition Value: Fish, raw, mixed species, fresh water, bass[]
  3. NutritionData: Fish, bass, fresh water, mixed species, raw[]
  4. FDA: Advice about Eating Fish[]
  5. National Center for Biotechnology Information: Mercury accumulation in largemouth bass (Micropterus salmoides) in a Florida lake[]
  6. American Heart Association: How Potassium Can Help Control High Blood Pressure[]
  7. National Center for Biotechnology Information: The Effect of the Sodium to Potassium Ratio on Hypertension Prevalence: A Propensity Score Matching Approach[]
  8. Harvard Health: Potassium lowers blood pressure[]
  9. Harvard Health: Key minerals to help control blood pressure[]
  10. National Institutes of Health: Magnesium[]
  11. National Center for Biotechnology Information: Effect of magnesium supplementation on blood pressure: a meta-analysis[]
  12. National Institutes of Health: Selenium[]
  13. Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission: Spotted Bass[]
  14. Wikipedia: Spotted bass[]
  15. UK College of Agriculture, Food and Environment: Spotted Bass[]
  16. Texas Parks and Wildlife: Spotted Bass (Micropterus punctulatus) []
  17. Wikipedia: Smallmouth bass[]

Kevin Garce

Kevin Garce is a Certified Health Coach who encourages people by informing them on nutrition and food topics important to them. His years of research and knowledge inspire people to achieve their goals. Read more here About Me

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