Best Smallmouth Bass Fishing Tackle and Lures

Best Smallmouth Bass Fishing Tackle and Lures

This post will thoroughly cover the best smallmouth bass fishing tackle and lures. Smallmouth bass are a very popular freshwater species. They prefer cooler and clearer water than their largemouth bass cousins. In a way, they are a bit of a combination of largemouth bass in freshwater trout. Smallmouth bass do not grow as large, but put up a terrific fight. They prefer current and are found as often in rivers as they are in lakes. In order to be successful, anglers need the best smallmouth bass fishing tackle.

smallmouth bass fishing tackle and lures

The best smallmouth bass fishing tackle is a light spinning rod and reel along with a good selection of lures would include spinners, spoons, plugs, and jigs. This selection of tackle and lures will cover most smallmouth bass fishing situations. Smallmouth bass are similar in size and habits throughout most of the country.

Smallmouth bass fishing, especially in rivers, is pretty basic. Due to their preference of clear water and the fact that they don’t grow as large, the best rod and reel combinations for smallmouth bass are a bit on the light side. Many anglers already own a rod and reel combination that is suitable for chasing smallies. There are a handful of proven artificial lures that still produce smallmouth bass to this day. Many anglers already own these.

Fishing rods and reels for smallmouth bass

There are three different rod and reel combinations that will cover every smallmouth bass fishing situation. These are an ultralight spinning outfit, a medium light spinning outfit, and a medium light bait casting rig. Anglers can certainly get away with only one rod and reel, but to ideally match the conditions, most anglers should have at least a couple different rod and reel combinations.

Medium light spinning rod and reel

The most versatile rod and reel combination would be a medium light spinning rod that is between 6 feet long and 7 feet long matched with a 2000 series reel. It can be spooled up with 8 pound monofilament or 10 pound braided line. This would be a great choice for anglers who only want one outfit that will cover most smallmouth bass fishing situations. This outfit will be a tad heavy for fishing small rivers and a little light for fishing docks and other structure. However, it will cover the majority of smallmouth bass fishing applications.

Options for both medium light and ultra light rod and reel combinations can be purchased from this link.

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Ultra light spinning rod and reel

Many anglers pursue smallmouth bass in small to medium-sized rivers. For the most part, these waters are fairly clear and the fish average three quarters of a pound or so. For this reason, every serious smallmouth bass angler should have an ultralight spinning outfit in his or her arsenal. A 6 foot ultralight rod with a 1000 series reel spooled up with 4 pound monofilament or 10 pound braid is an excellent all round outfit. This combination is excellent for casting very light lures and allows even a hand sized fish to give a good account of itself when hooked.

Medium light baitcasting reel

The third and final rod and reel combination would be a medium light bait casting outfit. For many anglers, this outfit can be omitted. However, serious smallmouth bass anglers who fish larger lakes that hold above average sized bass will usually have a rig such as this on board. It is better suited for casting heavier lures for larger fish as well as fishing around structure such as bridges, rip rap, docks, and submerged timber.

Fly fishing outfit for smallmouth bass

Smallmouth bass are an excellent species to chase with a fly rod. For the most part, they are less finicky and easier to catch than trout. This is especially true in the heavily pressure trout fishing waters that many anglers are faced with. A good all-around fly fishing rod and reel would be a 9′ 5 wt outfit with a medium action. In most situations, a floating line will be fine. However, a sink tip or slowly sinking line does give the fly angler some versatility.

Tackle for fishing with live bait

Many anglers enjoy fishing for smallmouth bass with live bait. Live bait can be extremely effective in certain situations, especially when fish are located. Artificial lures do allow anglers to cover more water. However, live bait can be very productive when fish are located or when they are extremely fussy.

live bait fishing

The tackle required for using live bait on smallmouth bass is quite basic. A selection of light wire live bait hooks in sizes #2, #4, and #6 along with some pinch on weights, small sliding sinkers, and a couple of floats is really all that is required. Anglers to tie up special rigs may also use in-line swivels and three-way swivels.

Fishing for smallmouth bass with lures

It is probably safe to say that the majority of anglers fishing for smallmouth bass do so using artificial lures. There are a couple of reasons for this. Convenience is a major factor, there is no bait that is needed to be purchased, caught, and kept alive. Artificial lures allow anglers to cover much more water in search of fish. Smallmouth bass are aggressive in nature and artificial lures will often trigger a strike even when they are not feeding. Finally, artificial lures are just plain old fun to fish!

best 9 fishing lures for streams and small rivers

There are four basic types of artificial lures, jigs and soft plastic baits, plugs, spinners, and spoons. Each puts out vibration that mimics a wounded bait fish or other type of prey. Most have some type of built in action, while others require more manipulation on the part of the angler. Each lure type will be covered below including a few examples of proven and productive smallmouth bass lures.

Jigs and soft plastic lures

A jig is a hook with a weight molded at the front near the eye. This weight gives the lure its erratic action and the water along with its name. When properly fish to, the lore will jig up and down. Most strikes occur as the lure falls through the water column. This realistically mimics a dying or wounded bait fish or other form of forage. The jig head can come either dressed with natural or synthetic care or plain so that a trailer can be added.

