9 Essential Smallmouth Bass Fishing Lures

smallmouth bass fishing lures

9 Essential Smallmouth Bass Fishing Lures

This article will list the 9 essential smallmouth bass fishing lures. Most anglers fishing for smallmouth bass do so using artificial lures. These baits allow anglers to cover more water as well as triggering bites from non active fish. However, there are a few lures that have proven to catch more smallmouth bass than other lures. Here is a list of Capt Jim’s favorite and most productive smallmouth baits!

The 9 essential smallmouth bass fishing lures are

  • Berkley Power Tube
  • Rapala X-Rap Extreme Action Slashbait
  • Heddon Tiny Torpedo
  • Yamamota Senko
  • Rebel Crawfish
  • Strike King KVD Finesse spinnerbait
  • Spro hair jig
  • Mepps Spinner
  • Daredevil spoon

Smallmouth bass fishing lures mimic local forage

Many of the best fishing lures for smallmouth bass are smaller versions of those used for largemouth bass. As the name implies, smallmouth bass do have a smaller mouth. The forage that they feed on generally consists of crayfish, helgramites, and smaller fish.

9 essential smallmouth bass fishing lures

Crayfish in particular are sought after by feeding smallmouth bass. They are found in rocky environments, which smallmouth bass prefer. This is especially true in rivers. Crayfish are high in protein and relatively easy to catch. Many of the top smallmouth bass lures mimic a fleeing crayfish.

Smallmouth bass certainly feed extensively on bait fish as well. The type of fish will vary depending on the region and body of water. White and silver lures work well in waters that have shad and herring. Darker colors imitate gobies in the Great Lakes region. Yellow perch and bluegill patters are effective as well.

smallmouth bass fsihing lures

Best smallmouth bass fishing tackle

In most cases, light or medium light spinning tackle is the best choice when casting lures for smallmouth bass. Many of these lures are light. Therefore, spinning tackle is much better suited for tossing these baits. Anglers casting heavier plugs can certainly opt for light baitcasting outfits.

smallmouth bass fishing

Read more about smallmouth bass fishing tackle here

The best rod and reel is a 6 ½ foot to 7 foot rod with a ‘fast” action. This means that the rod has some strength at the reel, then tapers to a limber tip. This combination allows anglers to cast light lures while having the power to handle a good fish. 6 lb monofilament or flourocarbon line or 10 lb braided line are good line choices.

fishing lures for smallmouth

9 Essential smallmouth bass fishing lures

This is the list of Capt Jim’s 9 essential smallmouth bass fishing lures. They have produced many fish over decades for him and countless other anglers. These lures will cover every fishing situation that will be encountered as well as all depths from the surface to the bottom.

1)  Berkley Powerbait tube

tube lure

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Tube baits are incredible baits and top the list of the 9 essential smallmouth bass fishing lures. Many anglers associate tube lures with smallmouth bass, though they are certainly effective on many other species, particularly panfish. Tube baits are basically soft plastic lures with a slender body and many split tales that undulate realistically in the water. The Berkley Power Bait Tube is Capt. Jim’s favorite tube lure.

These are very versatile fishing lures. They realistically imitate both crustaceans and live bait fish. Natural colors such as brown, red, olive, and orange are excellent crayfish colors. They are very effective when bounced along the bottom, mimicking a fleeing crayfish. Tube baits produce well for anglers in both lakes and rivers.

live bait for bass

Tube baits can also imitate live bait fish. In most cases, pearl, white, silver, and chartreuse are the top choices when shad and herring are present. Darker colors produce better when smallmouth bass are feeding on gobies, bluegill, and yellow perch. The tube size should be matched to the prey as well, with 3 inch baits being an excellent all round choice.

2)  Rapala X-Rap Extreme Action Slashbait

Rapala x-rap

Click this link to shop Amazon for Rapala X-Rap jerkbaits

Second on the list of 9 essential smallmouth bass fishing lures is the Rapala X-Rap Extreme Action Slashbait. This is in the family of hard plugs known as “jerkbaits”. These are long and slender lures that are worked very aggressively. The angler jerks the rod tip sharply, thus earning its name. In between jerks, the lure is allowed to pause and hang motionless in the water. This is most often when the strike occurs as the lure resembles a wounded bait fish and seems like easy prey.

river smallmouth bass fishing

Anglers have several different sizes and many different colors to choose from. In most smallmouth bass fishing situations in lakes, the number 10 size is the best all round choice. It is available in both a shallow diving in deep diving version to suit the depth of the water being fished. Anglers targeting smallmouth bass in rivers and streams will often do better scaling down to the number 8 size X-Rap.

