Smallmouth Bass are just as ferocious as their largemouth cousins. However, the lures you pick can be the difference between a good day and a great day.
I want to help you catch more smallmouth bass, so today, I will run you through some great ideas for the best smallmouth bass lures of 2023.
I’ll cover both lures and live baits, so you should keep catching all day long. Here’s what they are all about.
Table of Contents
- Best Smallmouth Bass Baits | At a Glance Guide
- TOP 7 Best Lures for Smallmouth Bass (Fully Explained)
- The Best Smallmouth Bass Baits – TOP 4 Live Bait Bass Catchers
- Catching Smallmouth Bass FAQ
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Best Smallmouth Bass Baits | At a Glance Guide
Generally, the best lures for smallmouth bass will be:
- Blade Baits
- Soft Plastics
- Jerk baits
- Swim Baits
- Topwater Lures
- Surface Poppers
What Makes them So Great? Here are the things you need to be looking for in the best smallmouth bass lures:
While similar things will work for large and smallmouth bass, there are subtle differences.
I mean, guys…
It should be obvious. The main difference between the two species is the size of their mouth, so it stands to reason that you will need a smaller lure. Optimally I’d aim for lures that are around half the size of your usual largemouth bass favorites.
I’m always a fan of ‘the brighter, the better’, but there are exceptions to every rule in fishing. You’ll find the following colors particularly effective when fishing for smallmouth bass:
- Blood heads
If in doubt, go for something with lots of action and movement. Not only will this attract fish (even in poor visibility) but lures with ultra-mobile legs and tails require less effort to work through the water. Meaning you can fish for longer without getting tired.
Think about how and where you are going to be fishing. It’s no good picking a surface popper if the Bass at your local water are always in deep holes on the bottom. Conversely, you don’t want a fast sinker if you know you will be fishing over weed beds!
Choose a lure based on how you want to fish and what the conditions and location dictate.
TOP 7 Best Lures for Smallmouth Bass (Fully Explained)
Right, let’s get straight into it. Here are all the options available to you when trying to land a smallmouth bass on an artificial lure.
These are all deadly and catch their fair share of smallmouth bass!
Blade baits are small metal fish imitations that jiggle and flutter in the water as your bait sinks through the water column. This makes a little vibration and acts as a real bass magnet.
How do you fish them?
The best way to fish blade baits is to let them sink on a slackline all the way to the very bottom, then give them the occasional twitch. If you have no luck, give a few turns on the reel and repeat until you find the depth that the Bass are feeding at.
Something like this would be ideal.
You get a fair bit of choice, they are small enough to be eaten by smallmouth bass, and the fluttering effect of the metal tail is sure to attract the interest of a passing bass. I also like the realistic 3D eyes, which can be deadly for many predatory species.
Why use a blade bait? Well…
- Blade baits are great during the colder months when fish don’t want to move too far.
- They are super durable and will last pretty much forever.
- They are easy to cast; even though they are small, they weigh a fair amount.
Soft plastics have long been a firm favorite of bass fishermen everywhere.
Because they really work! You’ll normally find that they have a super flexible and realistic ‘swimming’ action. And what’s more, they are superb value. You will need to invest in some weighted jig heads.
Still, from then on, you’ll have plenty of choices as you can buy multipacks of different ‘bodies’ that can all be rigged on a single universal jighead.
Want to see how realistic they can look?
These soft swimbaits look, to my eye at least, like the real thing!
Here are some more that would also be great:
Why choose soft plastics? Here are some good reasons to consider giving them a try:
- They are the most affordable types of lure for smallmouth bass fishing.
- Plenty of choice and variety.
- When it comes to realistic swimming action, there is no better lure.
Jigs are a little bit different, while, at a push, you can cast and retrieve them, they are far better suited for boat fishing as it is their ‘up and down’ action that tends to get the fish going.
Why do they work so well?
Normally a fish swimming up and down rapidly is a sign that it is injured, presenting the Bass with an easy dinner. They are easy to fish in several styles. My favorite way is to give them several little ‘twitches’ followed by one huge pull.