Jigs are very versatile lures they can be fished in a variety of ways. Also, depending on the dressing or tail, a jig can be retrieved to mimic a bait fish such as shad or bounced along the bottom to imitate a crawfish or other crustacean. Jigs that come with dressing most often use bucktail, marabou or some type of synthetic hair. These are very effective, however not quite as versatile or durable as the jig and grub combination.

Tailwater fishing tips and techniques

Most anglers fishing for smallmouth bass with jigs use a jig head in combination with some type of soft plastic body. The endless combinations result in this being a very versatile and economical way to fish. An excellent example of this would be a 1/8 ounce black jig head with a green or orange crawfish style tail. This is a very universal color combination that is effective anywhere smallmouth bass are found. A 3 inch pearl had tail swim bait on a 1/4 ounce jig is an excellent choice when smallmouth bass are feeding on bait fish.

Below are several examples of effective dressed jigs as well as jig and grub combinations. By no means are these the only choices. There are countless manufacturers who sell quality smallmouth bass fishing jigs. These are a few proven baits which will catch smallmouth bass anywhere.

Tube baits

Tube baits are extremely effective smallmouth bass fishing lures. They have a lot of action when worked slowly and subtly, which entices strikes when fish are not overly active. The body of the tube adds substance while the tails flutter seductively in the water. They are most often fished on the bottom, mimicking crayfish and other crustaceans. Natural colors such as olive in root beer work very well. White can be an excellent color when shad are present. The Berkley Power Bait tube is Capt. Jim’s personal favorite for smallmouth bass.

Bass Assassin lures

The Bass Assassin line of swim baits are excellent smallmouth bass fishing lures. They come in a variety of color patterns in several sizes. Lighter, natural colors are Capt. Jim’s favorite for targeting smallmouth bass. They are most often fished on a jig head, but can also be used on a swim bait hook. These lures are very easy to use and have a lot of built in action.

Hair jigs

Jigs that come with hair dressing are very effective smallmouth bass fishing lures as well. In some ways they are easier in that the angler does not have to match the tail to the head. Marabou is a common dressing for jigs and puts out a lot of action with very little movement. Bucktail is another popular ineffective dressing. Finally, jigs also come with synthetic hair dressing. Darker colors work best when bounced on the bottom while lighter colors are effective when fishing in schools of bait fish.

Yamamoto Senko

The 4” Yamamoto Senko is an extremely effective in versatile bait for smallmouth bass and many other species. It does not look like much nor does it have a ton of action, but this finesse bait certainly catches fish. It is best worked with very little or even no action, just being allowed to flutter down through the water column or drift with the current. It can be fished on a bare hook or a light jig head.

Top plugs for smallmouth bass fishing

Plugs are hard bodied baits, usually made of plastic, that imitate bait fish or crawfish for the most part. Plugs are either worked on the surface or below the surface. Top water plugs float and spend their entire time working on the surface of the water. They are great fun to fish as the strike is visual. However, more fish are caught by anglers using plugs below the surface. These will dive to a variety of depths, based on the size and shape of the lip along with the design of the plug.

live bait for bass

Jerk baits are extremely effective smallmouth bass fishing lures. These are long slender baits that have a very erratic action and the water. They dive down from a couple of feet below the surface to 15 feet or more, depending on the shape of the lip. These lures are worked with an aggressive jerk and a pause in between. Most of the time the smallmouth bass hits the plug on the pause, as it hangs there seemingly helpless.

Rapala X-Rap Extreme Action Slashbait

Capt. Jim’s favorite jerk bait is the Rapala X-Rap Extreme Action Slashbait. The #8 size works best in rivers and in lakes where the forage is on the small side. The #10 size is excellent when anglers are fishing in larger lakes. This plug is also available with a larger lip, allowing it to fish down to almost 15 feet. White is an excellent all-around color, with olive being a good second choice.

Rebel Wee Craw

The Rebel Wee Craw is a legendary smallmouth bass fishing plug. As the name implies, it was built to imitate a crayfish and it does an excellent job of that. The lure is available and several different sizes and a handful of very natural looking finishes. It works extremely well when bounced through deeper holes and small to medium-size rivers. The Wee Craw is also effective when fished around riprap and on sloping rocky points in lakes.

Heddon Tiny Torpedo

The Heddon Tiny Torpedo is an outstanding top water lure for catching smallmouth bass in both rivers and lakes. Many plugs designed for largemouth bass are a bit too large for smallmouth bass. This bait is the perfect size and is very easy to fish. It has a conical nose and a propeller on the rear. When twitched, the propeller puts out a good amount of commotion which will draw smallmouth bass to the bait.

Rapala Shad Rap

The Rapala Shad Rap is an excellent plug to use when smallmouth bass are feeding on shad. It has a wider more substantial profile, better imitating Shad and herring that are often found in lakes. The smaller versions and lighter finishes work best when Shad and other bait fish are present. The lure is available in a deep diving version as well. Both bait fish and crayfish color patterns are productive.

