8 of the Best Smallmouth Bass Lures and When to Use Them

smallmouth bass caught on drop shot rig

The aggressiveness of the smallmouth bass makes them an exciting species to target. But, like many things, fish behaviors change with the seasons, temperatures and weather and so do their feeding habits. So, in order to make consistent catches throughout the year, it’s crucial to choose fishing lures based on those same patterns.

For a new angler, this can be daunting and sometimes discouraging. The fishing industry has so many lures and baits to choose from, each promising to be the best. Therefore, whether you are a beginner or even a seasoned fisherman, it can sometimes be hard to find what works the best for the species you are targeting.

It is for that reason, I have put together this post listing 8 of the best smallmouth bass lures that I have used successfully over the years. You’ll also learn when to use them to make every cast count and help you land more trophy smallmouth bass year-round. Let’s get to them.

Drop Shot Rigs

This set up was made for the smallmouth bass! Other species often ignore it, but a big smallmouth can’t resist. This effective lure gets its name from how the rig functions. Your sinker “drops” below the bait, about 12 inches to trail the lake bottom while your bait moves freely above it.

A medium-sized soft plastic bait works best with the drop shot rig when targeting smallmouth bass. The ideal plastic bait to use with this rig is a small to medium-sized shad, worm or a similar creature – and it’s okay to differentiate and change the bait often depending on the water’s color.

The best time of the year to use a drop shot rig is in the summer or winter when temperatures are often extreme. Because smallmouth usually resort to the bottom of the lake when temperatures are extremely high or low, this setup works best on lakes that have deep points of, say, 20 to 30 feet. For deeper lakes, there will be multiple points where you will want to use the drop shot rig.

Jerkbaits

The jerk bait is another fall and spring favorite. Available in hard plastics or soft plastic, such as “flukes” are ideal for when fish are very active. Depending on your reeling speed, jerkbaits move through the water about 1 – 2 ft deep. The biggest smallmouth on the nest can’t resist the rapid, unpredictable movement of a jerkbait.

When choosing a color to use, think bright! Bright colors like pink, chartreuse, white and silver will do the trick if it’s a soft plastic you are using. As for hard plastic jerkbait, natural shad patterns or a similar-looking gold and silver combo works like a charm on a cloudy day.

Crankbaits

crankbaits for smallmouth bass fishing

Crankbaits are very versatile lures that can be used to quickly cover water. The temperature of the water will tell you what size bill you need to choose when using a crankbait. This is because the different sizes of the bill on the bait are intended for different depths of fishing.

During the fall and spring, a light-colored crankbait, such as green or blue with a small to medium-sized bill will be in the striking zone of fish when water temperatures are 60 to 70 degrees. In cold weather, a larger bill is necessary to dive into depths of around 10ft or more to catch the attention of smallmouth bass residing in more stable water temperatures.

One of the best, and sometimes the only lure that giant smallmouth will bite during the winter is a crankbait. If you have red and orange crankbait in your collection, winter and late fall are ideal times to use them. Muddy cold water will drive fish into deeper water. But fishing a crankbait with a shad or crawdad pattern in bright reds and oranges, you can still land large smallmouth bass all through winter.

Swimbaits

This is a lure that has recently grown in popularity over the years. A swimbait is just that, a bait that imitates a single swimming shad. This lure is considered a soft plastic and is usually patterned to match the looks of a shad.

Based on the depth you plan on fishing, you can choose a swimbait with a lighter weighted head for more shallow fishing or a heavier weighted head for deeper fishing. The swimbait is ideal use during spring and fall fishing when fish are most active, although it can be used year-around with its versatility in weight.

Jigs

Jigs are available in many, many shapes, sizes, and colors. This is a lure that can be used year-round, but the best time is during the summer and early fall when fish are deeper, avoiding the heat of the surface.

One of the many great things about a jig that sets it apart from most other lures is that it can be used when fish are holding tight to thick cover like grass, trees, stump or rocks. The way the hook is hidden and protected from obstructions makes it less likely to snag debris or rocks on the lake bottom.

If your fishing in thick cover such as that, pay attention to the color of the water. If you can’t see your bait after you drop it into the water a foot deep, a darker colored jig is going to be the best. A black and blue or black and red combination, that is often used at night, is also a great choice to use when the water is muddy.

When you are fishing in clear, more translucent water, that is when you should throw lighter, more translucent colors when it comes to jigs. Smallmouth bass love a “Green Pumpkin” or “Crawdad” colored jig.

Spinnerbaits

spinnerbait for smallmouth bass

Spinnerbaits, like most other baits, are available in a multitude of color combinations. But chartreuse and white or silver and white spinnerbait paired with a double willow leaf blade on a windy day is a no-fail recipe for catching giant smallmouth bass. Not so windy? No problem! Opt instead for a spinnerbait with a willow leaf and Colorado blade combination to add vibration in the water.

Fishing at night with a spinnerbait can sometimes be challenging without adequate lighting. But if you’re up for the challenge, make sure to have a dark-colored spinnerbaits, like a black and blue combo with a large Colorado blade ready to cast.

The spinnerbait’s purpose is to imitate shad spawn and movement through the water. That’s why it’s so important to use it at the right time when shad are spawning! Spring and fall, when the wind is crisp and water temperatures are moderate, typically around 60 to 70 degrees are the best times to throw a spinnerbait to attract the big smallmouth.

Tube Baits

The tube bait is another soft plastic bait that smallmouth bass love. What makes this bait different from other soft plastics is that it has a hollow center for the hook to be hidden in. When paired with a tube hook to set up, the lure can definitely attract large fish if using the right color for the cast.

“Salt and pepper” “Watermelon” and “green pumpkin” are three great choices. This lure is made to trail and bounce along the lake bottom. Spring and fall are the best seasons to use the tube bait, especially in northern lakes.

Umbrella Rigs

The umbrella rig can be described as a single bulb-shaped anchor tied to the line, that has multiple wires branching from it, in the shape of an umbrella. At the end of each wire is where the baited hooks are. The purpose of this setup and placement of bait is to mimic a school of small shad, so each bait should be 2 to 3 inches long and a lifelike color of shad. Fish, especially smallmouth bass, are prone to strike at such action the umbrella rig brings to the water.

It is important that you research your state’s regulations and laws regarding the use of umbrella rigs before going fishing with it. Some states have maximum hook regulations for it. But don’t fret, if you find that your state does have a hook limit for this rig, you can still add an artificial bait to the unhooked wires to make this lure even more desirable for smallmouth.

Well, that brings us to the end of this post, but I hope you have enjoyed it and found something in it you can use. If you have had success with any of these smallmouth bass lures, we’d like to hear from you. Also, let us know if, perhaps, we may have missed something. As always…tight lines!

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