If you are a bass fisherman from the north, you have probably tried your skills at the aggression that is the smallmouth bass. Pound for pound, many anglers insist that they pull and fight harder than their cousins the largemouth. They just have a really bad attitude.
What they lack in reputation certainly makes up for a good fight. Because of this, the best smallmouth bass lures are a highly debated topic among fishermen. There are no right or wrong answers either. Many are effective. While there are no exhaustive lists comprised of every great bait out there to catch them, there are certainly some options that you can use to bag more fish along the way. You will find some are more effective than others.
The ones on this list have been handpicked by our team of experts. We believe these are some of the most effective and most versatile options that any smallmouth angler can tie at the end of their line. We have extensively tested these baits for their effectiveness and versatility in all seasons of the year, in many water bodies. We highly recommend you try out some of these options on your local water.
How To Choose A Smallmouth Bass Lure
There are some different things you should consider before deciding on which one to use. Choosing a lure for smallmouth Bass is better looked at from a standpoint of “which lure works best for this specific situation” instead of “which one is the greatest to throw here or there”. Understand that all of them, everything, can be very effective if the conditions are right. Those who catch the species most often consider three main criteria before making that selection. Make sure the conditions are met.
- Diving Depth – The most crucial part of getting them to strike is to know how deep your considerations dive if they even do at all. A good sense of depth is important. Knowing where the fish are as well as what they will go after and why is a big factor. You need to put it in the strike zone! For example, if they are hovering just below the bottom in fifteen feet of water, don’t put a surface plug on the line. Throw on a jig or crankbait to put it right in their faces and don’t trust for a second that they need to concern themselves at the surface.
- Action For The Temperature – Another big factor to consider is what action your choice will have in the water which is especially important depending on how aggressive or lethargic the bass is. The cold makes them sluggish and the hot makes them aggressive. Try being more subtle with your presentation if it is really cold and speed it up the warmer it gets. Try throwing realistic slower presentations like jerkbaits or swimbaits in cold water and more unnatural or aggressive presentations like crankbaits in warmer water.
- Color – We have officially arrived at what makes the tackle box appealing. The color and pattern under the clear coat. Many forget how important this is. It doesn’t matter which one you want to try first whether it be a tube or a jig. You should always be throwing the natural forage of the bass in your area if they can see it. If they feed on baitfish, throw a color that closely resembles that baitfish regardless if they are brown, silver, green, or something else. If the fish cannot see well because the water clarity is limited, try throwing bright neon or fluorescent colors like chartreuse and orange first and then try piercing dark colors like black or navy blue thereafter.
1. Crankbaits – For Covering Water Quickly
Crankbaits make our top spot because you can use them for power fishing. This means that you can cover water very quickly to find where the fish are. Crankbaits are a type of wooden or plastic plug that rattle and swim erratically. The crankbait is a reaction lure. This means that they irritate fish into striking. We love them because they are so versatile. This is in warm water, cold water, rain or sun. You can start fishing crankbaits by casting them or trolling them in literally any season of the year. They tend to work better when the water is is warmer and in seasons like summer and spring.
Although this is the case, I have caught huge fish on crankbaits even when the water is half frozen. Your color selection is important on a crankbait. Although they don’t bite it because it looks like food, having a realistic color makes it more likely. They are more likely to bite something that looks like food halfway then not at all. Make sure to select the right color based on water clarity and what the smallmouth naturally eat in your area. This part is extremely important too. Choose your colors wisely.
Our Top Pick: When it comes to crankbaits, we have found the most effective to be the Rapala Dives-To crankbait. It has a very erratic action also that is very, very, loud. This means that it is easier for you to locate fish as well as catch them. It also comes with a slightly longer treble hook.
This makes hooking short strikers easier. It also has some of the most realistic paint jobs in the fishing universe. Because of this, you will get bites on it more often, usually from bigger fish. Rapala is known for making great crankbaits already. Grab an entire box if you can. They are worth the investment.
