Best 7 River Smallmouth Bass Fishing Lures

river smallmouth bass lures

Best 7 River Smallmouth Fishing Lures

We will list the best 7 river smallmouth bass fishing lures in this article. Many anglers enjoy chasing smallmouth bass in rivers. While live bait produces plenty of fish, the majority of anglers opt to use artificial lures.

best 7 river smallmouth fishing lures

The best 7 river smallmouth fishing lures are;

  • #8 Rapala X-Rap Slashbait
  • Rebel Middle Wee Craw
  • Heddon Tiny Topedo
  • 4 inch green pumpkin Senko
  • 3″ Mister Twister
  • 1/8 ounce rooster tail spinner
  • 1/4 ounce Beetle spin spinner bait.

These seven baits will produce smallmouth bass and rivers throughout the country.

Best river smallmouth fishing rod and reel

Light spinning tackle is the best choice for anglers fishing rivers for smallmouth bass. The lures do not weigh much and light line and tackle is required to cast them. Also, rivers run clear and low in summer and early fall. Light tackle will elicit the most strikes.

smallmouth bass

A 6 ½ foot light spinning rod with a 2000 series reel and 6 pound monofilament line is a great all-round combination. Anglers can bump the line up to 8 pound test in the spring when the water is higher and has some color. Conversely, dropping down to 4 pound test might be required in extremely low water.

A 2000 reel on a 6′ medium light rod is an excellent combo. Click this link to shop at Amazon.

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List of best 7 river smallmouth fishing lures

live bait for bass

Here is my list of the best 7 river smallmouth fishing lures. Smallmouth residing in rivers are not as fussy as fish in lakes can be. Anglers can keep it simple with this selection of lures.

1) #8 Rapala X-Rap Slashbait

Number one on the list of the top seven River smallmouth bass fishing lures is the #8 Rapala X-Rap Slashbait. This is a terrific bait for catching smallmouth bass anywhere, but particularly in rivers. It is in the family of lures that anglers term “jerk baits”. It floats at rest and dives down 2 or 3 feet below the surface upon retrieve. This puts the lure in the strike zone yet in most cases keeps it working above the submerged rocky bottom.

Virginia river fishing tips

This lure has a very erratic action which will trigger a strike from smallmouth bass. The most productive retrieve is to cast it out towards a likely looking spot. With the rod tip low and near the surface of the water, the lure is brought back in using sharp jerks. After a hard jerk, anglers should point the rod tip right at the bait. This will put slack in the line and cause the bait to hover there motionless. This realistically imitates a wounded and helpless bait fish and will draw reaction strikes from smallmouth bass.

The best color to use will depend on river conditions. Light-colored lures work best in clear water while darker colors work better in stained water. White and olive are good all-around choices. These lures work best in a slow to medium current. They will hang up if used in very shallow water.

Click this link to shop Amazon for Rapala X-Rap lures.

2) Rebel Middle Wee Crawfish

The Rebel Middle Wee Craw is number two on the list of the top seven River smallmouth bass fishing lures. Is a time proven bait and a bit of a legend among experienced smallmouth bass river anglers. It comes in a half dozen colors, and all of them are productive. Once again, light colors work best in clear water while darker colors work best in stained or dark water.

bass fishing

The Rebel Middle Wee Craw will float at rest then dive down upon retrieve. The idea is to get it down near the bottom and even bouncing off the rocks on occasion. Once it gets near the bottom, the lure is retrieved with short hard twitches, a bit less aggressively than a jerk bait. This will realistically mimic a fleeing crayfish.

It is best to use the Rebel Crawfish in the slower, deeper pools and holes. It will tend to turn sideways in heavy current and will also snag the bottom in shallow water. The Middle Wee Craw is extremely effective when worked over submerged rocky ledges and boulders in 3 foot of water to 5 foot of water.

bebel wee craw

Click this link to shop Amazon for Rebel Wee Craw lures.

