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Trout vs. Bass Fishing – A Detailed Comparison Discussed

Ask any fishing enthusiast who’s serious about his art, and they’ll tell you that the traditional contest for light-tackle fishing boils down to trout vs. bass. These two are the most popular species to fish because many similarities exist between the two. Both fish are usually situated in freshwaters and are almost the same size as each other. 

You should be able to have a successful run with both bass and trout fishing just by using the same basic tackle, but you’ll be more effective by specializing in each species. So, trout and bass fishing- what’s the difference?

Everything you need to know about trout fishing

trout vs bass

Trout species can be broken into two major types: river and stream trout, including brown, brook, cutthroat, rainbow, and steelhead trout. Lake trout are only found in lakes and are usually classified entirely different. Here are key characteristics of both:

Brown, Brook, Cutthroat, Tiger, and Golden Trout

Brown trout are mostly brown with black markings across their bodies, surrounded with a red hue. Cutthroat are also brown or gray, and also have a black marking on their bodies. Brook trout have not only black markings surrounded with a red hue like brown trout but also have green and yellow markings, which make it easy to distinguish from brown trout. Tiger trout are distinguished by their tiger-looking stripes that don't come with red and black spots, which are common in brown and brook trout. 

There are some species of trout, which are seen less frequently but are highly sought after. For instance, the golden trout features bright yellow coloring and red and black stripes, which is usually found in California. Golden trout are commonly spotted in higher elevation points of between 6000 and 10000 feet, and in waters with temperatures of between 58 and 62 degrees Fahrenheit.

Rainbow and Steelhead Trout

Rainbow and steelhead trout belong to the salmon family. Their preferred habitats distinguish these two species. Rainbow trout spend their entire lives in freshwater. Conversely, steelhead lives in saltwater, and retreat to the river to breed. Rainbow trout have a maximum size of under 20 inches long, with red and blue rainbow-like coloring. Steelheads are more silver-like and can grow into large sizes in larger water bodies.

Lake Trout

Lake trout grow larger than all other trout species, sometimes even bigger than bass. While you can catch a lake trout on a lure accidentally when northern pike fishing, you'll have better success fishing at the deepest parts of the lake. The largest lake trout ever caught weighed 72 pounds. To catch such a behemoth, you'll want to use a rod and line with a test pound high enough it won't break. 

For lake trout jiggling, find a large hook, and attach the meat of another fish, preferably northern pike. Also, get a piece of fish with some skin still on; this will make it hard for the bait to fall. Get a large piece or two pieces spaced at least a foot apart near the end of the line to ensure it goes down to the bottom. The best time to fish lake trout in deep waters is when the sun has fully set. 

You’ll also want to equip yourself with GPS fish finder, to locate a pack of lack trout. Once you have located the pack, drop your jig to the desired length, and start trolling the area. Have your lure dive down, and periodically jib back and forth to gain their attention. If you are a bit successful with your efforts, reel your line up and ensure your bait is still intact.

Everything you need to know about Bass fishing

Freshwater bass is known to have two distinct species of black bass: largemouth and smallmouth. Here are key characteristics of both:

Largemouth Bass

The largemouth bass is the easiest to catch. They are available all year long. To be successful with largemouth bass fishing, you should know the best depth to target depending on the time of day and the season. When there’s partial darkness, you’ll find largemouth bass near the shoreline. Here are other characteristics of largemouth bass:

  • A break in the dorsal fin
  • The jawline is extended past the eye
  • They are green in color, with horizontal stripes and spots
  • They prefer warmer water

When fishing largemouth bass in warm weather lakes, look for them near covers such as rocks, brush, weed beds, or logs. Simply toss your lure into the brush to attract their attention. If you’re on a river, look for brush, shelter, or cover in the slowest moving water. No matter the time of the year, chances are high that you’ll find largemouth bass in densely covered areas.

Smallmouth Bass

Smallmouth bass is easy to catch during the spawning season, which is usually in late May to early June. They don’t grow as large as largemouth bass. Here are some of their characteristics:

  • The dorsal fin is continuous with no break
  • The jawline extends up to the eye but doesn’t go beyond it
  • They are brown and have vertical stripes on their bodies
  • They prefer cold water

Unlike largemouth bass, smallmouth bass prefers fast current. Also, they tend to hunt on the edges of the cover. Hence, when targeting smallmouth bass, fish near the edges near large rocks, stumps, and weed beds. During the summer, you’ll find them in the open waters. However, in spring, you can find them in shallow waters close to the shore during their first spawning. When it turns to fall, the smallmouth is found in shallow water near the shore.

trout Vs bass: Size Differences

Knowing your target starts by differentiating their sizes. This knowledge will go a long way when it comes to improving your skill as an angler. In angler circles, ten pounds of either species is regarded as career fish, while five or six pounds should give you sensible bragging rights. 

To date, Largemouth bass remains the certified heavyweights. The current record, which was set in Texas, stands at 18 pounds. Another five largemouth bass topped 17 pounds in the same state. This significant size is synonymous with both the Texas and Florida strains. However, the world record of largemouth bass is 22 pounds caught in Georgia, while the largest smallmouth bass weighed 11 pounds caught on the Kentucky-Tennessee border. 

Conversely, sea trout record stands at 15.6, where it was previously recorded as 13.11. As such, you can say that bass has the top-end potential when it comes to size differences between the two species. 