2. Tubes – Excellent Crawfish Imitations
Soft plastic tubes have been the mainstay for smallie fishermen for a very long time. Tubes are versatile, effective, and don’t have a size limit of what you can catch on them. Tubes can be used to imitate crawfish, baitfish, or any other critter. A tube is a long straight body that is rounded on the end.
You could fish them on jigheads, shaky heads, screw-lock hooks, texas rigs, carolina rigs, and even a drop shot rig. Tubes can be impregnated with salt to make fish hold on longer. They even come in different sizes so you can flush out the trophies. It is hard to beat a tube in effectiveness if you are looking to mimic crawfish of any species. You can bottom bounce them for aggressive blow-ups.
Tubes reach their peak performance during the fall as it transitions into the winter solstice. Although this is the case, it is also one of the best warm water lures out there. The soft plastic skirts at the end of the lure make for some great action in the water. You can vary the depth they will go by changing your sinker weight. Try fishing them slower for the best results or try some vertical jigging.
They hold up better than many tubes. This means you can get a lot more fish out of a pack. Also, since they are designed by Zoom, you can already trust that they are effective. They come in a ton of effective color patterns that will make it easy to match the hatch for crawdads or baitfish.
3. Jerkbaits – For The Extremely Stubborn Fish
If you want a hard bait and that is extremely realistic, consider a jerkbait first. The action of the jerkbait is very erratic yet natural. The way the jerkbait moves looks identical to a wounded baitfish. To properly start fishing jerkbaits, you twitch it, pop it, and get that lure slashing in the water column. The more commotion it’s making down there, the better it will work. Get the fish to notice it and a bite is not too far off. Jerkbaits can vary in depth by as much as a few feet at a time.
You also have models that suspend and float back to the surface on the pause. These are what you want to throw in freezing cold water. The fish don’t feel threatened by it and see it as an easy opportunity. Try throwing realistic baitfish patterns in clear water and bright or fluorescent colors in murky water. Try your best not to throw one if the fish have low visibility though.
They likely won’t be able to see it anyway. Be sure to tie on a model that will stay in the strike zone for a long time. Fish at the surface likely will not hit something on the bottom and vice versa. Work it faster in warmer water and slow it way down in the freezing cold. A jerkbait fished well is hard to beat.
Our Top Pick: The best action jerkbait that we have found to work well for all species is the Rapala RipStop. It is very erratic and it springs back on the pause which equates to a lot more wary bites from the strike zone.
It looks almost like a soft body jerkbait which can be extremely helpful if you are after fish that are not cooperating. The exaggerated action can get you the strike. It also looks like a wounded baitfish.
4. Skirted Jigs – Traditional Bass Fishing Lures
Common styles of jigs include the arkie jig, the football, the finesse, the swim jig, and the ball head jig. All of these are extremely effective in their own right. They all have their places in which they win and lose. Regardless of whether you choose to fish them by themselves or add a trailer to give it more action, one thing holds true. They work year-round. They work well enough to be considered essential.
I have yet to meet an angler who has regularly caught bass and never even picked up a jig in their lifetime. I just haven’t seen it happen. You can imitate a number of different prey items with the right jig. You’re not just imitating crawfish. You’re imitating shad, you’re imitating bluegill, round goby, gophers, frogs, and even small birds. The unique design of the jig and all of the skirts hanging off is unique.
Most of the time, your targeted predators do not get a chance to look and inspect what they are chasing. All they see is a silhouette of something that could be easily overpowered and consumed like the defenseless prey it is. Not only does this cause a lot of strikes but it may also target bigger catches.
The head for this jig is very balanced. This means you can keep its action constant in the water and strike zone. The skirts hide the hook well. This means fish will be less hesitant to bite. It also has a great weed guard. This will allow you to fish in cover, grass, and brush without hanging up. Jigs are great.
