Smallmouth Bass Vs Rock Bass – Interesting Facts Between The Two!

Both are from the sunfish family, yet this smallmouth bass vs rock bass comparison will help you realize they’re as different as night and day.

This is helpful information that should really come in handy when you are interested in catching these fish.

So, let’s get the ball rolling with our fascinating comparison between the two! Here’s everything you need to know about smallmouth bass and rock bass. Let’s dive right into it!

Smallmouth Bass Vs Rock Bass

At first glance, they share some similarities – body size and other features.

But if you look closely, you’ll realize they’re not the same at all. They have more differences than similarities. Well, except for the fact that they both taste amazing!

So first, let’s talk about smallmouth bass to give you an idea about this fish.

Smallmouth Bass Facts

smallmouth bass facts

This freshwater fish is one of the major predators in its habitat and consumes smaller fish, crayfish, insects, plant material, and tadpoles. When they are introduced to new rivers and lakes, they can be rather invasive.

To further identify this fish, you can simply have a look at the features:

  • Shorter upper jaw does is not past the eyes
  • More slender body
  • Golden flecks on the sides
  • Reddish or somewhat orange eye color
  • Dark bars from the eye and another bar to the snout portion
  • Dorsal fins that appear to be joined
  • Vertical bars on the side that can appear somewhat broken

Smallmouth bass have varied body color. It can also change depending on the habitat, condition, and size of the fish. Sometimes, the color is darker with very visible markings that tend to contrast when seen against clear water. But when viewed in cloudy or murky water, the markings appear to be blurry.

Location And Habitat

Smallmouth bass can be seen in many parts of Canada including southern British Columbia, southern Quebec, southern Nova Scotia, and the western and southern parts of New Brunswick.

In the United States, you can find them in the Columbia River system and the eastern part of North America and the Great Lakes. However, they are far too common in Canada such as in Ontario, Manitoba, and the above mentioned locations.

Recreational fishing for smallmouth bass was allowed in Canada up until the latter part of the 1900s. It remains to be a famous sportfish, yet they are rather invasive once introduced to new rivers and smaller freshwater lakes. This occurs because of unauthorized transfers and when using the fish as live bait.

For the most part, it is typical to find smallmouth bass in cool water. You can also spot them in submerged logs, shoals, and sandy or rocky artreas.

However, you will not be able to find a whole lot of them in thick vegetation in the water. This is the preferred habitat of largemouth bass and not of smallmouth bass.

Additional Facts About Smallmouth Bass

It is also worth noting that the smallmouth bass is a predator – in fact, a top predator. They can also change dramatically when introduced to a newer waterbody. Thus, they can become more invasive and react negatively to other fish in their habitat.

Once they are established in a particular location, these fish can reduce the number of native fish or alter their usual behavior. They can also minimize the number of prey that native fish prefer, thus changing up the food web.

Rock Bass Facts

rock bass facts

Often referred to as rockies, Rock bass are known for their big eyes. Their eyes are also somewhat red but a little darker in color unlike the Smallmouth Bass.

Their shape is similar to that of a Bluegill, except Rock Bass have a thicker body. Smallies, however, have a skinnier and more slender body.

It is also worth noting that Rock Bass is from the sunfish family. But, they are associated with the bass due to its preferred habitat that is quite rocky.

Among the typical features of Rock Bass are:

  • Laterally compressed and thick body
  • Eyes vary from orange to red
  • Body color ranges from olive to golden brown
  • They have silver or white-colored bellies
  • Anal fins have 5 spines (may also be up to 7 spines) while 12 located in the dorsal
  • Weigh under a pound

Location And Habitat

The typical location of the Rock Bass is in various parts of the United States such as the upper Mississippi River, North Alabama, Saint Lawrence River system, Great Lakes, Saskatchewan and Quebec in Canada.

These fish prefer vegetated and clear waterbodies. They are also found in highly vegetated stream pools. Their preferred type of water is anywhere from warm to cool, as long as there are rocky or vegetated bottoms.

The best places to spot them are near breakwaters and shorelines that are stone-armored.

Additional Facts About Rock Bass

Rock Bass are carnivores. Thus, they eat crayfish, smaller fish, crustaceans, and insects. Adults eat quite heavily with feeding times in the early morning and evening.

On the other hand, younger Rock Bass are food for predatory fish that are much larger than them such as the largemouth bass and northern pike.

To catch Rock Bass, it is best to use the same technique as you would for catching Bluegill. You can lure them with the same live bait Bluegills prefer, which increases your chances of catching Rock Bass.


We hope this helped you learn everything you need to know about Smallmouth Bass Vs Rock Bass.

Now, you can clearly tell the difference between the two and discover the best places to go searching for them for a great catch.

With the right bait, fishing techniques, and essential tools, you can most certainly catch either one of these fish species. It is all about knowing more about their location and habitat, as well as their behaviors that impact your chances of finding and catching them.

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