Spinners and spinnerbaits

Spinners have been around a very long time. They are very simple and effective lures that are easy to use. This makes them an excellent choice for novice anglers. The two basic types of spinners are in line spinners and spinner baits. In line spinners have a blade that rotates around the shaft with some type of body and a dress tail. Spinner baits use a wire frame with a spinner at the top and some type of body at the bottom.

smallmouth bass fishing tackle and lures

In line spinners are most often associated with river fishing. They are very effective as the current causes the blade to rotate. Most often, the lure is cast across the stream and allowed to float down with just enough tension on the line to keep a tight. They can be used in lakes as well. Spinner baits are more often used in lakes and have a wider profile. Due to their design, spinner baits are also more weedless and are a better choice when fished around weeds and other cover.

Worden’s Original Rooster Tail spinner

Capt Jim’s favorite spinner by far is the Worden’s Original Rooster Tail Spinner. This is a very effective lure that comes in several sizes and many different color patterns. It is an outstanding lure for fishing streams and small rivers. It is very light in weight and will not sink down to the bottom and hang up as some other spinners well. The 1/8 ounce lure with a gold blade and any bright colored body is an excellent all round choice. One advantage these spinners have is that they will catch a lot of trout as an added bonus and waters where these fish are present.

Panther Martin spinner

The Panther Martin is another effective spinner used when smallmouth bass fishing. It is heavier and more compact than the Rooster Tail. This makes it a better choice for anglers fishing larger rivers where long casts are required as well is getting down deeper into the holes. It is also a better choice in lakes and can even be trolled.

Terminator spinnerbait

The Terminator line of spinner baits are excellent lures for smallmouth bass fishing in lakes and larger rivers. They are well-made and very durable. Spinner baits put out a lot a flash and vibration. There also fairly heavy and can be cast a long distance. Gold bladed lures work best early and late in the day and in stained water. Conversely, silver blades and lighter colored bodies work best on bright sunny days.

Beetlespin spinnerbait

Beetlespin spinnerbaits are smaller and more subtle than the larger versions. These are excellent choices for fishing rivers and smaller lakes as well as in cold, clear water.

Spoons are effective smallmouth bass fishing lures

Spoons are another example of simple yet very effective fishing lures for smallmouth bass and many other species. A spoon is basically a curved piece of metal with a hook in. The design of the spoon will determine its action and how it can be used. This is another lure that is an excellent choice for novice anglers as it has a lot of built in action. Anglers should use some type of snap swivel or in-line swivel with spoons to help eliminate line twist.

Acme Kastmaster spoon

The Acme Kastmaster is a very effective spoon for smallmouth bass in both rivers and lakes. It is compact and dense which results in long casts. It has an excellent built in action and can be either cast and retrieved or troll. Generally, erratic retrieve’s work best. It comes in multiple sizes and finishes. Chrome with a blue neon and gold are Capt. Jim’s two favorite color patterns.

Eppinger Daredevil spoon

The venerable Eppinger Daredevil spoon has been around for decades. It is a proven lure that catches smallmouth bass and many other species to this day. It comes in a variety of sizes and colors. It has more of the traditional spoon shape, sort of an elongated teardrop. Anglers fishing with this spoon in waters that have populations of pike will catch many of them as an added bonus.

Luhr Jensen Krocodile spoon

The Krocodile spoon is a versatile and effective smallmouth bass lure. Like most spoons, it comes in multiple sizes and finishes. These spoons can be cast out and retrieved, trolled, and vertically jigged.

Hopkins jigging spoon

The Hopkins spoon is a bit of a specialty lure. It is primarily thought of as a vertically jigged spoon. The quarter ounce and half ounce silver spoon with the hammered finish is by far the most popular combination. This spoon is extremely effective when smallmouth bass are schooled in deep water over points, channel edges, and other structure. It is one of the few baits that will fool suspended fish into biting.

In conclusion, this article on the best smallmouth bass fishing tackle and lures will help anglers choose the right equipment and baits in order to be more successful!

Best Live Bait for Smallmouth Bass

Best Live Bait for Smallmouth Bass

Many anglers fish for smallmouth bass using live bait. After all, why use an imitation when you can use the real thing? There are several effective live baits for smallmouth bass. However, there is one live bait that rises above the others.

The best live bait for smallmouth bass is a live crawfish. There are several reasons for this. Crayfish are plentiful near rocks, a structure that smallmouth bass prefer. Crayfish are very high in protein. This is something that smallmouth bass and other game fish need. Crayfish are fairly large and make a substantial meal. Finally, all things considered crayfish are fairly easy for smallmouth bass to catch.

Smallmouth bass and crayfish have one thing in common, they love rocks! In fact, one of the reasons that smallmouth bass are caught so often on rocky structure is there affinity for crayfish. Often times, the best fishing spots for smallmouth bass include rip rap, submerged rocky islands, and points with gravel or other rock on. This is not a coincidence.

Crayfish live in the crevices and under rocks in both rivers and lakes. A live crayfish properly presented is an extremely productive live bait for smallmouth bass. They will certainly catch other species as well. However, smallmouth bass in particular have crayfish as a very high percentage of their diet. Anglers may enjoy this comprehensive post, Smallmouth Bass Fishing for Beginners as well.

Anglers can read a comprehensive article on freshwater fishing tackle in this link.

How to acquire live crayfish for smallmouth bass bait

Crayfish are not available at a lot of bait shops. Some bait shops that cater to smallmouth bass anglers will keep them in stock. This really depends on the geographical part of the country. The Ozarks and Midwest bait shops tend to have them more often than others.