Smallmouth bass fishing with lures video

As with all lures, the color of the lure should be matched to the locally available forage. For the most part, jerkbaits mimic live bait fish, especially shad. Lighter colors such as white and silver are excellent choices. The shallow running version will work a few feet below the surface, where shad and herring often school.

3)  Heddon Tiny Torpedo

tiny torpedo

Click this link to shop Amazon for Tiny Torpedo lures

The Heddon Tiny Torpedo is a legendary fishing lure that has been around for many decades. It is a top water plug, which means that it stays on the surface the entire time. This bait has a cone shaped nose with a propeller on the rear. This combination puts out just the right amount of splash and action to be productive. It is third on the list of 9 essential smallmouth bass fishing lures. It comes in one size. Color is less important on top water lures as it is more about profile and action.

best 7 river smallmouth fishing lures

Top water lures are mostly worked around shoreline structure or over shallow submerged structure such as rocky points and sunken islands. In clear water, smallmouth bass will rise a surprising distance to take a top water plug. The best retrieve consists of a sharp twitch to cause the propellers to make a commotion on the surface, followed by a pause. In many instances, the bass will hit on this pause as the lure sits there seemingly helpless.

One mistake that many novice anglers make when fishing the Tiny Torpedo and other top water lures is setting the hook too quickly. It is easy to get excited and set the hook when the take is seen. However, this will often result in missing the fish. A better technique is to wait until the fish is actually felt on the line, then sweeping the rod tip and coming tight while reeling. This will result in more hookups.

4)  Yamamoto Senko


Click this link to shop Amazon for Senko worms

The Yamamoto Senko is a fantastic soft plastic fishing lure! It is in the family of what is known as “finesse” baits and is very versatile. It is basically a plastic worm. In most cases, the Senko is most productive with very little or even no action. It can be rigged Texas style, wacky style, on a shaky head jig, on a drop shot rig, or on a jig head. It is fourth on the list of 9 essential smallmouth bass fishing lures.

The 4 inch size Senko is the best choice for most anglers fishing for smallmouth bass. It is available in the 5 inch size for anglers targeting larger fish. Natural colors are very productive, with green pumpkin being an excellent choice in just about every fishing condition or situation. While mostly used in lakes, these baits are very effective when fishing in rivers as well.

Virginia river fishing tips

The best technique when fishing the Senko is to let the natural action of the bait attract the fish. Many strikes will occur as the lure falls through the water column, no matter what the depth being fished or the type of rig being used. Once the lure reaches the bottom, it can be twitched or hopped very slowly along bottom structure, especially rocks. Again, it is important not to work this lure to aggressively. Anglers fishing in rivers will do well to simply allow the bait to drift naturally with the current through riffles and pools.

5)  Rebel Crawfish

bebel wee craw

Click this link to shop Amazon for Rebel Crawfish lures

The Rebel Crawfish is another legendary smallmouth bass fishing lure, especially for anglers fishing in streams and rivers. This is a hard body plug that dives down five or 6 feet and has a very effective erratic action. When worked properly, it will bounce off of rocks and other cover, realistically imitating a fleeing crayfish. It is next on the list of the 9 essential smallmouth bass fishing lures.

Oklahoma smallmouth bass

The standard crawfish size works very well in most river and lake situations. Anglers can drop down to the Wee Craw when fishing in smaller streams. These lures will also catch trout in waters where they reside. The Rebel Crawfish is available in a handful of natural colors and finishes. Where possible, anglers should match the bait color to the color of the crayfish in the area.

This lure is fairly simple to use and has a great built in action. Anglers simply cast it out, reel quickly to get the lure down to the desired depth, then work it back in using an erratic action. As mentioned above, bouncing the lure off of rocks and other obstructions will only increase its effectiveness. This is a fantastic lure that realistically imitates the favorite food of smallmouth bass.

