Best Smallmouth Bass Fishing Tackle

smallmouth bass tackle

Best Smallmouth Bass Fishing Tackle

This post will thoroughly cover the best smallmouth bass fishing tackle. Smallmouth bass are a very popular freshwater species. They prefer cooler and clearer water than their largemouth bass cousins. In a way, they are a bit of a combination of largemouth bass in freshwater trout. Smallmouth bass do not grow as large, but put up a terrific fight. They prefer current and are found as often in rivers as they are in lakes. In order to be successful, anglers need the best smallmouth bass fishing tackle.

smallmouth bass fishing tackle and lures

The best smallmouth bass fishing tackle is a light spinning rod and reel along with a good selection of lures would include spinners, spoons, plugs, and jigs. This selection of tackle and lures will cover most smallmouth bass fishing situations. Smallmouth bass are similar in size and habits throughout most of the country.

Smallmouth bass fishing, especially in rivers, is pretty basic. Due to their preference of clear water and the fact that they don’t grow as large, the best rod and reel combinations for smallmouth bass are a bit on the light side. Many anglers already own a rod and reel combination that is suitable for chasing smallies. There are a handful of proven artificial lures that still produce smallmouth bass to this day. Many anglers already own these.

Pennsylvania smallmouth bass

Fishing rods and reels for smallmouth bass

There are three different rod and reel combinations that will cover every smallmouth bass fishing situation. These are an ultralight spinning outfit, a medium light spinning outfit, and a medium light bait casting rig. Anglers can certainly get away with only one rod and reel, but to ideally match the conditions, most anglers should have at least a couple different rod and reel combinations.

freshwater fishing tackle

Medium light spinning rod and reel is best for smallmouth bass fishing

The most versatile rod and reel combination would be a medium light spinning rod that is between 6 feet long and 7 feet long matched with a 2000 series reel. It can be spooled up with 8 pound monofilament or 10 pound braided line. This would be a great choice for anglers who only want one outfit that will cover most smallmouth bass fishing situations. This outfit will be a tad heavy for fishing small rivers and a little light for fishing docks and other structure. However, it will cover the majority of smallmouth bass fishing applications.

Options for both medium light and ultra light KastKing rod and reel combinations can be purchased at Amazon from this link.

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brook trout fishing lures


Ultra light spinning rod and reel

Many anglers pursue smallmouth bass in small to medium-sized rivers. For the most part, these waters are fairly clear and the fish average three quarters of a pound or so. For this reason, every serious smallmouth bass angler should have an ultralight spinning outfit in his or her arsenal. A 6 foot ultralight rod with a 1000 series reel spooled up with 4 pound monofilament or 10 pound braid is an excellent all round outfit. This combination is excellent for casting very light lures and allows even a hand sized fish to give a good account of itself when hooked.

Medium light baitcasting reel

best bass lure

The third and final rod and reel combination would be a medium light bait casting outfit. For many anglers, this outfit can be omitted. However, serious smallmouth bass anglers who fish larger lakes that hold above average sized bass will usually have a rig such as this on board. It is better suited for casting heavier lures for larger fish as well as fishing around structure such as bridges, rip rap, docks, and submerged timber.

Shop Amazon for Lew’s baitcasting outfits in this link

Fly fishing outfit for smallmouth bass

Minnesota smallmouth bass

Smallmouth bass are an excellent species to chase with a fly rod. For the most part, they are less finicky and easier to catch than trout. This is especially true in the heavily pressure trout fishing waters that many anglers are faced with. A good all-around fly fishing rod and reel would be a 9′ 5 wt outfit with a medium action. In most situations, a floating line will be fine. However, a sink tip or slowly sinking line does give the fly angler some versatility.