This means that the majority of anglers will have to catch their own crayfish to use for bait. Fortunately, this is not very difficult. Special crayfish traps can be purchased online which do a very good job of catching these little crustaceans. Minnow traps will also catch their fair share.

The best approach is to bait the minnow trap with some type of meat. Bacon works very well as crayfish bait. The trap is then placed in a slower moving deeper pool in a stream or river or along a rocky shoreline in a lake. Crayfish are nocturnal. Therefore, traps will do best if allowed to set overnight.

Anglers can also catch crayfish by hand. This is best done smaller creeks and streams. A large aquarium that can be placed behind a rock. The angler then lifts the rock and often times if a crayfish is there the current will sweep it into the net. Seines can work well for catching crayfish to. This requires one angler to hold the saying and the other two kick rocks upstream, washing the crayfish down into the seine.

Best method to hook live crayfish for smallmouth bass

Crayfish are almost always hooked in the tail. Anglers hold the crayfish by the front of their body, squeezing the pinchers in tight. Then, the hook is put through the tail of the crayfish from the bottom than out of the top. Since crayfish generally school backwards when fleeing, this results in a natural presentation.

Anglers should keep the terminal tackle as light as possible. Often times, a simple hook and a light split shot is all that is required. This works very well when working a crayfish down a sloping point or over a fairly shallow submerged rock pile. Anglers fishing and streams and rivers will do well with the same rig. The hook size should match the size of the bait. A #4 short shank live bait hook is a good all-around choice.

Anglers fishing with live crayfish in deeper water will often opt for a variation of a Carolina rig. With this set up, the line passes through a sliding sinker and then is tied to a swivel. A 2 foot leader is used between the swivel and the hook. This keeps the bait on the bottom while allowing the crayfish to move around a bit. It is very effective!

Techniques for fishing live crayfish for smallmouth bass

For best results, the crayfish should be worked right on the bottom fairly slowly. Crayfish walked forward and feed when not threatened. When they do feel threatened, their response is to flick their tail and shoot backwards raising their clause a defense. Many and artificial lure has been designed to mimic this behavior.

Anglers fishing with live crayfish and lakes will do well to work drop-offs on sloping points in water between 10 feet deep and 20 feet deep. Submerged islands and rock piles are prime spots as well. The area around bridges is often filled with rip rap. This is a terrific place to seek out a smallmouth bass as well.

Crayfish work very well on smallmouth bass and streams and rivers, too. In fact, this is really their natural environment. Most artificial lures that anglers use for smallmouth bass and rivers mimic crayfish. The best technique is to free line the crayfish on a hook with a small split shot. In areas with a lot of snags, anglers can fish the bait under a float as well.

Other live baits for smallmouth bass

While crayfish are the best live bait for smallmouth bass, there are other live baits which produce fish as well. These include nightcrawlers, minnows, helgremites, and leeches.

Nightcrawlers

Most every freshwater angler has fish with a nightcrawler at one time or another. They may be the best all around freshwater fishing live bait that there is. However, they come in a close second to the crayfish when pursuing smallmouth bass. One advantage nightcrawlers have over crayfish is their convenience. Nightcrawlers are available at just about every bait and tackle store. They are also much easier to keep alive in store than are live crayfish. They are fished much in the same manner, with free lining on a hook with little weight being the best choice.

best live bait for freshwater fishing

Minnows

Big fish eat little fish. It has been that way forever and will continue to be so. Smallmouth bass are no exception in that they will readily take a frisky live minnow. Depending on the geographic location, anglers have several choices as far as the types of minnow that can be used. Commercially Ray shiners are quite popular. Larger Missouri minnow’s work well, too. Anglers can catch their own minnows as well. However, they need to check local regulations to make sure that they stay in legal compliance.

In shallow water fishing situations, minnows are fished under a float for smallmouth bass. This results in the minnow pulling frantically against the bobber. This will definitely attract a hungry smallmouth bass or other species. In deeper water, minnows are fished on a variation of a drop shot rig. With this set up, the weight sits on the bottom while the minnow is suspended a foot or so above.

Helgremites

Helgremites are a bit of a specialized bait. Very few bait shops sell them and anglers will have to catch their own. They are almost always found in moving water and streams in creeks. Helgramites are the larva of the dobsonfly. They are superb live baits for smallmouth bass. The only reason that they rank behind crayfish is the difficulty in obtaining them. Anglers catch them in seines and with that’s and running water behind rocks.

Leeches

Leeches are another specialized bait that northern anglers use for smallmouth bass. They are primarily available to anglers fishing for walleye. However, they are a very good smallmouth bass bait and 10 to catch larger fish than some of the other live baits. Leeches have a tremendous and seductive swimming action and the water.

In conclusion, this article on the best live bait for smallmouth bass will help anglers catch more of these terrific game fish!

smallmouth bass fishing, a Complete Guide

Smallmouth Bass Fishing, a Complete Guide

This article will focus on smallmouth bass fishing. Experienced anglers will find it useful as well as beginners. “Bronzebacks” are a very popular game fish in the cooler sections of North America. This guide will help anglers new to smallmouth bass fishing understand the tackle, baits, locations, and tactics that will help them catch more of these terrific game fish.

smallmouth bass fishing

While smallmouth bass and largemouth bass are often lumped together, they are actually quite different in habits. Both species are found in many different waters. Smallmouth bass behave a bit more like trout. They prefer cool, clear, and where possible flowing water. Smallmouth bass are found in creeks, rivers, and lakes throughout most of the United States and into Canada. They are a terrific game fish that puts up a great fight and leap often. Most smallmouth bass anglers practice catch and release.

