Fish are fish but ...

Fish are fish, and that’s where the similarity ends when it comes to largemouth bass and smallmouth bass. In my experience they’re two very different kinds of fish, and it takes two very different approaches to catch them.

Growing up in Florida, fishing with my dad, mom, grandfather, grandmother, brothers, sister, aunts and uncles, I learned very quickly to make precise casts. (If you have Lane DNA, you fish.) We didn’t fish with worms. We fished topwater. If you missed an open spot in the grass or lily pads, you had to go get your bait. There was no other choice. We bought all our baits in those days.

When something like that happened, you not only messed up your fishing spot going to get your lure but you also wasted precious fishing time. It didn’t take long for us to get good at hitting our targets.

With smallmouth it’s a little different. Most good smallmouth waters are fairly clear. They can see your bait from a long distance away. To be fair, I always try to be as precise as I can be when I’m casting to them. I think that’s best. But I also think that it isn’t always necessary. It’s not like largemouth fishing where the water is anywhere from stained to muddy.

And that bring us to another difference that might be even more important — disposition and attitude.

Largemouth are weather and condition-sensitive. Some days they’ll bite like crazy. The next day they won’t bite at all. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve caught the devil out of them one day and then the next day, on the same spot and with the same lure, I couldn’t buy a bite. You learn patience as a largemouth angler.

Smallmouth, on the other hand, seem not to be affected as much by the weather or other conditions. They’re mean and aggressive all the time. If you aren’t catching them, it’s probably because they aren’t there. Keep moving is the basic rule of smallmouth fishing. If they are there, they’ll bite.

That brings us to my final point. It’s often said that the Great Lakes are the best fisheries in the country because they have so many smallies in them and the catches are so big. There’s no doubt they’re wonderful fisheries. But are they really better than some of the great largemouth lakes?

That’s debatable. It might be that there are as many largemouth in the best largemouth lakes as there are smallmouth in the best smallmouth lakes. It’s just that the largemouth can be a tougher bite. That makes it look like the smallmouth waters hold more and bigger fish.

I say debatable because there’s probably no way we’ll ever know for sure. There are so many factors that affect fishing that we’ll never know the actual numbers of fish that are out there. It’s one of those things that’s unknowable.

The real thing is, though, to take advantage of whatever fishing is available to you. The best day to go fishing is today and the best place to go fishing is on a lake or river near where you live. And then, when you have some spare time, go to one of the Great Lakes for smallies or come to Guntersville for some giant largemouth.

Chris Lane’s column appears weekly on You can also find him on and or visit his website,

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