3) Heddon Tiny Torpedo

The Heddon Tiny Torpedo is number three on the list of the top seven River smallmouth bass fishing lures. This is a top water plug. It has a tapered nose and a propeller on the rear. It is the perfect size bait for river smallmouth and is another tried-and-true producer of smallmouth bass in rivers.

best 7 river smallmouth fishing lures

Top water baits are very easy to use and are a lot of fun to fish! The angler simply casts the lure out to a likely looking spot and then retrieves it with sharp twitches of the rod and a pause in between. Often times, the smallmouth bass will attack it as it sits there motionless.

It is important that when a fish strikes this lure the angler waits until the weight of the fish is felt before setting the hook. Otherwise, the lure and it’s treble hooks can come flying back towards the angler. Since the Tiny Torpedo is a top water bait and virtually 100% snag proof, it can be used in any depth of water. However, it will not be very effective in fast current.

tiny torpedo

Click this link to shop Amazon for Tiny Torpedo lures.

4) 4″ Yamamoto Senko

The 4 inch Yamamoto Senko is a fantastic bait that will catch a variety of species in just about any environment. It is an extremely effective lure when pursuing river smallmouth bass. The soft plastic lures are in the family of what many anglers call “finesse baits”. That means that anglers do not need to impart a lot of action.

Oklahoma smallmouth bass

In open water, these can be rigged on an open hook. However, since most productive smallmouth bass rivers have rocks and other cover, anglers either use a weedless hook or Texas rig the worm on a 1/0 worm hook. This bait can be effective in both the deeper pools and the faster running water.

In the slower, deeper pools, the bait is simply dragged slowly across the bottom. The Senko is very supple and will have a very lifelike action and the water. Less really is more when fishing this bait. Anglers can slide on a very small 1/8 ounce sliding sinker if necessary. In swift water, the bait is cast out into the deeper runs and just allowed to sweep downstream in the current. Little or no action is needed by the angler.


Click this link to shop Amazon for Senko lures.

5) 3″ Mister Twister

The simple yet extremely effective jig is bait number five on the list of the top seven river smallmouth bass fishing lures. A jig bouncing erratically off the bottom is an excellent imitation of a crayfish. The most popular combination when fishing rivers for smallmouth is a 1/8 ounce round black head with a 2 inch to 3 inch root beer or green body. Chartreuse is very productive as well.

The jig and grub combo is very easy to use. In calm and slack water, the lure is cast out towards shoreline cover or submerged rocks or ledges. It is allowed to sink to the bottom then retrieved back in using a series of short hops. Each time the jig head hits the bottom it kicks up a puff of sand or dirt, realistically mimicking a crayfish. Anglers can swim it back using a steady retrieve to imitate a minnow.

Manitoba smallmouth bass fishing

Jigs can be fished in swift water as well. The best approach is to cast 90° and then let the bait work downstream with the current while the angler keeps the tip up and gives the jig just a little bit of action. Anglers will not need to impart too much action as the jig will look very natural just drifting with the current. Anglers should use just enough to keep the jig up out of the rocks of possible.

These lures are fairly inexpensive to use. That is a good thing as many will be lost in a day of fishing for smallmouth in rocky streams. Serious anglers buy the jig heads and the grub bodies in bulk. This results in them being around $.50 or so per bait.

mister twister

Click this link to shop Amazon for Mister Twister lures.

6) 1/6 ounce Rooster tail spinner

A 1/6 ounce Rooster tail spinner is number six on the list of top seven River smallmouth bass fishing lures. This is a very simple lure that will catch just about every species that swims. Anglers that fish rivers with trout in them use Rooster tails as they will produce trout as well as bass. Anglers can read more about fishing with spinners in rivers and streams here.

smallmouth bass

Roostertails are very simple and easy to use. They work best in shallow stretches of the river with a little current. Anglers simply cast across the stream and reel it in as slowly as possible using a steady retrieve. It is a good idea to give it an initial twitch to get the blade spinning. The flashing blade and vibration along with the colorful tail will draw a lot of strikes!