5. Spinners – Not Just Spinnerbaits Either
A spinner is a type of fishing lure that has a rotating blade. In saying this, many bait types have a rotating blade. Examples of different spinners include the original spinnerbait, the buzzbait, prop and propeller lures, tailspin, and basic spinners like a Roostertail or Mepps Aglia spinner. Depending on which one you use, you will need to fish them in different ways. The best spinnerbaits have multiple blades. The blades hit and bump into each other as they rotate around.
Pretty much every variety works excellently on a moderate speed, straight, retrieve. Since there is such a wide array of spinning options out there, the angler must experiment on which one to use and when. Spinnerbaits and buzzbaits work well in most situations while things like propeller topwaters and tailspins are very situational for them to be effective.
The blades bump into each other as they spin. This creates a clicking noise that can be used to find it much easier in dirty water as you hug the bank. They are one of the best largemouth lures too. They work well to attract all black bass species.
The skirts on this spinner are very durable too. You can easily add a soft plastic to the sharp hook to make it much more attractive as well as increase the profile.
6. Topwater Lures – When The Fish Are Shallow
One of the most exciting things to cast out is a well-fished topwater. Again, there are many different topwater lures to choose from. Some varieties include hollow-body frogs, walkers, poppers, spooks, and pencil poppers. Topwater lures are the most effective when the bass are aggressive. They will usually hit topwater baits in the warmer weather and spring is usually the best time to throw them.
There are really two things that really set the topwater lures apart from most others. The first is your catch quality. Some of the fish that you can get on them is nothing short of massive. You can get some of the biggest females in the lake during spring. These are the ones you want to throw when targeting trophies or tournament fishing in warmer months. The more aggressive the fish, the better.
The other factor is how exciting it is to get a bite on one. Everybody is familiar with a tug that happens below the surface of the water but few things are as exciting as a big fish ramming the offering off the surface and running with it. As you cast and retrieve, your bait may disappear off of the surface in what seems to be an explosion. That is fun! This is so fun, many throw these for this reason.
Our Top Pick: Topwater walkers usually produce some nice fish when the conditions are right. The Zara Heddon spook is a topwater walking bait with an abnormal side to side action that triggers aggressive strikes. It has a weighted body so it sits slightly lower in the water. You get two extremely sharp treble hooks and a lot of colors.
With an internal weight shifting ball, it makes it very easy to cast even into the wind. The Heddon Zara spook was the original walker too. It has been copied more times than can count yet this one is still the best.
7. Soft Plastic Worms – When Everything Fails
Fish have been eating worms for a very long time. Well, worm lures that is. Even though earthworms or nightcrawlers are not technically aquatic creatures, fish have grown to understand just how important of a food source worms can be if presented with the opportunity. Fish don’t normally come across earthworms in the wild but they do come across similarly shaped prey.
These are very close to the look of an earthworm. Animals like snakes are some of the primary food for huge smallmouth. You can use a solid black worm to imitate a leech or a bright color to resemble a native species of a water snake. You can also be very precise with your color selection to successfully imitate bluegill, round goby, crawfish, and other creatures. A good worm will also make an excellent trailer to throw on the hook of other choices.
There are so many ways in which you can rig a worm. You can fish the weeds by rigging them texas-style, wacky rigged, on a drop shot, a shaky head, a carolina rig, and even a ned rig.
Our Top Pick: If everybody came here to check exactly which worm produces the most, that is the Gary Yamamoto Yamasenko. A straight tail worm with no bells, whistles, appendages, or anything else to add to the body.
As odd as that sounds, the slight shimmy of the straight worm as it falls into the strike zone is an awesome bass catcher. This particular worm is one of the best worms in bass fishing and is the one you rely on to produce when everything fails.
This is especially true when nothing else works. Learning to fish senko style baits is imperative. Common rigs include the wacky rig and texas rig. Just cast it out, let it fall into the strike zone on a semi-slack line, and hold on tight when you feel the hit. It should not take long.
8. Curly Tail Grubs – For Catching Everything
One of the more popular ways to catch them is to use the grub style body. Specifically, a curly tail grub. Anything from four inches to six inches is what you would normally see catching the most on any given day. Curly tail grubs have great action in the water and the tail swims easily with the current. While they will catch pretty much anything that swims, I believe many anglers I have forgotten about them.