Shop Amazon for Orvis fly rod combos here

Smallmouth bass fishing tackle when using with live bait

Many anglers enjoy fishing for smallmouth bass with live bait. Live bait can be extremely effective in certain situations, especially when fish are located. Artificial lures do allow anglers to cover more water. However, live bait can be very productive when fish are located or when they are extremely fussy.

live bait fishing

The tackle required for using live bait on smallmouth bass is quite basic. A selection of light wire live bait hooks in sizes #2, #4, and #6 along with some pinch on weights, small sliding sinkers, and a couple of floats is really all that is required. Anglers to tie up special rigs may also use in-line swivels and three-way swivels.

Tackle for smallmouth bass fishing with lures

It is probably safe to say that the majority of anglers fishing for smallmouth bass do so using artificial lures. There are a couple of reasons for this. Convenience is a major factor, there is no bait that is needed to be purchased, caught, and kept alive. Artificial lures allow anglers to cover much more water in search of fish. Smallmouth bass are aggressive in nature and artificial lures will often trigger a strike even when they are not feeding. Finally, artificial lures are just plain old fun to fish!

best 9 fishing lures for streams and small rivers

There are four basic types of artificial lures, jigs and soft plastic baits, plugs, spinners, and spoons. Each puts out vibration that mimics a wounded bait fish or other type of prey. Most have some type of built in action, while others require more manipulation on the part of the angler. Each lure type will be covered below including a few examples of proven and productive smallmouth bass lures.

Jigs and soft plastic lures

smallmouth bass fishing

A jig is a hook with a weight molded at the front near the eye. This weight gives the lure its erratic action and the water along with its name. When properly fish to, the lore will jig up and down. Most strikes occur as the lure falls through the water column. This realistically mimics a dying or wounded bait fish or other form of forage. The jig head can come either dressed with natural or synthetic care or plain so that a trailer can be added.

Jigs are very versatile lures they can be fished in a variety of ways. Also, depending on the dressing or tail, a jig can be retrieved to mimic a bait fish such as shad or bounced along the bottom to imitate a crawfish or other crustacean. Jigs that come with dressing most often use bucktail, marabou or some type of synthetic hair. These are very effective, however not quite as versatile or durable as the jig and grub combination.

Tailwater fishing tips and techniques

Most anglers fishing for smallmouth bass with jigs use a jig head in combination with some type of soft plastic body. The endless combinations result in this being a very versatile and economical way to fish. An excellent example of this would be a 1/8 ounce black jig head with a green or orange crawfish style tail. This is a very universal color combination that is effective anywhere smallmouth bass are found. A 3 inch pearl had tail swim bait on a 1/4 ounce jig is an excellent choice when smallmouth bass are feeding on bait fish.

Below are several examples of effective dressed jigs as well as jig and grub combinations. By no means are these the only choices. There are countless manufacturers who sell quality smallmouth bass fishing jigs. These are a few proven baits which will catch smallmouth bass anywhere.

Tube baits

tube lure

Tube baits are extremely effective smallmouth bass fishing lures. They have a lot of action when worked slowly and subtly, which entices strikes when fish are not overly active. The body of the tube adds substance while the tails flutter seductively in the water. They are most often fished on the bottom, mimicking crayfish and other crustaceans. Natural colors such as olive in root beer work very well. White can be an excellent color when shad are present. The Berkley Power Bait tube is Capt. Jim’s personal favorite for smallmouth bass.

Click this link to shop Amazon for Berkley tube baits

Bass Assassin lures

bass assassin

The Bass Assassin line of swim baits are excellent smallmouth bass fishing lures. They come in a variety of color patterns in several sizes. Lighter, natural colors are Capt. Jim’s favorite for targeting smallmouth bass. They are most often fished on a jig head, but can also be used on a swim bait hook. These lures are very easy to use and have a lot of built in action.

Click this link to shop Amazon for Bass Assassin baits

Hair jigs

hair jig

Jigs that come with hair dressing are very effective smallmouth bass fishing lures as well. In some ways they are easier in that the angler does not have to match the tail to the head. Marabou is a common dressing for jigs and puts out a lot of action with very little movement. Bucktail is another popular ineffective dressing. Finally, jigs also come with synthetic hair dressing. Darker colors work best when bounced on the bottom while lighter colors are effective when fishing in schools of bait fish.