The smallmouth bass is native to the upper and middle Mississippi River basin, the St Lawrence and Great Lakes system, and up into the Hudson Bay basin. However, they have been stocked successfully throughout all but the warmer portions of the United States and up into Canada.

Smallmouth bass habits

It is important to understand the habits of smallmouth bass in order to catch them. Smallmouth bass spawn in a similar manner to their cousins the largemouth bass. The male will build a nest, preferably in a shallow area with gravel or rocky bottom and a little bit of current. The female will then deposit the eggs and the male will fertilize them. Spawning usually occurs in late spring or early summer. The male then guards the nest until the fish are hatched. Like most fish species, only a tiny percentage of fry will grow to be mature fish.

Smallmouth bass fishing for beginners

Smallmouth Bass have an affinity for rocks. They are often times found along rip-rap, sloping points with gravel and rock, submerged humps with rocky bottoms, and rocky shorelines. In other words, anglers targeting smallmouth bass will do well to start fishing any type of structure that has a gravel or rocky bottom.

The reason for this is quite simple; crayfish. Crayfish, or crawdads, are a dietary staple of the smallmouth bass. This is true whether they are in rivers or lakes. Crayfish are high in protein and are relatively easy to catch, making them a very efficient meal. Smallmouth bass are well-suited to forage on these freshwater delicacies.

However, smallmouth bass are opportunistic feeders. They will feed heavily on small bait fish when they are present. Most river systems have a good population of some type of chub or flat head minnow. Lakes will have shad and other bait fish. Smallmouth bass will feed on these. Also, insects and larvae such as earthworms, helgramites, and small amphibians including tadpoles and small frogs will also fall prey to smallmouth bass.

Smallmouth bass tackle

The vast majority of anglers targeting smallmouth bass use light spinning tackle. It is the most versatile and practical outfit. Smallmouth bass feed on smaller sized bait than do largemouth bass. Therefore, the offerings used to entice them are smaller as well. Most lures and live baits are fairly light. Light spinning tackle is the best choice to present these baits in most situations.

Anglers can read a detailed article on smallmouth bass fishing tackle and lures in this link

spinnerbait fishing

A 6 foot long light spinning rod matched to a 2000 series reel and 6 pound monofilament line or 10 pound braided line is a great all around combination. It will cast small lures and live baits easily. The angler will enjoy the fight of smaller bass on this light tackle while still having a decent chance to land a larger fish. In many instances, smallmouth bass are found in open water, resulting in light spinning tackle being a viable option.

Here is a link to a nice Cadence combo on Amazon for around $90. The 2000 series 6’6″ medium light outfit is perfect  for most smallmouth bass fishing.

“Fishing Lido Key is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon”

smallmouth bass fishing tackle and lures

Anglers can certainly use light conventional tackle as well. This is best suited when casting heavier hard body plugs and larger spinnerbaits in search of trophy smallmouth bass. It can just be too difficult to try to cast light lures on this type of tackle. Of course, anglers using larger live baits will do well with conventional tackle as well.

Smallmouth bass baits

Both live bait in artificial lures are extremely effective on smallmouth bass. Top live baits include nightcrawlers, minnows, leeches, and helgramites. Anglers preferring to cast artificial lures do well with jigs, soft plastic baits, plugs, spinner baits, and in-line spinners. All can be effective, it really is just a matter of angler choice.

Live bait for smallmouth bass

Anglers choosing to fish with live bait do well by keeping it simple. A #4 or #6 live bait hook is tied onto the end of the line. Depending on the situation, a split shot or two can be used to get the bait down in the water column. Conversely, a float can be used to suspend the bait up off the bottom.

Anglers can read an article on the best live bait for smallmouth bass.

Nightcrawlers are best hooked in the head. This allows them to wiggle enticingly in the water. Most anglers hook live minnows through both lips up from the bottom. Again, this allows the bait to swim naturally in the water. Leeches are also hooked in the head. Crawfish are usually hooked in the tail. Helgramites are hooked under the collar just behind the head.

Anglers using live baits are subject to availability. Just about every freshwater tackle shop in North America stocks nightcrawlers. These are universal and effective baits for just about every freshwater species. Many shops will have live minnows as well. This changes a bit with the more exotic live baits such as leeches, crayfish, and helgramites. Serious anglers must often catch these on their own.

live bait for bass

Smallmouth bass fishing with artificial lures

Many anglers opt to use artificial lures when fishing for smallmouth bass. Lures can be extremely effective and they are much more convenient. They also allow anglers to cover more water then does live bait. The list of effective artificial lures when smallmouth bass fishing is long, but we will try to narrow the focus here.

Here is a link to the Best 7 River Smallmouth Fishing Lures. Anglers can get more info as well as shop and purchase these baits.

