Fishbrain's all fish playoff bracket

Its playoff season and to join in the excitement, Fishbrain has come up with our fresh vs saltwater playoff bracket. Follow along as we decide which all time favorite species win in a head to head matchup, ultimately declaring one fish species the champion.

Fishbrain's all fish playoff bracket

Fresh water

  1. Largemouth Bass

  2. Chinook Salmon

  3. Northern Pike

  4. Channel Catfish

  5. Small Mouth

  6. Rainbow Trout 

  7. Walleye

Salt Water

  1. Tarpon

  2. Mahi Mahi

  3. Yellowfin Tuna

  4. Blue Marlin

  5. Sailfish

  6. Red Fish

  7. Snook


FIRST ROUND BYE: Largemouth bass

Largemouth bass are the king of American freshwater sportfishing. They are one of the most widespread species found across the country, grow to great size and greedily eat most baits. Our hat goes off to the largemouth bass, as it deserves this first round bye.


The fish of 10,000 casts is going up against the prize of the Pacific. As far as weight goes, there is little competition as the record chinook salmon outweighs the record muskie by nearly 30 pounds. The challenge a muskie brings, however, has drawn anglers to the Great Lakes regions for decades. Some believe that a muskie is the catch of a lifetime.


Cats and smallies inhibit much of the same regions in the U.S. but which is the superior fish is completely up for debate. Many believe the smallmouth to be a superior fighter than the largemouth and are readily found in many warm rivers. Channel cats are often referred to as the second most popular sport fish in the country. They are readily found across the country and while they are not the largest catfish species, they are renowned for their food quality.


The most prolific cold water species goes head to head with one the most sought after fish for the fryer. Anglers of all generations across the country boast the rainbow trout as their first catch. Rainbows are native to the West Coast, but have been transplanted to ponds, reservoirs and other bodies of water across the country. Walleye are a midwest favorite, found in and around the Great Lakes, across most of the midwest and well into Canada. The species has also been transplanted even further. Larger walleye put up a terrific fight, but the most coveted aspect of them is the fish fry afterwards. There may be no more delicious, flaky fish in the U.S, than the walleye.



Saltwater holds a treasure trove of legendary fish, but the silver king is called king for a reason. A mixture of size and acrobatic jumps when hooked, and angler’s tenacity to fight them on lighter tackle guarantee this species a ticket to the next round.


They are both fast, angry and delicious. Size wise, the yellowfin dwarfs the mahi, but size isn't everything in the tournament. Dolphin Fish are a beautiful species that put up a hell of a fight relative to their seize. After you make the catch you will be hard pressed to find two more delicious fish to sear up.


It's the fastest fish in the ocean vs The Old Man and the Sea. Both of these two titans could have easily been selected for the first round bye. Both will make your reel scream for mercy and can fight for hours. The tropical scenery surrounding these awe inspiring fish is another reason to admire each. Especially as most anglers in the country are dealing with the gray of winter. What more can be said about these two, that isn't immediately  obvious? Anglers who have never even seen the ocean can easily recognize these classic species.  They may both be members of the billfish family, but only one will advance to the next round.


It's a fight between two all time favorite inshore species. On one side, redfish (or red drum) are one of the most readily found saltwater species, ranging from Texas to Virginia. Reds are terrific fighting fish that can grow up to 50 pounds and provide a great fight on lighter gear. Snook can be thought of as the largemouth bass of the salt. They too can grow well into the double digits, with the record being around 50 pounds. Snook put up a great fight, however, peeling off line as they make long runs.  Both of these inshore champions inhabit a lot of the same habitat and a treasure to set a hook on.

Stay tuned as we whittle down the brackets next week, leading up to an all out showdown between fresh and saltwater. 

Which of your favorite species will make it through to the next round?

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