What Does Bass Actually Taste Like?

Cooked Bass Taste

Depending on the time of the year, you can find a lot of restaurants having fresh bass on their menu all around the US. Bass are considered among the most delicious gamefish you can find within the freshwaters of North America. All types of bass are in demand, regardless of whether they are the popular black sea bass, the smallmouth bass, or even the largemouth bass. The combination of delicious white meat and a very tender texture makes people fall in love with the taste of this type of fish.

What you should know before I get into any more detail is that there are multiple types of bass, all having quite different tastes. The difference becomes even more visible when you compare the taste of saltwater bass and freshwater bass. So the largemouth type will be very different from the black sea one.

If you’re thinking of giving bass a try, it’s always a good idea to know what you’re getting into before going out fishing or cooking this amazing fish. You might find one of the different types of bass better than the rest, you might like all of them, or you might not like any of them. So let’s go over the different types of bass and their individual taste characteristics.

The Largemouth Bass

The largemouth bass is one of the most popular ones out there and most people seem to like it a lot. It has a clear taste. Although the flavor might seem quite fishy when compared to the smallmouth variety, overall it isn’t as fishy or as intense as some species out there. This flavor will intensify as the fish loses its freshness.

Some describe the largemouth’s white meat as having a sort of a watery taste. Its texture is meaty but also very firm. Bass as a whole holds together quite well, as opposed to other types of fish like the tuna, which is known as being flaky. It also has considerably fewer pin bones than other types of fish you might have tried. Even so, this fish still has a decent number of bones in its body, so make sure you’re clearing it properly before eating it.

The smell of largemouth bass will also be quite fishy, just like its flavor. It might even reach the point where it starts to be too much for some people, especially if you’re cooking the fish inside a closed room. This, of course, will depend on how you choose to cook the fish. You might be able to improve the odor and flavor of the fish with the help of the right combination of spices and seasoning. You could give these a try:

  • White wine vinegar
  • Olive oil
  • Mustard
  • Butter
  • Dill
  • Paprika
  • Black pepper
  • Garlic
  • Lemon

If you like to cook and experiment with tastes, you can give traditional spice and herb blends a try and see if you like the taste. It might take a while but if you know your way around the kitchen, you’ll surely find a combination you like. It might even take as little as frying the fish in a pan with butter, pepper, and salt.

The Smallmouth Bass

You might not be the type to like largemouth bass and that’s ok. If this is the case, give smallmouth a try. There are quite a few people who have argued that they like the smallmouth even though they find largemouth disgusting. It is considerably more delicate, with a sweeter taste and a cleaner flavor altogether. It is also not at all as fishy as the largemouth.

You might also like my articles on Sabiki rigs, whether redfish is edible, and the most popular fish with teeth.

The smallmouth bass will have white meat and a firm texture as well. Expect it to have a much milder flavor than the largemouth variety. It goes perfectly with a lot of different spicing and seasoning combinations. It basically works with most if not all of the flavors you would add to a largemouth bass recipe. Just keep in mind that milder fish also require a less intense combination of spices. If you add too much flavor, you will lose the taste of the fish.

Black Sea Bass

Although firm, the meat of black sea bass is also pretty tender. It is lean, so don’t be afraid of having your mouth all greasy after eating it. Expect a sweet, although mild flavor. The combination of these features makes this fish the favorite of most restaurants.

For the best taste, the fish has to be fresh. This could be a great choice for you if you’re the type that has an aversion to fishier flavors because the taste of this particular type of bass is mild and delicate.

Just like the other types of bass we talked about, the black sea variety will taste great if properly paired with some known seasonings and spices. Here are a few examples:

  • Red pepper
  • Black Pepper
  • Dill
  • Lemon
  • Paprika
  • Garlic
  • Onion

You can actually cook the black sea bass in quite a few different ways. The internet is full of recipes involving the black sea bass by:

  • Steaming
  • Grilling
  • Frying
  • Poaching
  • Broiling
  • Baking

Striped Bass

Striped BassThe flavor profiles of the smallmouth bass and the largemouth bass are very much similar. Stripped bass, on the other hand, is considerably different from the other two varieties. It has a somewhat buttery flavor, which makes it still a pretty delicious fish. Its white meat will also have some brininess. It isn’t usually all that fishy, although it will still have that fish taste. The striped bass also has a sweetness to it, just like the smallmouth bass.