Jigs are normally made of multiple pieces of a soft material like strings of rubber or marabou. This is super mobile in the water and works well to attract the fish’s attention.
My advice is to go for a selection pack with a few colors. I normally choose something like these:
Aside from getting quite a few in a pack and a range of colors, you’ll notice one thick leg. That’s by design as it allows you to cover the hook point to prevent it from snagging on weeds. When a smallmouth bass bites, the hook point is freed!
Why choose a jig for smallmouth bass? Look at it like this…
- You can try different colors until you nail down what works.
- You can fish every depth.
- They are easy to store.
- Soft plastics cast exceptionally well.
Remember at the start how I talked about lots of movement?
Jerk baits feature a small plastic vane or ‘lip’ on the front of the lure. This lip acts as a little hydrofoil and causes your lure to dive every time it is retrieved. The size and angle of the vane make a big difference to how the lure responds. Smaller lips have a less pronounced effect than bigger vanes.
You could just throw it out and reel it in, but if you want to catch decent-sized smallmouth bass, here’s what to do.
Really work that lure. Twitch it, stop it, start it, make it change direction… Generally speaking, the more erratically it swims, the better.
What kind of jerk bait is the best for smallmouth bass?
You can never go wrong with a Yo-Zuri minnow imitation. They are super durable, with great action. I also really love the finish, which looks pretty lifelike.
Smallmouth bass love demolishing shoals of minnows. If you’ve got one of these out on the water, you have every chance of catching.
Here are some great reasons to give jerk baits a try:
- They are one of the best smallmouth bass baits of all time.
- They look super realistic.
- They last a long time.
- You can choose a different lure for each depth.
Another of the ‘heavy movers’. Crankbaits take the best of spinners and bass jigs and combine them. One side is a feathery jig. On the other hand, a substantial blade makes vibrations in the water, allowing Bass to hone in on your hook, even in poor lighting conditions.
The best bit?
Aside from being super effective, they are also pretty cheap! You’ll normally find that you can also get miniature versions for species with smaller mouths.
I normally opt for a buzz bait like this when fishing for smallmouth bass.
They are available in several colors and can often magic up a bass or two even when conditions are relatively quiet.
Here’s why I love fishing with crank baits for smallmouth bass:
- They are absolutely deadly (plus there’s always the chance of largemouth bass too).
- They cost relatively little.
- They cast surprisingly well.
- Crankbaits are one of the best smallmouth bass baits for summer.
I’d class anything as a ‘topwater lure’ for smallmouth bass if used in the upper foot of the water. Unlike jerk baits, this sort of lure doesn’t normally sink or swim beneath the surface easily.
Now, if I was telling you how to catch largemouth bass, I’d say opt for a nice frog, but that might be a big ask for smallmouth bass. So instead, I’d strongly suggest opting for something like this…
First off, you get three lures in one pack, which is great value.
Second. They are the perfect size for smallmouth bass.
Finally, the jitterbug is one of my favorite surface poppers for smallmouth bass. This thing creates one hell of a commotion on the surface!
Speaking of surface commotion, I don’t think there is a predatory species I haven’t caught using a popper. And yes, that does include smallmouth bass.
Surface poppers are generally designed to look like injured baitfish, thrashing and breathing their last on the surface. The face is cup-shaped, and with each twitch of the rod, it pops and spits. If you do this quickly enough, it drives fish wild.
Want to see how they are fished?
Check out this video… I promise you are in for a surprise.
You’ll get loads of advantages using a popper.
- Weed-free setup, great for fishing over weedy areas.
- Bass are super active on the surface, making this one of the best smallmouth bass baits for summer and even during the fall.
- They are really durable and easy to use.
The Best Smallmouth Bass Baits – TOP 4 Live Bait Bass Catchers
Listen, guys, it isn’t all about throwing lures constantly all day.
There are other ways to catch smallmouth bass (and some would argue that using bait is more effective).
