Comparison image of differences between Bass and Walleye.

Walleye vs Bass: Which Fish is the Catch of the Day?

Walleye and Bass are two of the most popular freshwater fish in North America. Both are prized for their fighting ability, their delicious taste, and their abundance in many lakes and rivers. 

But which one is better? 

This question has sparked many debates among anglers. In this article, we will compare these two fish species. These differences are: 

  • Appearance
  • Behaviour 
  • Habitats
  • Fishing Techniques 
  • Their Taste 

We will also explore the history and culture of Walleye and Bass fishing. Along with some tips and tricks to help you catch more of these amazing fish! 

Whether you are a novice or a seasoned fisherman, you will find something new and interesting in this article. So, get ready for an exciting discussion of walleye and bass and see which fish is the catch of the day!


Physical Differences Between Walleye & Bass  

If you look closely at Walleye and Bass, you will see that they are not alike at all. They have different shapes, colours, and fins that make them unique. They also come from different families of fish as I have discussed in greater detail. 

Comparison image of differences between Bass and Walleye.
From Left to Right: Smallmouth Bass, Walleye, Largemouth Bass. All can be caught in the French River, Northern Ontario.

In short, Walleye are part of the Perch Family while Bass like Largemouth and Smallmouth are part of the Black Bass genus (a subset of the Sunfish family).

Below are more specific differences.

Dorsal fin

Walleye have a fin that looks like a perch’s, with two parts: one with sharp spines and one with soft rays. As for Bass, they have a fin that looks like a smooth curve, with only one part and short rays. 

Images of dorsal fins for Smallmouth Bass, Walleye, and Largemouth Bass
Dorsal Fins left to right: Smallmouth, Walleye, Largemouth


Walleye are also more colourful than Bass. Their bodies are gold with olive hues and black stripes on their back. 

Bass are plainer. Depending on the species, they can be a dark-greenish colour to golden-olive or brown. Largemouth have a horizontal black stripe while Smallmouth may have vertical dark bars. 


Perhaps the most striking difference between Bass and Walleye is their eyes. 

Walleye’s eyes are ghostly and shine like a pearl. They have perpendicular vision (eyes that point outward) and have some of the largest cone cells of any predatory animal. Which helps them hunt at night. 

Walleye can detect colours of orange, red, yellow, and green according to Dr. Suzanne Gray’s research at the Ohio State University. Her research indicates Walleye are more likely to strike yellow or gold colour lures in turbid waters. Whereas black-coloured lures are better in green algae-laden waters.

On the other hand, Bass eyes are normal looking for freshwater fish. They’re limited compared to Walleye’s in low light conditions, but they are also unique. Bass eyes are better adjusted to red and green colours. Walleye’s eyes focus more on movement while Bass’s eyes are better able to judge shapes. Therefore, being better able to judge what they’ll strike.  

Shape & Size

Walleye are longer and slimmer than Bass, which are shorter and stockier like footballs. 

The largest member of the Black Bass family is the Largemouth. The largest ever recorded at a length of 75 cm (29.5 in) and had an unofficial weight of 11.4 kg (25 pounds and 1 ounce).  

Walleyes can grow to about 80 cm (31 in) in length and weigh about 9kg (20 lb.). The largest recorded Walleye was measured at 107cm (42 in) and 13 kg (29 lb.). 

When, Where & How to Catch Walleye? 

Walleye are strong swimmers and favour places with current. As mentioned earlier, their eyes help them see in low-light conditions. They often hunt from shaded areas to strike unsuspecting prey. This makes places like rivers a prime Walleye fishing destination. 

They will school together like Perch, and swim in groups of similar size and age. This is for their protection, social interaction, and increased odds of finding food. Their schools constantly travel like a wolf pack following baitfish. 

Their schools move to different locations depending on the season and water temperatures. In the spring and fall, they are more active and aggressive in shallow waters. During summer, they occupy deeper water or current for feeding.

Walleye Baits & Lures

Now, Walleye are finickier fish than Bass – who often explode into action with their feisty temperament. Most of the time, Walleye will pick and nibble at your bait causing a tap-tap-tap sensation while jigging. After catching your first fish, you should throw out a marker and immediately begin casting to the school or vertical jigging with live bait.

Besides jigging, crankbaits and worm harnesses are also popular techniques for catching Walleye.   

When, Where & How to Catch Bass?

All Bass are adaptable to a variety of habitats and are opportunistic feeders. Their habitats include ponds, lakes, rivers, and streams. For Largemouth, they prefer dense cover and slower-moving water. Whereas Smallmouth, are more active by hunting in open water and current like Walleye.

There are other major differences between Largemouth and Smallmouth Bass, but they also chase the same baitfish. Therefore, many baits that work for one type of fish will work for the other. 

Bass Baits & Lures

Some of the best lures for Bass fishing are crankbaits, spinnerbaits, rubber baits, and live bait. You should own two of each lure, one in natural bait colours and one in a bright colour (think white or chartreuse). This gives you variety for different weather patterns, light conditions, and presentations. It’s the same way as you or I have different tastes and favourite types of food. What may be interesting to one of us today may not be tomorrow. 

Starting off, crankbaits mimic small fish with a lip that makes them dive and wobble. They’re a flexible bait to work at various depths and maneuver around cover.

Spinnerbaits have metal blades that spin and flash. Its spinning motion causes strong vibrations which Bass detects with their lateral line organ. A unique sensory organ similar to the human ear. It follows the length of its body to sense vibrations of swimming or distressed prey.

Live bait is natural bait and the most familiar. Bait like worms, minnows, leeches, and insects are the most common for many Bass anglers. Yet, there are also plastic and rubber baits that mimic natural prey. Many imitation baits are even scented to smell like their natural counterparts.

Are Walleye Good to Eat?

Absolutely! Walleyes are often one of the most sought-after freshwater fish in Ontario because of their meat. The texture of their meat will change depending on how you prepare Walleye. 

Often people fry Walleye, making their sweet-tasting meat tender and flaky. There are many recipes and types of batter. From Beer Batter, Lemon-pepper, extra crispy, spicy, and more! It all comes down to personal preference for shore lunch.    

For a healthier option, Walleye can also be baked or broiled. My favourite way to prepare baked Walleye is with a lemon pepper zest rub. Start with a little olive oil to help keep the meat moist as it is baked and helps the spices stick to the fillet. Next, add a dash of Old Bay seasoning for some added depth followed by ground pepper and zested lemons.  

Are Bass Good to Eat?

“How does Bass taste?” is a common question I heard while working in a fishing camp. Personally, I like their taste and many other Bass anglers like it as well! But it depends on the water they come from.

Bass has a stronger flavour than Walleye or Pike. Yet, they have a delicate and flaky white flesh. Their meat’s texture is like Cod’s which makes it great for frying.

You can also prepare Bass the same way as Walleye when it comes to baking or broiling. Although, this choice can be limited by the season. Depending on how hot the water is, their meat softens and becomes mushier. This problem is more common in Largemouth as they tend to stay near shallows and weeds and thus hotter water.  


So what fish is the catch of the day?

For many freshwater anglers, with the opportunity to fish for them, Walleye is the answer. Their savoury and sweet-tasting meat makes them such a desired gamefish. And there are many creative ways you can prepare Walleye!

Yet, Bass should not be overlooked. Ontario is home to many bays, lakes, rivers and streams in which they reside. And Canada’s water is some of the cleanest water on Earth. You should feel confident using Bass for your next fish fry too! 

Article by Joe Barefoot, M.B., Outdoor Writer and Nationally Published Author & Photographer