Posts Tagged ‘Fishing cold fronts’

How to Tell the Difference between a Kentucky/Spotted Bass and a Largemouth Bass

When I first started fishing lakes that contained both Kentucky and Largemouth bass, I did not care about identifying which one was on the end of my line. I just enjoyed catching fish. However, once I started fishing tournaments, I had to differentiate between the two species on lakes that have different size limits for each one. For example, Lake of the Ozarks and Bull Shoals Lake each have a 15” limit on black bass but a 12” limit for Kentucky bass.

I will never forget my first tournament on that lake, my partner and I were catching a ton of “bass” on Chompers…and we were having a fantastic time doing it. Neither of us knew, for sure, how to differentiate between the two species. All we had heard was that Kentucky bass have a rough patch on their tongue. We didn’t know HOW rough of a patch…just a rough patch. So…when we started catching fish after fish, if we felt anything AT ALL on the tongue, into the live well it went!

We were a red faced at weigh in and VERY lucky that a conservation agent did not stop us on the water to check our fish. Most of our 12-inch fish were, in fact, largemouth bass! Lucky for us, it was tournament that consisted of a bunch of friends, so we were simply mocked and made fun of instead of receiving monetary penalties.

Differences between a Largemouth Bass and a Spotted Bass

The Tongue

As stated above, spots have a rough patch on their tongue. Largemouth bass do not. Please note that the rough patch is very noticeable on a spotted bass, and you might feel “something” on the tongue of a largemouth.

The Hinge of the Mouth

There is a reason that largemouth bass are called largemouth! If you were to draw a line straight down from the back of a largemouth’s eye to the bottom of the jaw, the end of the hinge of its mouth would be behind that line. Kentucky bass, on the other hand, will have the hinge in front of that line.

Kentucky Bass

The jaw of the Kentucky Bass is in front of the back of the eye.

Largemouth Bass

The hinge of the Largemouth's jaw extends behind the back of the eye.


The Dorsal Fin

Both species have a set of dorsal fins. The front one is larger than the rear fin. The difference is that, on a spotted bass, there is little to no separation between the two. A large mouth will have as distinct ending and beginning between the two.

Kentucky Bass

Little or no separation between dorsal fins.

Largemouth Bass

There is a definite separation between the fins.


Both species of bass have a lateral line running down the middle of their body. Spotted bass have blotches or “spots”

above their lateral line. They also have a bluish/green tint to their color. Largemouth bass on the other hand, favor the green side of the color wheel!

The Cheek Scales

Cheek scales on a largemouth bass are the same size as the rest of the scales on its body. Spotted bass have noticeably smaller scales on their cheeks.

Another big difference between the two species is how they fight on the end of the line. Largemouth bass tend to come straight to the top of the water and try to shake the lure out of their mouth. Kentucky bass fight more like a smallmouth. They head to the bottom and resist every inch of the way to the surface.

Hopefully the next time you hook a bass at your favorite lake, you will be better able to identify the football on the end of your line.


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Have you ever purchased a new suspending jerkbait only to find out that on your first retrieve, it swims badly to the right, left or does loop-de-loops all the way back to the boat? A lot of people would simply cut the lure off and put it into the abyss that is a tackle box…never to be touched again.

There is a simple way to tune your jerkbait (or any crankbait) so you don’t lose any time chasing big bass in the Spring.

Tips to Correctly Tune Your Jerkbait or Crankbait

  • Take a pair of needle-nose pliers and place it horizontally in line with the bait while you pinch the eyelet on the nose of the bait.
  • Roll your wrist in the OPPOSITE direction of the way the bait is swimming.
  • The adjustment should be done in very small increments
  • Throw the bait out a few yards and retrieve. If the bait still swims incorrectly, repeat the process until the bait swims straight. If the bait over corrects, then roll your wrist in the opposite direction until the bait swims correctly.
  • Click HERE to watch a video on tuning your baits.

If want to invest a few dollars, there are tools on the market designed specifically for tuning baits. These are basically small metal rods with a slit in the end…just big enough to insert the eyelet of the bait. Simply follow the steps above using the tuning tool instead of needle-nose pliers. They can be purchased on-line or at your local fishing tackle store.

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I got to Bull Shoals on Friday night…right smack dab in the middle of an approaching cold front. Since we figured the black bass bite would be slow, we decided to go after the white bass that are now in the backs of the running creeks. Sometimes you have to go after what the lake will give you! Today, the lake gave up 18 of its white bass

I went with my father-in-law, Tom, and we decided to take his boat. Just before we left, I grabbed my gear out of my boat to take to the dock. I saw a small Swimming Minnow on my front deck that I had used to chase crappie last year. I RARELY chase crappie and this is one of only a few crappie lures I own. I grabbed the small chartreuse and green lure, and we headed to the dock.

We got to the back of Shoal Creek where we found just one other boat. Typically, when the whites are running, one person tells another person and next thing you know, half the county is in the back of the creek with you.

I started throwing a 1/4 oz. Rooster Tail and caught a white on my fifth cast. After about an hour, I had three fish in the boat and Tom had one.

We drifted by the other boat in the creek and asked how they were doing. The responded that they were catching a lot of fish on Swimming Minnows. Naturally, I switched to my sole Swimming Minnow and ended up catching 15 of the 18 whites. My partner wasn’t exactly thrilled with my luck. Every time I hooked a fish, I heard a definite expletive from the front of the boat…usually starting with an “M” and an “F”.

As a general rule, when either of us buys a lure, we like to buy more than one so we can give our partner one if the fish are hitting it. That way we both catch fish. Unfortunately, there was only one of this particular Swimming Minnow in the boat, and, of course, that is the one that caught all the fish.

Tom is an excellent fisherman and has been fishing on Bull Shoals since the 60s. He always knows how to put fish in the boat and rarely do we come in skunked. Today was just a day where the fish wanted a certain color, and I was the only one with that color.

We are taking my wife and kids out today to let them have a go with these whites. I will have my camera in hand and will post about the day’s adventure…tomorrow.

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