Trout Fishing vs Bass Fishing: Which Is Best for You

Two of the most popular freshwater fish when it comes to fishing are bass and trout. Both offer their own unique challenges and rewards for bass and trout anglers of …

Two of the most popular freshwater fish when it comes to fishing are bass and trout. Both offer their own unique challenges and rewards for bass and trout anglers of all experience levels, but they can be vastly different. 

In this article, we’ll explore the differences between bass and trout fishing and help you determine which type of fishing might be best for your gear, interests, and experience level.

Bass vs Trout Fishing: Detailed Comparison of Each Species

trophy bass 3
An in-depth comparison of bass and trout helps anglers make informed decisions about which species to target when fishing.

Appearance

Bass are typically larger and have a more elongated body with a wider head and mouth, especially when it comes to largemouth bass. Trout have a more streamlined body shape with a smaller head and mouth.

When it comes to overall coloration, bass have a green or gray color on their backs that fades into a lighter shade on their sides, making them somewhat difficult to see from above. They also have dark horizontal stripes on their sides. Trout have a more colorful pattern with a brownish-green back, a pinkish belly, and a spotted pattern which can be extremely vibrant on older fish as well as juveniles.

You’ll also notice a difference in the size and shape of their fins. Largemouth bass have a single dorsal fin with spines along their back, while trout have multiple dorsal fins with no spines. Trout also have a small nub, called the adipose fin, located between the end of the dorsal fin and the start of the tail, which is not found on bass.

Size

Bass, particularly largemouth bass, are known for their much larger size and heavier weight. A mature largemouth bass can weigh around 10 pounds, with some adult females reaching 25 pounds or more. 

Smallmouth bass are generally much smaller, with the average size ranging from 3 to 5 pounds. Bass of both types will have broad and muscular body with a large mouth that is capable of swallowing prey up to half their size.

Trout are generally smaller and lighter than bass, with a much more streamlined body. The average size of a trout can vary depending on the habitat and abundance of food in the area, but they are normally found around 6 to 12 inches in length and weigh around 2 pounds

Some species of trout, such as the steelhead, can grow much larger and reach record sizes of up to 45 inches in length and weigh over 30 pounds. However, even on the much larger end of the scale, most trophy-size trout will be around 12 inches in length and under 5 pounds in weight.

Preferred Habitats

Both largemouth bass and smallmouth bass live in warm and shallow water with plenty of covers, such as weeds, stumps, and rocks. They are commonly found in lakes, ponds, and rivers, where they can ambush prey from the cover of heavy vegetation. These fish also like to have access to deeper water nearby, where they can quickly retreat to escape predators. 

Trout live in colder water and can be found in fast-moving streams, rivers, and deep lakes. These fish prefer to live in areas with water that are either spring fed or have a steady current since they need a high amount of oxygen to thrive.

Preferred Water Temperatures

Largemouth bass and smallmouth bass prefer to live in water with a temperature range of 60-75 degrees Fahrenheit, while trout live in water temperatures ranging from 50-60 degrees Fahrenheit.

Bass Fishing vs Trout Fishing: Main Differences

Cutthroat trout 3
Bass are caught with prey-mimicking baits while smaller trout are caught with lures or flies resembling aquatic insects.

Largemouth bass and smallmouth bass are generally larger and more aggressive than lake trout, rainbow trout, or brown trout and are often caught using lures or baits that mimic their prey. This can include worms, minnows, or crayfish.

Most largemouth bass and smallmouth bass fishing is often done in warm and shallow water near the shore with plenty of weeds and rocks and can be done using a variety of gear, including topwater lures, crankbaits, or jigs.

The smaller trout are often caught using lightweight tackle and small lures or flies that give the illusion of active aquatic insects. Trout fishing is often done in cooler, faster-moving waters with plenty of oxygen, such as streams, rivers, or high-elevation lakes. Fly fishing is an extremely popular technique when it comes to rainbow trout, brook trout, and speckled trout fishing.

Bass Fishing vs Trout Fishing: What to Expect

Largemouth bass and smallmouth bass fishing tend to be more aggressive, as both types of bass are opportunistic predators that will attack lures with ferocity. Anglers specifically targeting largemouth bass or smallmouth bass can expect to spend their time fishing in warm and shallow waters with plenty of weeds, reeds, lily pads, or other vegetation and will get the most success when using lures that mimic prey to entice the fish to bite

When it comes to lake trout or brook trout fishing, anglers will need to use a much more delicate touch since these freshwater fish are more selective in what they strike. If you are specifically targeting a trout species, you can expect to fish in cool and fast-moving rivers with clear visibility, and use lures that mimic insects or small aquatic animals.