Click this link to shop Amazon for hair jigs

Yamamoto Senko


The 4” Yamamoto Senko is an extremely effective in versatile bait for smallmouth bass and many other species. It does not look like much nor does it have a ton of action, but this finesse bait certainly catches fish. It is best worked with very little or even no action, just being allowed to flutter down through the water column or drift with the current. It can be fished on a bare hook or a light jig head.

Click this link to shop Amazon for Senko lures

Top plugs for smallmouth bass fishing

Plugs are hard bodied baits, usually made of plastic, that imitate bait fish or crawfish for the most part. Plugs are either worked on the surface or below the surface. Top water plugs float and spend their entire time working on the surface of the water. They are great fun to fish as the strike is visual. However, more fish are caught by anglers using plugs below the surface. These will dive to a variety of depths, based on the size and shape of the lip along with the design of the plug.

live bait for bass

Jerk baits are extremely effective smallmouth bass fishing lures. These are long slender baits that have a very erratic action and the water. They dive down from a couple of feet below the surface to 15 feet or more, depending on the shape of the lip. These lures are worked with an aggressive jerk and a pause in between. Most of the time the smallmouth bass hits the plug on the pause, as it hangs there seemingly helpless.

Rapala X-Rap Extreme Action Slashbait

Rapala x-rap

Capt. Jim’s favorite jerk bait is the Rapala X-Rap Extreme Action Slashbait. The #8 size works best in rivers and in lakes where the forage is on the small side. The #10 size is excellent when anglers are fishing in larger lakes. This plug is also available with a larger lip, allowing it to fish down to almost 15 feet. White is an excellent all-around color, with olive being a good second choice.

Click this link to shop Amazon for Rapala X Raps

Rebel Wee Craw

bebel wee craw

The Rebel Wee Craw is a legendary smallmouth bass fishing plug. As the name implies, it was built to imitate a crayfish and it does an excellent job of that. The lure is available and several different sizes and a handful of very natural looking finishes. It works extremely well when bounced through deeper holes and small to medium-size rivers. The Wee Craw is also effective when fished around riprap and on sloping rocky points in lakes.

Click this link to shop Amazon for Rebel Wee Craw plugs

Heddon Tiny Torpedo

tiny torpedo

The Heddon Tiny Torpedo is an outstanding top water lure for catching smallmouth bass in both rivers and lakes. Many plugs designed for largemouth bass are a bit too large for smallmouth bass. This bait is the perfect size and is very easy to fish. It has a conical nose and a propeller on the rear. When twitched, the propeller puts out a good amount of commotion which will draw smallmouth bass to the bait.

Click this link to shop Amazon for Tiny Torpedo plugs

Rapala Shad Rap

shad rap

The Rapala Shad Rap is an excellent plug to use when smallmouth bass are feeding on shad. It has a wider more substantial profile, better imitating Shad and herring that are often found in lakes. The smaller versions and lighter finishes work best when Shad and other bait fish are present. The lure is available in a deep diving version as well. Both bait fish and crayfish color patterns are productive.

Click this link to shop Amazon for Rapala Shad Rap plugs

Best smallmouth bass spinners and spinnerbaits

Spinners have been around a very long time. They are very simple and effective lures that are easy to use. This makes them an excellent choice for novice anglers. The two basic types of spinners are in line spinners and spinner baits. In line spinners have a blade that rotates around the shaft with some type of body and a dress tail. Spinner baits use a wire frame with a spinner at the top and some type of body at the bottom.

smallmouth bass fishing tackle and lures

In line spinners are most often associated with river fishing. They are very effective as the current causes the blade to rotate. Most often, the lure is cast across the stream and allowed to float down with just enough tension on the line to keep a tight. They can be used in lakes as well. Spinner baits are more often used in lakes and have a wider profile. Due to their design, spinner baits are also more weedless and are a better choice when fished around weeds and other cover.

