How To Fish For Smallmouth Bass – Ultimate Guide

Some of the best bass anglers in the world have a soft spot for the northern and hard-fighting cousin of America’s favorite fish. Smallies may not have the reputation like the largemouth bass but what they lack in reputation, they make up in sheer fighting abilities. They are very fun to catch but smallmouth bass fishing is not covered nearly as much as largemouth fishing.

In this ultimate guide, you can see how to fish for smallmouth bass using the most popular techniques in the sport. With some simple knowledge and just the basics of equipment, you can hook into some yellow lunkers for yourself. In the meantime, you can also give some of the largemouth bass anglers a run for their money.

Selecting A Good Smallie Outfit

There are quite a few different rods and reels for smallmouth fishing. The best bass rods are the ones that are versatile. Since these predators can be caught on many different presentations, having one or two rods that do everything will provide the most bang for your buck. Try using a 6ft-10 to 7 ft rod in medium or medium-light power with fast or extra fast action. Many people that want to get on some bass prefer not taking 50 different poles with them every single time they fish.

Try using a spinning rod with a 3000 reel. The brand name is your preference of course but that one rod will do almost everything you need it to do when it comes to smallmouth fishing. You can throw crankbaits on it, jerkbaits, swimbaits, jigs, and pretty much everything else in your tackle box. You don’t need a setup for every technique. One will suffice for most situations. A versatile line choice to spool on would be 10 lb monofilament because it can do a little bit of everything too.

Rigs To Fish For Smallmouth Bass

Texas Rig

When it comes to bass fishing, no rig is as popular as the Texas Rig. The Texas Rig is a rig that makes it easy to fish snaggy areas. The Texas Rig consists of a sinker and a Texas Rig hook. The hook is inserted into a soft plastic bait in such a way that the hook point is not exposed. When a fish hits, the jaws of the fish will dislodge the hook and stick the fish in the corner of the mouth. Texas rigs are great for rigging most soft plastic fishing lures. This rig is effective on creature baits, craws, drop shots, worms, swimbaits, and stick baits.

To Texas rig a plastic lure, insert the point of the hook into the center of the bait, poke it out the side, rotate it 180°, and pull the hook back through the plastic. Next, rub your fingers against the plastic and tip the point of the hook to make it completely weedless.

How To Fish It

How you will fish it and catch fish on the Texas Rig depends a lot on what you are throwing. Senkos and craws are some of the best smallmouth bass lures. If you are throwing a senko or craw imitation, cast it out and let it go to the bottom. Once it touches the bottom, lift Your rod tip and reel up the slack with your line. Let it fall to the bottom again. Most of your strikes will be on the fall.

When you finally get a bite on a Texas-rigged plastic, reel all the slack out of the line and set the hook hard with an upwards motion. You will know you did it right if the rod loads up and the fish starts fighting.

Carolina Rig

The Carolina Rig is a variation of the Texas Rig. The only difference is that the addition of a barrel swivel separates the sinker from the plastic lure. The Carolina rig swims a little bit differently than the Texas Rig does and it’s more recommended when you need a stealthy approach. In addition to that, the plastic lure will fall slower too. To set up a Carolina rig, thread a sinker onto your main line and tie a barrel swivel on the end.

You can also include a plastic bead. Tie a piece of leader to the other side of the barrel swivel. After that is done, tie your Texas Rig hook to the end of the leader line. Then, all you have to do is rig the plastic weedless as normal.

How To Fish It

To fish it, make a very long cast and let the sinker sink to the bottom. Your bait will be suspended in the water column. Then, start to pull the rig in with a sweeping motion to the side. The rig allows you to feel all of the rocks and structures on the bottom. If it gets snagged, raise Your Rod tip and give it a little jump to pop it out of the snag. this works over 90% of the time.


During the coldest times of the year in clear water conditions, one of the best rigs to throw is the dropshot. The dropshot rig consists of a hook and a dropshot weight. This rig is best for Clear Water because it keeps the parallel to the bottom of the water column without using a bobber. The drop shot rig keeps your soft plastic bait suspended and free of snags. To properly set up a drop shot rig, it’s important to choose your hook wisely as well as the knot used to connect it. It is suggested to use a dropshot hook or a Texas Rig hook.