Soft plastic baits

Soft plastic baits are extremely effective on smallmouth bass, as they are on just about every other species. They come in a myriad of shapes, colors, sizes, and styles and can be fished on a jig head, on specially designed hooks, and on drop shot rigs. Most effective smallmouth bass soft plastic lures are generally 2 inches to 4 inches in size and imitate crawfish or bait fish.

While color combinations are endless, there are a few standard colors that have proven to be effective over time. A 1/8 ounce black jig head with an orange and black or olive and black 2” grub is a proven smallmouth bass lure. It is especially effective in rivers. Anglers can choose from a twister tail, shad tail, paddle tail, or crawfish tail. All of them can be effective. A 4″ Senko in green is another terrific smallmouth bass bait.

Tubes are another very effective soft plastic bait for smallmouth bass and other species. They are available in several sizes and many different colors. Tubes can mimic bait fish, crayfish, leeches, and other forage species. They put out terrific action with very little movement, this is the key to their effectiveness. Tubes are a good choice when bass are a bit less active.

Soft plastic baits are versatile

Lighter colors such as white and pearl can be effective when smallmouth are known to be feeding on shad and other bait fish. The great thing about these baits is their versatility. With a small selection of jig heads and grub bodies, and angler can mimic just about any freshwater forage available to smallmouth bass and other species.

Tube baits are extremely effective smallmouth bass lures. For many anglers, a tube is their top bait. Tube lures can mimic both bait fish and crayfish. These are the top two species that smallmouth feed on. In most cases, the bait is worked very slowly or with short hops. The many tentacles will wave in the water even with very little movement by the angler. Tubes are a great choice on bright, sunny days when smallmouth bass are less active.

Soft plastic baits can also be fished on special hooks. These can be very effective as they present the bait and more of a horizontal manner. Hooks come in various sizes and weights and can in most instances be rigged weedless. There are very effective when using larger 4 inch to 5 inch soft plastic baits.

Drop shot rigs have become very popular of late. It is a vertical presentation. A special hook is tied in line a short distance above a weight. The bait is dropped to the bottom and jigged seductively. This is extremely effective when smallmouth bass are schooled up in deeper water. It is also an effective way to target suspended bass.

Spinners and spinnerbaits

Spinner baits and inline spinners are effective smallmouth bass lures. Spinnerbaits are often times used in conjunction with the above-mentioned jig and grub combination. A spinner bait is basically a safety pin type spinner with a blade at the top and a small lure on the bottom. The combination of the flash of the spinner blade and the action of the lure is very effective. It is also an easy bait to use as it is generally just cast in and then retrieved back steadily.

fishing with spinnerbaits

In-line spinners have been around a long time and are very effective as well. Most freshwater anglers have used a Mepps or Roostertail spinner at one point or another in their angling adventures. For the most part, they imitate bait fish. The blade rotates around the lure, putting out flash and vibration. Like the spinner bait, it is very easy to use as it is just cast out and reeled back and slowly. An added benefit is that hey also catch a wide variety of fish species.

Anglers can read Capt Jim’s article on fishing with spinners

Plugs

Hard body plugs, known to some as jerk baits, are another extremely effective smallmouth bass lure. They come in many different sizes and shapes and can be used to imitate both crawfish and bait fish. Long, slender plugs tend to be the favorite of smallmouth bass anglers.

The lip on the bait along with the size will determine the depth that the lure will run. Plugs can be purchased that will imitate just about every type of forage as well as covering the entire water column. Wide-bodied plugs with a large slip will dive down deep and bounce off the bottom structure, imitating crawfish. Slender plugs with a smaller lip suspend in the mid-depths, wobbling erratically and imitating a wounded bait fish.

Some plugs float on the surface. These are called top water plugs. It is great fun to see a smallmouth bass explode on a surface lure. There are several different designs including poppers, walk the dog baits, and prop lures. All are designed to create a commotion on the water which will draw a smallmouth bass to the surface. Many anglers consider this the most exciting form of fishing. Two top hard baits for smallmouth bass are the #8 Rapala X-Rap in olive or white and the Rebel Wee Crawfish.

Fly fishing tackle

Anglers who enjoy fly fishing are certainly not to be left out! Smallmouth bass are an excellent fish to target on fly. A simple outfit consisting of a 6wt rod and reel with a matching floating line and 9 foot tapered leader will work well in most applications. Anglers can certainly go up or down a size or two, depending on conditions. Breezy conditions with a heavy weighted fly may dictate the use of a 7wt outfit. Conversely, anglers fishing small creeks may opt for a 5wt fly rod and reel.

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Fly selection is pretty basic. Bob Clouser designed the Clouser Deep Minnow specifically for smallmouth bass on the Susquehanna River. It remains a great fly to this day. Wooly Buggers in brown or black are also effective and universally productive flies. Both patterns work very well when cast across streams and worked back in the current. Poppers will produce on the surface.

Ice fishing for smallmouth bass

Smallmouth bass can be caught by anglers ice fishing as well. Smallmouth bass feed in cold water, so they naturally can be caught through the ice. The same spots that hold bass in the cooler months will produce fish through the ice. Points, bars, channel edges, and other spots in 10′ to 30′ of water will be good spots to try. Jigging spoons and plugs work well, but a live minnow on a jig head is tough to beat.