6)  Strike King KVD Finesse Spinnerbait


Click this link to shop Amazon for Strike King Finesse spinnerbaits

The Strike King KVD Finesse Spinnerbait is number six on the list of 9 essential smallmouth bass fishing lures. Spinnerbaits are very effective lures on bass and just about every other game fish species in freshwater. As the name implies, this spinner bait is a bit smaller than other models offered for largemouth bass. That makes it the perfect choice for anglers fishing for smallmouth bass.

smallmouth bass fishing tackle and lures

This lure is a tandem spinner bait, which means it has two blades. These put out excellent flash and vibration, which imitate a wounded baitfish. In most cases, the lure is mimicking bait fish. White and chartreuse are the top color patterns. However, anglers can slow roll and bounce this lure off the bottom to imitate crayfish. There are a couple of darker color patterns to suit this presentation.

In most cases, spinner baits are most productive when fish in fairly shallow water, 10 feet deep or less. However, in very clear water, these lures can be effective when worked deeper. Spinner baits are very easy to use and are an excellent choice for novice anglers as they have terrific built in action. A slow steady retrieve is often the most productive. Spinnerbaits can be worked through the entire water column, from just on the surface all the way to the bottom.

7)  Spro hair jig

bucktail jig

Click this link to shop Amazon for Spro jigs

The Spro jig is another very effective smallmouth bass fishing lure. These baits have the hair or dressing fixed permanently to the jig head. They are very versatile lures that can be used to mimic a wide variety of forage. They are especially effective in natural or darker colors and bounced along the bottom, mimicking crayfish. White is another very popular color and is an excellent choice when herring and shad are in the area.

Tailwater fishing tips and techniques

Jigs are one of the oldest lures that man has been using to catch fish. The combination of the weighted jig head and hair dressing results in a very enticing and natural looking lure in the water. Subtle action is generally draw more strikes, though there are times when active fish will respond better to a fast, erratic retrieve. Some anglers increase the effectiveness of this lure by adding a soft plastic trailer or even a live minnow.

8)  Mepps spinner


Click this link to shop Amazon for Mepps spinners

The Mepps line of spinners have been catching smallmouth bass for anglers for decades now. This is a very simple lure that is an in-line spinner. This consists of a shaft with a weighted body, a hook which is often dressed, and a blade that rotates around the body putting out both flash and vibration.

fishing in rivers for smallmouth bass

Spinners are very easy to use, making them an excellent choice for novice anglers. While they are used effectively in lakes, spinners really shine when chasing smallmouth bass in rivers. The best technique is to cast straight across the stream then reel back in using a slow, steady retrieve. The current will assist in rotating the blade. Many bites occur as the spinner swings in the current at the end of the drift. Spinners are an excellent choice for anglers fishing waters that are cold enough to have trout along with the smallmouth bass.

9)  Eppinger Daredevil Spoon


Click this link to shop Amazon for Daredevil spoons

The Eppinger Daredevil spoon is last, but certainly not least, on the list of 9 essential smallmouth bass fishing lures. Spoons have fallen a bit out of favor with smallmouth bass anglers of late, but this is a big mistake. A spoon is basically a curved piece of metal with a hook in. Spoons are excellent and productive lures and have several advantages. Silver, gold, red/white, and 5 of diamonds are the top colors. 1/2 ounce is a great all round size.

Most spoons are fairly heavy and are very easy to cast a long distance. They are worked fairly quickly and put out a lot a flash and vibration. This combination makes them an excellent choice for anglers who need to cover a lot of water in search of fish. Spoons can also be used in a vertical presentation on are very effective when jigs over submerged structure. This is especially true in winter and summer when smallmouth bass move deep.

Finally, spoons are excellent lures to use when trolling. Whether casting or trolling it is important to use a quality swivel when fishing with a spoon to reduce line twist. The final advantage anglers fishing with spoons for smallmouth bass will realize is that they will catch many other species as well, including northern pike, trout, and walleye.

In conclusion, this article on the 9 essential smallmouth bass fishing lures will help anglers fill their tackle boxes with baits that will produce fish in any location and at any time of year!


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