Begin by tying a basic Palomar knot and leaving a very long tag end. Past the end of the fishing line back through the eye after you tie it so that the hook sits perpendicular to the fishing line. After that, tie a dropshot sinker to the end of the line. Now, you want to nose hook the bait you want to use. The best dropshot worms are great to start with.

How To Fish It

There are three basic ways to successfully fish a drop shot rig. The first one is dragging. All you have to do is reel in slowly and drag the weight across the bottom. It’s a technique to produce monster bass and it also lets you cover more water. The next way is shaking your rod tip. Avoid reeling at all and just shake as the bait sits there. This is a great way to get fish interested from afar.

The last way is vertical fishing. If you have a boat, you can drop the entire rig down off the side, wait for it to hit bottom, and give a small Shake before letting it sit. Setting the hook on a dropshot is easy. The bass are going to hit the head first which is exactly where the hook is. Shut the hook as soon as you fill that strike.

Ned Rig

While the Ned rig is newer to the bass fishing game, it has already earned its spot as a top performer. The Ned rig is a type of jighead fishing that uses a specially designed mushroom-shaped jighead and no sinker. The Ned rig is a finesse tactic often used by spinning rod fishermen.

It’s awesome for heavily pressured fisheries and cold water. To properly set up a Ned Rig, make sure you have a specific Ned rig plastic. Insert the Ned head into the center of the bait and poke it out of the side exactly how you would a traditional jig head. Tie your line onto the bait.

How To Fish It

When it comes to fishing a Ned rig properly, less is more. This rig is usually fish slower although it certainly will produce if you want to go faster with it too. If you want to fish it slower, cast it out, let it sink, and give it one shake. A lot of bass will hit as it sits. You can also retrieve it like a regular worm if the fish are after it. Still, the simplest way is to just give it a steady retrieve at a slower pace. You can also modify your retrieves with hops and lifts or simply drag it on the bottom.

Wacky Rig

As odd as it looks, the wacky rig is a bass-catching masterpiece of a rig. It is one of the very few rigs that you can count on when absolutely everything in your tackle box fails. Wacky rigging is a method of rigging straight worm-style baits in which the hook is inserted through the middle of the bait sideways. To set up a wacky rig, you can use a variety of hooks but it’s best to go with a specific wacky rig hook. Tie the hook onto the end of your line. Next, you have a couple of options. You can hook your straight worm right through the center of the body or you can pass the hook through an O-ring. Make sure that the bait is even on both sides of the hook.

How To Fish It

Fishing a proper wacky rig is just as simple as fishing straight worms on other rigs. Cast it out and let it fall to the bottom. The subtle movements in the bait is enough to drive the bass to feed. Once it touches the bottom, reel up some of the slack and lift up the rod tip again. Let the worm fall back down to the bottom and always make sure you work it on a semi-slack line. When a fish bites a wacky rig, it is essential that you wait an extra second or two before you set the hook. The fish is going to need just a little bit of extra time to get the entirety of the bait in its mouth since the hook is in the middle.

Split SHot Rig

Out of all of the rigs you can use to catch smallmouth bass, I believe the split shot rig is the simplest of them all. The split shot rig consists of a simple live bait hook and a piece of split shot sinker. As far as what live bait to use on your hook, the best options are live crawfish and minnows. You can also choose to run this rig on a bobber if you so choose. Just be sure to remember that smallmouth bass like going deeper so if you use a bobber, use a slip bobber instead of a traditional one.

How To Fish It

Aside from being the simplest one to assemble, the split shot rig is also the easiest to fish. Since you are using live bait, all you have to do is cast it out and wait for the smallmouth to track it down. This particular live bait rig works well because these fish love to move around. Unlike the largemouth bass, they prefer more open water. This also means they are naturally more active. Live bait has a lot of drawing power, especially for the bigger fish.

In Conclusion

To conclude, we are trying to catch a fish that fights harder than America’s favorite fish. One would think that in order to do so successfully, you will need at least as many tactics. The truth is, however, that smallmouth fishing is not any harder than largemouth fishing. The only difference is where you go to find the fish. It is not complicated to catch them and it is even less so to fish for them properly. All in all, I think we can all agree that we should give some credit to the big yellow acrobats. Who doesn’t love a fish with that much fight in him?

What are your thoughts on fishing for smallmouth? Let us know in the comments below so we can hear what you think.

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