Anglers can read about ice fishing for bass in this article

Fishing for smallmouth bass in rivers

Smallmouth bass love rivers. Clear, cool streams and small rivers are excellent spots to target smallmouth bass. One advantage that anglers have when fishing in these rivers is that fish are much easier to locate. There simply is less water in which to look. Furthermore, smallmouth bass will tend to be found in the same types of spots in most rivers. This makes it easier to achieve success smallmouth bass fishing in unfamiliar waters.

Current is the main factor which will dictate where smallmouth bass will be found in rivers. They will place themselves in positions where the current will bring food to them while expending as little energy as possible. Anything that breaks the current can hold fish. Boulders in the middle of the river or stream will create a pocket of calm water behind it. This is a prime spot for smallmouth bass to ambush its prey.

Depth changes and holes in the river bottom will also create a bit of slack water. Smallmouth bass will also stage in the spots and dart out into the current to feed. Many rivers that hold smallmouth bass have limestone and other types of rock ledges. These are terrific spots to catch a a fish or two. They will hold in the deeper water right on the ledge in most cases.

Top river fishing spots

The heads and tails of riffles will also hold fish. These are natural feeding stations as water velocity increases. Generally, the head of a riffle coincides with the tail end of a pool. As the deeper water transitions to shallower water, it speeds up. This results in a good situation for fish to feed.

As in all river fishing, outside bends can be terrific spots to catch fish. These outside bends will generally be the deepest spots in the river. Most will have undercut banks. Also, debris from storms or during high water conditions will collect in these areas. The combination of depth and cover make them natural fish holding spots.

Anglers have two options when it comes to fishing rivers; by boat or by foot. While fish locations do not change, angling tactics and techniques are just a bit different depending on whether an angler is in a boat or wading. Of course, the size of the river will play a factor in this.

River fishing techniques

Anglers wade fishing in rivers generally cast upstream and then work the lure or bait with the current. As it passes parallel to them, it will then swing back towards them in the current. Fish will often hit at this point. This is very efficient and effective as the bait or lure is moving naturally with the water flow. Also, anglers can thoroughly work high percentage areas slowly and methodically.

As the angler enters the river, he or she “reads” the water, searching for likely fish holding spots. Once those are determined, the angler can then envision the best approach for the lure or bait to be presented to the fish. Again, an upstream quartering cast is generally the best approach. The offering drifts naturally with the current while allowing the angler to keep a fairly tight line and feel any strike.

Anglers drift fishing smallmouth bass rivers and streams in small boats, kayaks, and canoes generally present their baits horizontally. Then, as the craft eases downriver, they work the lure or bait back to the boat. It really just is not practical to try and cast upstream from a boat that is drifting downstream. Otherwise, the same basic principles apply.

Many anglers use small boats to drift the river and then get out and wade the prime spots. This is the best of both worlds, as anglers can cover a lot of water fairly easily. Then, when approaching high percentage spots such as ripples and small rapids, they can get out of the boat and thoroughly wade fish the area. Also, this gives anglers the chance to access some more remote portions of a river that are not easily accessible by road.

Best baits for river fishing smallmouth bass

The best live baits to use when smallmouth bass fishing and rivers are crawfish, helgramites, and nightcrawlers. These all are found naturally in rivers. Live minnows can also be used, but it is a bit more difficult to present them naturally.

Minnesota smallmouth bass

In most cases, the best rig is a simple #4 or #6 short shank live bait hook. Anglers can choose to add a split shot or two to get the bait down in deeper water. Also, a bobber or float can be used to suspend the bait up off the bottom. Bobbers also serve as casting weight along with giving anglers a visual reference when a fish takes the bait. Finally, using a bobber can reduce snags.

There is probably no better bait for a trophy river smallmouth bass then a large live crayfish. While they can be difficult to obtain, they are usually worth the trouble. Anglers will not get as many bites, but they will almost always be larger fish. The same goes for large helgramites. Nightcrawlers are great live baits as well. They are an excellent choice for anglers seeking action, as it will catch fish of all sizes.

Catching river bass with lures

Anglers choosing to cast artificial lures catch a lot of fish as well. Lures have several advantages over live bait. They allow anglers to cover more water than do live baits. Also, lures can trigger strikes from fish that are not in a mood to feed. Lures can elicit a reflex strike as well as anger and irritate smallmouth bass into attacking the lure.

Tailwater fishing tips and techniques

Small jigs are terrific lures to use when targeting smallmouth bass. There are many different colors and styles to choose from. However, any small jig in the 2 inch range that imitates a crawfish will work well. A 1/8 ounce black jig head with a 2 inch orange and black or olive and black grub tail is a great choice in just about any smallmouth River.

The jig is cast 45° up current and allowed to sink a couple of seconds. It is then worked subtly off the bottom using short hops as it drifts with the current. This action, as the jig head kicks up a small puff of dirt or sand, mimics a crawfish fleeing. It is deadly on smallmouth bass. Anglers will lose some baits to the rocks. However, when purchased in bulk, these are relatively inexpensive lures to use.