There are many different Rooster tail colors to select from. Generally, white with a silver blade works well on bright, sunny days in clear water. A gold blade with a bright green/pink body works great on cloudy days or in stained water. In all honesty, every color will produce fish. It will snag occasionally but not too bad.

rooster tail

Click this link to shop Amazon for Rooster Tail lures.

7) 1/4 ounce Beetlespin

A 1/4 ounce Beetlespin spinner bait is an extremely effective lure for smallmouth bass and other species. It is #7 on the list of the best 7 river smallmouth fishing lures. 1/4 ounce is a good all round size, though anglers can drop down to 1/8 ounce if the water is low and clear. Silver blades and a 2” white, green, rootbeer or black grub work well in most rivers.

The beauty of these lures is that they can be used in both fast and slow water and rarely hang up. The design of the lure keeps the hook out of harms way. The grub tail can be easily changed. Like the inline spinners, spinnerbaits work best with a slow, steady retrieve.

beetle spin

Click this link to shop Amazon for Beetle Spin lures.

River smallmouth fishing lures; techniques and locations

While smallmouth bass are found in lakes, many anglers associate smallmouth bass fishing with rivers. Tactics for pursuing smallmouth bass and rivers are a bit different than when fishing in lakes. Generally speaking, the river fishing experience is more relaxed and less complicated. Anglers mostly wade or drift in small boats.

smallmouth bass fishing

One great advantage to fishing for smallmouth bass in rivers is that fish are much easier to locate. In the confines of a river, likely fish holding spots are much easier to identify as opposed to a large open body of water. Depth is pretty much a non factor as most smallmouth rivers are fairly shallow.

The ideal river habitat for smallmouth bass are rivers with cool, clear water and a lot of gravel and rocks. Smallmouth bass love rocks! Boulders and rocky ledges provide refuge from the current. Smallmouth bass and other game fish will stage in these eddies waiting in ambush. They can dart out into the current to feed while not expending a lot of energy.

Smallmouth bass love rocks!

Rocks have another attraction when it comes to smallmouth bass as well; crayfish! These are the preferred forage of smallmouth bass in both lakes and rivers. They are high in protein and fairly easy to catch. Many of the artificial lures used to catch smallmouth are designed to mimic a crayfish.

fishing in rivers for smallmouth bass

There is one big disadvantage when it comes to rocks, and that is snags. That is one reason why the best seven River smallmouth bass fishing lures are bit different than those used in lakes. Most rivers are shallow and rocky and baits that are dragged along the bottom will snag.

As mentioned above, one advantage to fishing for smallmouth bass and rivers is that likely spots are easy to identify. Unlike trout, smallmouth will rarely be right in the swiftest current. Instead, they will find an eddy or bit of slack water where they can rest comfortably without expending a lot of energy yet be in a prime position to feed.

Areas that hold smallmouth bass in rivers

These highly productive spots include holes or pools where the river slows down and increases in depth. These polls between riffles are prime spots for smallmouth bass, particularly if fallen trees and rocks are present. Often times there will be holes in the slack water area right behind a large boulder. These are prime spots as well.

Smallmouth bass fishing for beginners

Outside bends in the river channel are smallmouth bass hot-spots! Debris that washes downstream such as fallen timber will tend to collect in these areas. Often times, the water is deeper as well as the current gouges out a hole. Many of the spots also have an undercut bank. Anglers river fishing for smallmouth bass should never overlook these outside bends.

The heads and tails of pools and riffles can also be good spots to try for smallmouth bass. Anglers will often times find that the smaller fish are found in these shallow waters with a bit a current. While not large, they are great fun on light tackle and can liven up a slow morning.

In conclusion, this article on the best 7 river smallmouth bass fishing lures will help anglers catch more fish using artificial baits.

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