When most picture an angler, they imagine them fishing with worms, or as they are affectionately known, nightcrawlers. These little wriggly worms can be dug from most ground. However, if you don’t fancy a few hours of back-breaking labor, you can just buy them from your local fishing shop.
And it gets better still…
Suppose you don’t want to bother with the live and fresh variety. In that case, you could always consider a sort of ‘halfway house’ and go for something artificial which looks and smells just like the real thing.
Something like these nightcrawlers from Berkley Gulp’s range is practically as good as the real thing.
Here are a few more reasons to consider them:
- They keep forever.
- They are reusable.
- You won’t have to spend hours digging in the garden!
- They are great bass lures when the water is cold, like in spring.
I’m going, to be honest.
At the end of the day, nothing beats the real thing, and if you are going to have a go at using the best live bait for smallmouth bass, real-life minnows are where it’s at.
Live baiting real small fish gives you all of the things that bass love:
- Nice bright colors.
- A scent trail.
- A realistic swimming action.
- Plenty of vibration.
Live baiting isn’t for everyone. It can be a real nuisance keeping the fish alive long enough to use them, but that said, a dead-baited static minnow will also work really well.
Smallmouth bass don’t just target other fish. They are real opportunists and will rarely miss the chance to gobble up a crawfish sat hard on the bottom.
There are a couple of routes you can go down using crawfish as a smallmouth bass bait. If you arrive an hour before you intend to fish, be sure to pull up a few rocks in the shallows (much easier if you have waders). You may very well find a few crawfish underneath that are superb bait for Bass.
If this all sounds like too much effort, why not give something artificial a shot?
I’ve given this yo-Zuri crayfish lure a go, and I’m pleased to say it did come up with solid results.
Here’s why I prefer them:
- As they are artificially colored, the Bass can see them easier.
- They are far easier to handle.
- They are reusable.
You’ll also tend to find crawfish is one of the best bass lures for rivers, where they are always around, regardless of the season.
Ok, this definitely won’t be for everyone, but if you are fishing in an area where you can pick up a few, you could give leeches a try.
Smallmouth bass goes crazy for the odd leech. To fish them, just hook them to weight and fish them on the bottom. Leeches are pretty hardy, meaning your bait will do the hard work for you as it ‘walks’ along the bottom.
Catching Smallmouth Bass FAQ
Still, got a few questions? Don’t worry, it’s what I am here for.
Here’s the stuff I get asked all the time:
What attracts smallmouth bass?
Smallmouth bass tends to be attracted to movement above all else, so if you are looking for a great lure or bait to try, this should be your first port of call. From there, think a little about color and size. Greens, whites, or anything sparkly always works well for Bass.
The easier your lure is to see, the more likely that you will get a bite. Here are a few occasions where you definitely want to use a brighter lure:
Can you use live bait to catch bass?
Of course, you can. What do you think Bass eat when you aren’t stood there casting soft plastics to them. The key to live baiting for smallmouth bass is to try and accurately replicate the things they would find in the water anyway. See my above list for a few of the best suggestions.
Are lures or live bait better for bass?
The jury is still out, with strong arguments for both sides. For me, personally, while I love going all natural from time to time if the bites stop when live baiting, you are all out of options.
Having a selection of the best lures for smallmouth bass fishing means that you’ll have plenty of choices and might be able to magic up a few bites.
What is the most successful bass lure?
I’d recommend going for a jerk bait. These lures are tried and tested for a range of species. They are easier to cast, store and look pretty realistic.
What baits do professional bass fishermen use?
Remember, the professionals are after big fish, so will only use bigger baits. Generally, you’ll find the pros use lures for smallmouth bass that require a lot of work. Crankbaits and topwater lures seem to be the most popular choices.
It’s the fish who decide which lures are the best, not the pros.
The best smallmouth bass lures will be affordable, packed with movement, and be a suitable size and color to tempt more than a bass or two.
My advice would be to take a selection, especially if you are just starting out, then you can figure out what works. Part of the success comes from knowing when to fish as much as what to fish.