What Is The Difference Between Bottom Fishing And Sport Fishing?

There are several fishing methods and techniques, all of which can be very successful when used in the right context. All fishing techniques require skill and the right equipment and gear. Among the most popular forms of fishing are sport fishing and bottom fishing, but what are the differences between them?

Bottom fishing is done by sinking bait to the waterbed and waiting for the fish to bite. Sport fishing is active cast and reel fishing. Sport fishing catches large fish in saltwater and smaller fish in freshwater. Bottom fishing catches large fish in freshwater and smaller fish in the ocean. 

There are several important differences between bottom fishing and true sport fishing, but there is a lot of overlap, depending on your perspective. Let’s explore the real differences between sport fishing and bottom fishing to highlight what separates these two fishing disciplines. 

Bottom Fishing Vs. Sport Fishing: What’s The Difference?

Bottom fishing and sport fishing are popular all over the world. Both types of fishing can be done in freshwater and saltwater, both are very effective fishing techniques depending on how they are used, and both require significant fishing skills with particular equipment. 

If you are considering getting into fishing or want to try a new fishing method, you may wonder what the differences are between bottom fishing and sport fishing. 

There are some similarities between them, however, the reality is that these two fishing disciplines are very different. They are conducted in very different ways depending on the water they are in and the fish that are targeted. 

Here we will dive a little deeper into both fishing methods to find their differences and help determine which may be the better technique for you. 

Bottom Fishing

Bottom fishing is considered to be a considerably easier form of fishing than sport fishing. This fishing method can be done with relatively basic gear and tackle. 

This form of fishing is done by using a weighted rig to sink a baited hook into the waterbed. The bait is usually configured to float, bringing it up a few inches from the waterbed, where fish are likely to take it. 

Bottom fishing can be done in the sea or in freshwater of any kind, as long as there are bottom feeders around to take the bait. 

This fishing is usually done with dead or live bait. Live bait is usually best, as this has the highest chance of landing a fish, especially if you use live bait from the same water you are fishing. 

Dead bait works very well, too, provided it is the bait that the fish you are targeting is likely to take. Commercial bait is also an option, especially when fishing for fish such as carp in freshwater. 

In the ocean, bottom fishing is typically conducted in relatively shallow water and targets relatively small fish. Large fish can be caught with this method, but the typically bottom fishing catch weighs around 5 lbs. 

However, when bottom fishing is used in rivers and lakes, it typically targets very large freshwater fish species such as carp and catfish. Bottom targets the largest freshwater fish species and is very effective for this purpose, especially when using live bait such as baitfish from the environment. 

Bottom fishing is very effective and likely to catch fish quite easily, regardless of where it is done. 

Bottom fishing allows the bait and fishing rig to sit at the bottom of the water until a fish takes the bait. This can be a very simple form of fishing and is great for beginners and for experienced anglers alike. 

fisherman holding his catch a large carp fish

Sport Fishing

Sport fishing is very different from bottom fishing, as it is a far more active form of fishing and generally targets the most difficult fish to catch. 

There are several forms of sport fishing, and the techniques used are generally based on the type of fish that are targeted and the water you are fishing in. 

This type of fishing is typically done with a rod and spin reel and generally uses fishing lures rather than bait. The lures used are based on the fish targeted, and the type of gear used is based on the waters and the size of the fish you want to catch. 

This type of fishing is referred to recreationally as spin fishing or cast and retrieve fishing. It is done by casting a lure into the water where you think the fish may be and reeling in the lure to attract the fish to bite it. 

Sport fishing is generally an ocean activity. Oceanic sport fishing, also called deep sea fishing, is done far from the coast and targets some of the biggest possible fish that can be caught with a rod and reel. 

Lures attached to heavy-duty fishing rigs are dragged through the water behind the fishing boat until a large fish finds the lure. 

Sport fishing in the ocean targets very large species, such as marlin and tuna, and is usually very challenging. It can be difficult to find the fish, and when you get a fish on the line, it is always a good fight to get the fish out of the water. 

Ocean sport fish are very large and powerful, making them very difficult to reel in. However, there is almost no more satisfying feeling than winning a fight against a massive ocean fish. 

Sport fishing in freshwater usually targets much smaller fish than in the ocean and is used to catch the most challenging fish possible. Bass is high on the list of freshwater sport fish, as they are very difficult to bring in, especially the larger specimens.

Freshwater sport fishing can be done from the land or a boat and uses the same principles of cast and retrieve with lures designed for specific fish. Fly fishing is another form of sport fishing in freshwater, as it is very effective for catching difficult species such as trout. 

Sport fishing is the act of fishing for any fish that is difficult to catch by means of using a lure and a spin reel to catch the fish. It is an active and challenging form of fishing that can end in failure.

four yellow fin tuna fish lying on a dock

Bottom Fishing Vs. Sport Fishing: Compared

Now that we have learned the key attributes of these fishing types, how do they compare?

The biggest and most obvious difference between bottom fishing and sport fishing is that sport fishing actively casts, reels, lures, or drags them behind a boat, and bottom fishing allows the bait and hook to suspend just above the waterbed until something bites.

Sport fishing typically uses lures, while bottom fishing uses bait. Sport fishing is used to catch very large fish in the ocean and smaller fish in freshwater. Bottom fishing catches very large fish in freshwater and smaller fish in the ocean. 

Bottom fishing is a very successful fishing method and is generally considered to be far easier than sport fishing. More fish can usually be caught in less time while bottom fishing. 

Sport fishing can be very challenging and is not recommended for beginners. It is always very gratifying and provides an excellent challenge for experienced anglers who are looking for something out of the ordinary. 

Sport fishing also uses more complex and sturdy fishing rigs and setups, while bottom fishing can be done with a simple hand line if you have nothing else. 

Bottom fishing can be relaxing or exciting, depending on how you do it, while sport fishing is always exciting and can be very frustrating at times. 

Both fishing types are effective if done well and can be done in almost any environment, so long as you choose your location correctly. 

Which Fishing Method Is Best For You?

If you are new to fishing, or if you want to learn a new fishing discipline, should you learn bottom fishing or sport fishing?

If you have good fishing experience already, and if you understand the mechanics of fishing, then sport fishing should not be difficult to learn. If you know what you are doing on the water, sport fishing is an excellent way to take your fishing skill and experience to the next level. 

However, if you are a beginner angler looking for an easier and more relaxing fishing experience, bottom fishing is the best option. Bottom fishing is far easier, requires less skill, and is generally more accessible. 

Sport fishing is only good for people with larger budgets for fishing gear and tackle. Bottom fishing can be done cheaply with basic gear, but sport fishing requires more high-end gear. 


Sport fishing and bottom fishing are different in several ways. Both are fun and exciting fishing methods, but their differences suit specific anglers. If you are looking for an exhilarating fishing experience, go sport fishing. If you seek a relaxing day on the water, bottom fishing is for you. 

Take the time to explore both fishing methods if you can, and decide which is better for you based on the type of fishing you enjoy and your budget for gear and tackle. Both methods can be effective; you only need to decide which you prefer.

Tommy Bull
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