Bass Fishing vs Trout Fishing: Techniques

When bass fishing, anglers often use lures that mimic the movements of prey fish. This will commonly include crankbaits and topwater lures. You may also decide to use soft plastic worms or crawfish that can be rigged in different ways to imitate different types of prey. 

Freshwater bass are relatively easy to get on the line and can be caught in a variety of ways. Anglers have been able to catch bass when casting normally, trolling behind a boat, or jigging from shore, and will often use a more aggressive approach to provoke a strike from larger fish.

When it comes to fly fishing for trout, anglers will need to use a more delicate and slower approach. Lightweight gear and smaller lures or bait, such as small spinners or live bait like worms or crickets, are extremely useful in catching lake trout, brook trout, brown trout, rainbow trout, speckled trout, and other trout species. 

Rainbow trout and other trout are typically found in clear, cold water and can be very timid, so anglers must use a slower approach to avoid spooking them. Techniques like drift fishing or fly fishing are often used with success since they present the lure in a natural way that will get a strike.

Bass Fishing vs Trout Fishing: Where They Are Found

Bass fishing from Shore
Bass thrive in warm and shallow waters , whereas trout like lake or brown trout prefer cooler, faster-moving waters.

Bass are commonly found in warm, shallow waters with plenty of vegetation and cover, such as lakes, ponds, and rivers. They prefer water temperatures ranging from 60-75 degrees Fahrenheit and will often be found near structures like weed beds, stumps, and rocks. 

Trout such as lake trout or brown trout prefer cooler, fast-moving waters with plenty of oxygen, such as streams, rivers, and lakes with clear, cool water. These freshwater fish prefer water temperatures ranging from 50-60 degrees Fahrenheit which makes them commonly found inhabitants of mountain reservoirs.

Bass Fishing vs Trout Fishing: Tackle

Bass fishing often requires heavier gear, such as spinning or baitcasting rods, to handle these wild fish and the heavier lures they prefer to strike. 

A trout angler can use much lighter gear, such as fly rods or ultralight spinning rods, to handle these smaller fish and delicate presentations.

Bass vs Trout: Fighting Qualities

Bass can make powerful runs and jumps and can sometimes dive deep to try and escape or break the line. This makes bass fishing techniques exciting and challenging and often requires you to use heavier tackle to hold up.

Trout are much more agile and acrobatic fighters, using their speed and agility to break free from the hook. They are known for their ability to thrash and spin in the air, making them a thrilling catch. However, they lack the raw power bass have and are much easier to tire out and haul in.

Bass vs Trout: Which Is Better to Eat

Bass are known for their firm, white meat, and mild flavor, which many people find enjoyable. However, larger bass can contain higher levels of mercury, which can be harmful if consumed in large quantities. 

Trout have a more delicate flavor and softer texture to the meat, making them a favorite of many seafood lovers. They also contain healthy omega-3 fatty acids and are generally lower in mercury than larger bass, which makes cooking trout a popular bonus to catching trout.

Bass Fishing vs Trout Fishing FAQs

Are Bass and Trout Found in the Same Water?

While you can find both bass and trout in the same body of water, especially during the spawning season, they may not always be found in the same areas due to the water temperature and oxygen levels.

Can I Use the Same Rod and Reel for Bass and Trout Fishing?

While you can use the same rod and reel for either specific species, it may not be ideal. Bass typically requires a heavier line and sturdier rod to handle their fighting power, while trout can be fished with finesse gear.

Is Bass Fishing More Popular Than Trout Fishing?

Bass fishing is much more popular on a national level, thanks to tournaments such as the Bassmaster Classic. However, trout fishing remains a popular activity for anglers of all ages and skill levels and is often associated with a more peaceful and serene fishing experience in the mountains. Both trout and bass can be the perfect target for your next fishing trip.

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AUTHOR
Jeff Knapp is an expert fisherman, guide and outdoor writer whose work is widely published across a range of sites including Tackle Village. Jeff is based in Pennsylvania and loves exploring the waterways of that state in pursuit of smallmouth bass, largemouth, panfish and trout.
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