What is Considered a Trophy Bass? Largemouth and Smallmouth

Bass are one of the most popular, if not the most popular freshwater sportfish targeted by anglers in the United States. Every bass angler wants to hook into a trophy …

Bass are one of the most popular, if not the most popular freshwater sportfish targeted by anglers in the United States. Every bass angler wants to hook into a trophy bass, but what is considered a trophy bass?

The answer can vary, and in this post, we will take a look at what anglers may consider to be a trophy bass depending on their location.

Trophy Largemouth Bass

What is Considered a Good Size Large Mouth Bass?

A “good” sized largemouth bass depends on where you are fishing.

Largemouth bass in the southern parts of the U.S. or Southwestern bodies of water have to potential to grow much larger than in the northern U.S. like the Midwest.

The growth differences come down mainly to habitat and climate, and largemouth bass prefer warmer waters.

An angler in Wisconsin for example will consider an 18-inch or 3.5-pound bass to be a good bass.

In Southern states, this same bass is still considered a good fish, but the chances of catching a 5-pound bass are much higher, and thus more anglers may consider a 5-pound bass a good catch.

What is Considered a Trophy Largemouth Bass?

A trophy bass like a “good-sized” bass depends on your location.

In the Great Lakes region, for example, a bass weighing 6 or 7 pounds is definitely a trophy bass, while in some southern or southwestern waters, a 10-pound bass is considered a real trophy among anglers.

Trophy Smallmouth Bass

What is Considered a Good Size Smallmouth Bass?

Smallmouth bass don’t grow as large as their largemouth bass cousins, and they also are on the opposite spectrum in terms of regional growth, with largemouth bass growing to larger sizes in the northern reaches of their range, in particular the Great Lakes.

A good size smallmouth bass is typically in the 3-4 pound range in most of the waters where they are found.

What is Considered a Trophy Smallmouth Bass?

Trophy smallmouth bass will range anywhere from 6 to 7 pounds but some anglers have caught smallmouth bass in the 8-pound range, and the world record specimen weighed nearly 12 pounds.

The world record smallmouth bass is considerably smaller than that of the world record largemouth bass at 22 pounds in weight.

Other Bass Species

The other bass species we have not yet mentioned is the spotted bass. Spotted bass are smaller than largemouth on average and is similar in good and trophy bass sizes as the smallmouth bass.

A good-sized spotted bass is around 4 pounds with a trophy being over 5 pounds, with the world record spotted bass weighing in at 11 pounds in weight.

Do Big Lures Tend to Catch Big Bass?

 Use a larger lure if you want to catch larger bass.

Bigger lures do tend to catch bigger bass, but you will be surprised at how small bass will attempt to eat large lures, but in general, it will weed out much of the smaller sized bass.

This applies to baitfish more than other prey like crayfish, but look it this way, does it make more sense for bass to waste energy chasing down several small baitfish? Or does it make sense to expend less energy eating one or a few large fish?

You wouldn’t eat a meal of potato chips if you have the option of eating a large steak dinner, and this mentality works when a trophy largemouth bass is feeding.

Small baits will still catch trophy bass, as all predators are opportunistic feeders, and there are also times when small baits will outshine large baits, such as when the fish are in a neutral feeding mood.

What Pound Test do You Need for Trophy Bass?

When it comes to the fishing line, the bottom line is to go as high as you can while still giving effective presentations.

With braided fishing lines, you can punch way above the belt and easily run a 50-60 pound test if you wanted, but for other line types like fluorocarbon, 16 pounds is a safe bet for most situations and will work just fine even if you hook that 15-pound giant.

What are Some Top Locations for Trophy Bass?

Largemouth bass fish underwater
The lakes that produce trophy largemouth bass are typically found in the southern United States, and northern Mexico and are truly outstanding bass fisheries.

There are quite a number of trophy bass waters out there. These lakes are like factories that constantly produce trophy largemouth bass in large numbers due to excellent habitats, great trophy bass management, or a combination of both.

The lakes that produce trophy largemouth bass are typically found in the southern United States, and northern Mexico an are truly outstanding bass fisheries.

  • Lake Guntersville, Alabama
  • Lake Baccarac, Mexico
  • Lake Fork, Texas
  • Lake Okeechobee, Florida
  • El Salto, Mexico
  • Sacramento/Joaquin Delta, California

There are many more lakes of the same caliber as the lakes mentioned above, but these lakes are undoubtedly some of the most famous for producing trophy largemouth bass.

For trophy-sized smallmouth bass, you have to travel pretty far north from the lakes where trophy largemouth bass are caught, but like with largemouth bass lakes, there are plenty of them.

  • Lake St. Clair, Michigan/Canada
  • Lake Erie, New York/Canada
  • Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin
  • Mississippi River, Minnesota/Wisconsin
  • Rainy Lake, Minnesota/Ontario
  • St. Lawrence River, New York

While all of these lakes are in the northern part of the country, there are still some trophy smallmouth bass waters in the south, typically these lakes are deep and clear reservoirs where the fish have access to cooler water year-round.

While places like Sturgeon Bay are part of the Great Lakes, the Great Lakes, in general, all have great smallmouth bass fishing, and you never know what you will catch due to the vast and massive size of the lakes.

Final Thoughts on Trophy Size Largemouth Bass

At the end of the day, the trophy is in the eye of the beholder, if a 5-pound bass is a trophy to you personally, don’t let anyone tell you any differently, and this goes for any species. Many anglers get so focused on catching big bass all the time that they forget to enjoy the fact that they are fishing, regardless of the size of fish they catch. 

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Shawn Chapin is an experienced fishing writer and guide based in Wisconsin, where he loves targeting muskie and a range of other species. Shawn's fished extensively for pike, largemouth bass, smallmouth and panfish species. He's developing a passion for chasing trout on the fly rod.
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