While many guys are busy throwing lizards, worms, and soft plastic swimbaits, a grub will show the fish something new and exciting. Curly tail grubs can reach paramount success in absolutely any time of the year. It is impossible to fish one wrong. They can be just as effective in the winter as they are in the summer. Even spring and fall fishing are not off-limits for these.
The most common approach is to mount one on a jig head and straight retrieve. Color selection for the plastic should vary based on water clarity. Throw bright colors in dingy water and more natural colors in clear water. You should always opt for a longer shank jighead. It sets the point of the hook further back on the body of the grub allowing for a much cleaner and easier hookset.
Our Top Pick: The Kalin’s Lunker grub is a beefy soft plastic grub with an incredible tail action. These are particularly good for catching numbers of fish. Just rig one on a jighead, cast it out and retrieve it very slowly.
The tail action is nothing short of incredible. When it’s cold outside, fish it slow. When it’s warm outside, also fish it slow. This is the way it was designed to be fished and has proven itself over and over again.
9. Soft Plastic Jerkbaits – Reaction Strikes
The way fish react to a soft plastic jerkbait is nothing short of incredible. When you need an erratic action to entice fish to react, sometimes, a crankbait is too much. Other times, the one you are throwing may not be enough to make a fish want to commit. In these instances, you need to parallel their reactionary tendencies with a very realistic baitfish profile. Dig in the tackle box just a little bit further.
These are the perfect time to throw a soft plastic jerkbait. Soft plastic jerkbaits are extremely realistic in the water while being aggressive enough to make them react to them. They look almost indistinguishable from real, wounded, bait. You can fish flukes near the surface, topwater, on the bottom like a jig, or literally anywhere in between. Soft plastic jerkbaits are the versatile choice to throw.
You can use them on a texas rig, a drop shot, a jighead, a shaky head, a screw lock hook, or an extra-wide gap hook. You want the plastic body to dart around, swim sideways, act wounded, and move improperly. The realistic design of most soft plastic jerkbaits ensures that the erratic action is real looking action and not a fake one like a crankbait. This really does help in colder and clearer water.
The Super Fluke is a soft plastic jerkbait that uses a very soft plastic. This allows for extremely good realism on the retrieve. This one is legendary for the fish it catches. Try using an extra-wide gap hook and a texas rig.
10. Swimbaits – As Real As An Angler Can Get It
Last but certainly not least is the swimbait. Swimbaits are extremely realistic and are more for tempting fish once you have found them. They are not good search and find baits at all, but they provide some of the best trickery an angler has in his arsenal. The biggest fish in the water will travel longer distances to hit a swimbait more so than any other lure in the box. These are the trophy seeker’s favorite lures.
This is especially true the clearer it is. If you can see fifteen to twenty feet down below the water’s surface, make a real looking swimbait your very first choice. Choosing a hard or soft swimbait normally depends on what temperature the water is and fishing swimbaits will help you get better. If the water is five to forty degrees, throwing a soft plastic one is usually preferred in contrast to choosing a hard one.
When the water is in the mid-to-upper forties and anything above that, a hard swimbait would be the best option at that point. They provide unmatched effectiveness because the way they look and move is almost identical to the real thing. Not only does this pose an identity problem, but it also makes it irresistible on many occasions because they don’t get a chance to pass it up.
It also has a very wide swinging tail that paddles abruptly. You can throw these on a swimbait hook, screw-lock hook, or as a trailer on another bait.
To Sum It All Up
No matter how you slice it, no amount of studying or observing can prepare you to pick the absolute best Smallmouth Bass lures for every situation, in every water body, at every time. That is not to say, however, that having some specific types on hand can greatly increase your chances of getting a bite more often. All in all, the key to success is to try them all out and see what works best for you. You will need to experiment to find out what they like and this will allow you to become much more successful.
Don’t forget to drop us a comment down below to let us know if you agree with our list. What are your favorite choices?