Worden’s Original Rooster Tail spinner

rooster tail

Capt Jim’s favorite spinner by far is the Worden’s Original Rooster Tail Spinner. This is a very effective lure that comes in several sizes and many different color patterns. It is an outstanding lure for fishing streams and small rivers. It is very light in weight and will not sink down to the bottom and hang up as some other spinners well. The 1/8 ounce lure with a gold blade and any bright colored body is an excellent all round choice. One advantage these spinners have is that they will catch a lot of trout as an added bonus and waters where these fish are present.

Click this link to shop Amazon for Rooster tail spinners

Panther Martin spinner

panther martin

The Panther Martin is another effective spinner used when smallmouth bass fishing. It is heavier and more compact than the Rooster Tail. This makes it a better choice for anglers fishing larger rivers where long casts are required as well is getting down deeper into the holes. It is also a better choice in lakes and can even be trolled.

Click this link to shop Amazon for Panther Martin spinners

Terminator spinnerbait


The Terminator line of spinner baits are excellent lures for smallmouth bass fishing in lakes and larger rivers. They are well-made and very durable. Spinner baits put out a lot a flash and vibration. There also fairly heavy and can be cast a long distance. Gold bladed lures work best early and late in the day and in stained water. Conversely, silver blades and lighter colored bodies work best on bright sunny days.

Click this link to shop Amazon for Terminator spinnerbaits

Beetlespin spinnerbait

beetle spin

Beetlespin spinnerbaits are smaller and more subtle than the larger versions. These are excellent choices for fishing rivers and smaller lakes as well as in cold, clear water.

Click this link to shop Amazon for Beetlespin spinnerbaits

Spoons are effective smallmouth bass fishing lures

Spoons are another example of simple yet very effective fishing lures for smallmouth bass and many other species. A spoon is basically a curved piece of metal with a hook in. The design of the spoon will determine its action and how it can be used. This is another lure that is an excellent choice for novice anglers as it has a lot of built in action. Anglers should use some type of snap swivel or in-line swivel with spoons to help eliminate line twist.

Acme Kastmaster spoon


The Acme Kastmaster is a very effective spoon for smallmouth bass in both rivers and lakes. It is compact and dense which results in long casts. It has an excellent built in action and can be either cast and retrieved or troll. Generally, erratic retrieve’s work best. It comes in multiple sizes and finishes. Chrome with a blue neon and gold are Capt. Jim’s two favorite color patterns.

Click this link to shop Amazon for Kastmaster spoons

Eppinger Daredevil spoon


The venerable Eppinger Daredevil spoon has been around for decades. It is a proven lure that catches smallmouth bass and many other species to this day. It comes in a variety of sizes and colors. It has more of the traditional spoon shape, sort of an elongated teardrop. Anglers fishing with this spoon in waters that have populations of pike will catch many of them as an added bonus.

Click this link to shop Amazon for Daredevil spoons

Luhr Jensen Krocodile spoon

Krocodile spoon

The Krocodile spoon is a versatile and effective smallmouth bass lure. Like most spoons, it comes in multiple sizes and finishes. These spoons can be cast out and retrieved, trolled, and vertically jigged.

Click this link to shop Amazon for Krocodile spoons

Hopkins jigging spoon


The Hopkins spoon is a bit of a specialty lure. It is primarily thought of as a vertically jigged spoon. The quarter ounce and half ounce silver spoon with the hammered finish is by far the most popular combination. This spoon is extremely effective when smallmouth bass are schooled in deep water over points, channel edges, and other structure. It is one of the few baits that will fool suspended fish into biting.

Click this link to shop Amazon for Hopkins spoons

In conclusion, this article on the best smallmouth bass fishing tackle will help anglers choose the right equipment and baits in order to be more successful!

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