However, note that all these records set by largemouth bass were set during the golden big-bass age of the late ’80s and early ’90s, in the same venue; Lake Fork. Also, bass can be reared in private ponds and lakes saturated with forage to produce large-sized fish. Trout fish have reduced the chances of attaining maximum growth. Bottom line: Bass is bigger.

trout Vs bass: Fishing Techniques

How is fly fishing bass different from trout? Here's everything you need to know about bass fishing. Most people prefer bass fishing for these reasons:

  • Bass is easy to find
  • Bass are more likely to achieve large sizes compared to trout
  • Bass is the best to filet and eat because they have fewer bones than trout

When fishing bass, the most important thing to know is where to target. Use your most comfortable lures and gear, but use crankbaits on smallmouth bass. Besides, if you prefer baitcasting rig, use crankbaits. However, if you favor spinning gear, then soft plastics, spinnerbaits, and worms will work perfectly. 

Flipping and pitching are the most successful techniques when targeting largemouth bass. Shallow crankbaits are also effective to use for largemouth bass. While most anglers like to work from boats, bass can too be caught on foot. To be honest, you probably won't catch monster-sized bass on less than five feet of water. You'll need to go eight to fifteen feet to stand a chance.

What about trout? All you want to know about fishing in a stream or river for trout is how to use stealth to your advantage. The most popular way to fish trout is through fly fishing. However, note that fly fishing for trout is significantly different from fly fishing for bass. The key to fly fishing trout is to keep your distance. When you spoke one trout, you can spook ten more, or even a spooked trout can swim past fishing holes, thereby alerting other trout. Hence, ensure you stay out of sight and scent. 

Trout fishing also relies heavily on your ability to spot the trout. Sight fishing is where you approach clear water, and slowly through your line beyond the fish, and let the target drift past it naturally.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. What are the critical differences between trout and bass fishing?

Here are the main differences between trout and bass:

  • Trout is an offshoot of the salmon family, and bass is a sunfish
  • Bass thrives more in moving waters
  • Trout are harder to catch
  • Bass fights harder than trout
  • Trout has more bones than bass
  • Trout fishing requires more engagement and skill
  • Trout fishing requires the use of a lighter hook compared to bass

2. Which tastes better, trout or bass?

Trout taste significantly better compared to bass. However, some people might find the bass tastier than trout. Also, the sea bass is particularly one of the tastiest fish you can eat. When it comes to freshwater fish, the most popular species is trout. On the contrary, the bass is easier to filet than trout because they have fewer bones to pick out. If you're new to filet, start with the bass.

3. How do trout and bass behave outside their natural habitats?

Both species exhibit different characteristics in different water bodies. In some situations, you might find bass feeding on a hatch of dry flies or insects, which is a behavior common with trout. Likewise, trout can feed on anything floating by that resembles food, which is common with bass. As a result, it would be hard to talk about a sure way to catch a specific species.

4. Which one fights harder- trout or bass? 

Both trout and bass are fine species, but there's a huge difference in the fight. Bass is more powerful, short, and chunky. Trout rarely dig for cover and are clean fighters. In any case, the bass is not capable of running for more than ten yards.

5. What are the differences between fly lines built for bass and those designed for trout?

A line meant for bass has a short taper, which allows all the weight to be concentrated towards the front-end of the line. As a result, the line can turn over wind resistant poppers and heavyweight streamers. Trout lines will usually have long tapers. They are designed to present smaller flies. However, some people may favor traditional bass lines for throwing large streamers for trout fishing.

6. How do I go about fishing another species when I’m already set up for one?

The best way to approach new water bodies is to be observant and adequately equipped. For starters, since bass flies tend to be significantly large to cast compared to trout flies, consider using a stout tapered leader. It will provide better wind-resistance with less effort. Also, if you have been using either a 3x or 4x tapered leader when fishing trout, you’ll want to switch when bass fishing to a 0x or 1x leader.

7. Can you catch trout on bass lures?

Yes. Bass lures are effective for trout fishing. Primarily during spring, bass lures perform amazingly for trout fishing, and mainly when the water is high and stained. 

However, if you wish to check out the best bait for trouts, refer to this post.

8. What’s the difference between trout and bass rods?

There are no trout or bass rods. The difference comes from the thickness, length, and composition of the material, which makes them great rods to throw lures for specific species.

You’ll need an ultra-light rod, measuring between six to eight inches to work for a trout. Bass fishes more likely strike at smaller baits and lure compared to normal tackle. Therefore, any good light and medium freshwater casting or spinning rod will be effective for trolling standard lakes for bass. They measure between five and seven feet in length.

Check out our verdicts on the best rods for striped bass.


Trout is much tastier than bass, but the bass is more fun to fish. For any fishing enthusiast, having bass jump and fight as you reel them in, is a thrilling experience. Considering trout vs. bass, weighing their pros and cons is the key to identifying the best technique. Once you know what to catch and where to fish, you'll have a lot of fun catching either of them.

Adam Parsons

Hi! I'm Adam Parsons - a fishing enthusiast. I have been fishing for more than 15 years now and I still strongly remember that the toughest part for me was during the learning process. Most guides I read during that time was too technical to understand. Therefore, I make sure that everything I post on dream-guides regarding fishing is written well and easy to understand even if you are a newbie.

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