Although striped bass has some more fat than other types of bass, it shouldn’t be greasy enough to make you not want to eat it. As a general rule, farmed bass won’t be as rich in flavor as the wild striped one. The bad news is that striped bass was very close to extinction not more than 30 years ago due to exaggerated fishing. Although the general population did manage to rebound, it was due to extensive farming and many of the fish from this species you can find today come from the farmed varieties.

You can cook striped bass in a lot of ways including baking, frying, poaching, and grilling. Typical seasonings will also work with striped bass, giving it a delicious taste.

Saltwater vs Freshwater Bass

Not every bass angler can say they like freshwater bass. There are a lot of people that only like to fish bass as a sport. Bass as a whole has a pretty diverse diet considering it can be found in all types of water. The flavor of the fish can be significantly altered by the type of food it eats.

Usually, people with experience will tell you that saltwater bass isn’t as fishy as freshwater ones. The flavor of the freshwater variety can be intense to the point that some people might actually hate it. This is one of the main reasons why freshwater bass isn’t as popular in people’s kitchens. f you’re an experienced fisherman and now the water you fish it out of is clean enough, then this should be less of a problem for you.

You can even try to inspect the water in the hope of figuring out whether the freshwater bass will have a decent taste or not. As long as there seems to be enough food for the bass and the water source looks clean enough, the fish itself should also taste good.

Catch and Release Bass Fishing

You have to keep in mind that not all bass species should become food. For example, species like the Choctaw Bass or the Guadalupe Bass are only meant for sport fishing. These species are not only not great as food but they are also pretty small. There are some bass populations that are so small that it would be unfair not to release them once you catch them. Releasing them will just help them grow larger and in bigger numbers.

If you ask some of the more experienced bass anglers, they’ll tell you that they will usually release freshwater bass and only keep saltwater bass for eating purposes. This isn’t a must, of course, and it is only a matter of personal preference for many.

Raw Bass

Although bass is very delicious in many recipes, eating it raw isn’t a great idea. There are only some types of fish that will make great sashimi or sushi. If you really want to try eating it raw, at least go for a sea variety. Raw preparation will cause most freshwater bass to taste horrible. Keep in mind to always make sure the fish is properly cleaned and you follow all of the handling procedures when eating raw fish. Again, I recommend not going for raw bass foods.

Things You Should Remember

You will have to be pretty skilled to cook bass properly. Its tender mead is very easily burned so you should try not to overcook this fish. Around 5 minutes on each side should be enough to get the bass cooked properly. This is just how I do it and is basically an estimate that will depend on the thickness of the fish itself.

Always be careful you only eat the freshest fish. You should prepare this fish as soon as you can after catching it. Although bass can be frozen keep in mind that this will have an effect on its flavor in the end. Fresh bass is always better than frozen bass in terms of taste. Never risk cooking and eating a fish you know has been kept out for a while and started to get a strong fishy smell.

Always clean the bass as thoroughly as possible. Try to remove any parasites or other contaminants, as well as visible pin bones. The bass can also be dangerous, depending on the waters it roams in. It is always vital to clean fish properly before you eat it.

You also want to scale bass before you actually cook it. A fish scaler could do the job but if you don’t have one at hand, just make use of the back side of a filet knife. Cleaning the inside of your fish is also important. Clean the filets as well as you can and remove all of their internal organs.

Don’t forget to soak the filets after removing and skinning them, especially if the fish was freshly caught. You really want to remove any leftover blood from inside the filet before cooking it. When soaking the filet, you will notice that the water will change color. When this happens, just change the water to fresh one. You will continue to do this until the water stops changing color.

To get that flavor boost most people like, try adding a seasoning mixture and just letting the fish marinate in it. It’s not all that complicated to make a great marinade, but you can always opt for a pre-made mix if you can’t make it yourself.


Bass can be a very delicious meal, regardless of whether you’re getting it out of saltwater or freshwater. Its meat is known to turn great in almost any preparation style or recipe. It will work with most seasoning and spice mixes. If you still haven’t had a chance to eat bass before, then you should really give it a go.


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