Plug fishing in rivers

Small plugs can be very effective in rivers and streams as well. They will often times catch larger fish than some other baits. This is particularly true if the angler chooses a larger bait, in the 4 inch range. Productive colors vary, with white, olive, and firetiger being top patterns. Basically, any plug that resembles the bait fish that inhabit that river should produce fish.

best 7 river smallmouth fishing lures

Plugs are the one bait that most anglers do not cast up current. The most effective presentation in most cases is to cast the lure directly across and then work it back with short, sharp twitches as it drifts with the current. Smallmouth bass will dart out from their hiding spot to inhale the lure. One advantage it these plugs have is that they tend to snag less as they float on the surface at rest and dive down when being retrieved.

In-line spinners are another very effective smallmouth bass lure, particularly in rivers. They are very easy to use. The lure is once again cast at 45° upstream and then simply worked back in using a steady retrieve. Many suggest reeling the spinner at the slowest possible speed at which the blades will turn.

Once again, spinners are available in many different sizes and colors. However, color is less of a factor with spinners than it is with other lures. Blades come in bronze and silver finishes. Silver is best in clear water while bronze works well in stained water. Anglers should match the size of the spinner to the size of the bait available. Size #1 and #2 spinners will cover most fishing situations.

Fishing for smallmouth bass in lakes

Smallmouth bass flourish in lakes. Lakes that have good populations of smallmouth bass tend to be deeper, cooler, and clearer than those preferred by largemouth bass. However, there are certainly countless lakes in the United States and Canada that have good populations of both species. Smallmouth bass are less tolerant of polluted waters, therefore there are a good indication of a healthy environment.

Oklahoma smallmouth bass

Like most fishing situations, anglers targeting smallmouth bass in lakes will find advantages and disadvantages. The main disadvantage in fishing lakes is that there is so much more area in which to search for fish. However, smallmouth bass found in lakes tend to be larger as there is more food and they do not have to fight the current.

While fishing lakes for smallmouth bass can be overwhelming, there are certain areas that will consistently hold fish. The top spots in lakes are sloping points, underwater humps, steep bluffs, flats, river channels, and rip-rap. Anglers targeting these types of areas should achieve success, even in unfamiliar waters.

Locating smallmouth bass in lakes

Sloping points are natural spots to find the fish of all species. The perfect point would be narrow with several distinct brakes at around 10 feet and then at 20 feet. The best approach is often to cast a lure up shallow than work it back into deeper water. Soft plastic baits and jigs that can be worked right on the bottom can be very effective.

Anglers should thoroughly work all sides of the point as well. Plugs are great option as they allow anglers to cover multiple depths and thoroughly work the area in a relatively short amount of time. They will also elicit reflex bites. Deep diving crank baits that dig into the bottom when retrieved will imitate crawfish and draw strikes as well.

Anglers choosing to fish a point with live bait will do best by free lining it with just a split shot or two. This will allow the bait to slowly sink and have a natural appearance. All live baits can be effective in this situation. A minnow hooked through the lips with a light jig head is another excellent combination.

Submerged islands and humps

Underwater humps or islands are smallmouth bass magnets. An underwater hump that rises to 15 or 20 feet from the surface and is surrounded by water that is significantly deeper will almost certainly hold smallmouth bass at one time or another. If rocks or boulders are present, a smallmouth bass hot spot exists!

Depending on the size of this underwater hump, anglers have several approaches that can be effective. Smaller humps are best fish using a vertical presentation. A drop shot rig is deadly in this situation. The bait is lowered to the bottom and then danced seductively in a small area, enticing fish to bite. Similarly, a live bait drop to the bottom will produce as well.

Larger islands and humps are best fish using artificial lures. A crank bait that dives down to the depth of the hump is an efficient way to thoroughly cover the structure. Soft plastic baits worked on a jig head or on a rigging hook work well also. One approach that some anglers choose is to use the plugs to locate the school and then the soft plastic bait or drop shot to catch as many fish as possible.

River channel edges are fished very similarly as are underwater islands or humps. Flats in 10 feet of water to 20 feet of water that drop off sharply into the river channel can be excellent spots to find a school of smallmouth bass. Curves in the channel as well as any structure such as boulders or fallen timber certainly increase the chances of success.

Steep bluffs

Many productive smallmouth bass lakes exist in hilly areas. This results in areas of the lakes having steep, almost vertical banks. These are terrific spots to locate schools of fish, particularly in fall and winter. Rocky ledges and outcroppings will hold crayfish and bait fish. Fish can also move up and down n the water column until they find a comfortable zone.

In most instances, the best approach when fishing bluffs is to put the boat right up against the shore and fish parallel to the bank. Crankbaits are a great lure that will cover the water column effectively. Soft plastic bait that fall slowly and seductively will draw strikes as well. They do cover less water.

Rip Rap

Rip rap holds smallmouth bass! These are great spots to target all species of game fish. However, with smallmouth bass having such an affinity for rocks, it is a natural spot to try. Rip rap almost always exists around bridges. Bridges are usually built in narrow spots. This results in increased current flow, which only enhances rip rap as a good fishing spot.

All lures and baits can produce around rip rap. The rocks will hold crayfish, of course. However, shad and other bait fish will gravitate to the rocks. As the sun shines, rocks will absorb the heat and thus warm up the water. This will attract both bait fish and game fish, especially on cool, sunny days. Again, the best approach is usually to work the structure close to shore and in a parallel manner.

In conclusion, this article on smallmouth bass fishing will help anglers catch more of these fantastic freshwater game fish!