Smallmouth bass are awesome; they fight hard, are very aggressive, and are all around a blast to catch. While they are very similar to largemouth bass and will inhabit the same areas and eat the same lures, in bodies of water that have smallmouth as the predominant bass species, such as deep and clear northern lakes, you will have to tailor your approach and presentations and make adjustments in not only the way you fish but also in lure selection.
Let’s take a look at the best lures in the fishing world today for smallmouth bass.
The Best Smallmouth Bass Lures by Category:
Soft Plastic Baits
Soft plastic baits used in the right context can be devastating for smallmouth bass. Used as search baits or as finesse lures, they can seal the deal in a wide variety of situations.
The ribbed body design of the fat swim impact gives off a very natural feeling of vibration in the water, and the boot-style tail gives an enticing kick that will work at any speed. Reel it fast, slow, rip it, jig it, with the tail always kicking; it's hard to use this bait wrong. It will even undulate in the fall, making it a great slow-rolling and pausing bait for cold front conditions or in the early spring and fall.
With the fat swim impact being a soft plastic swimbait, you have various hooking and rigging options, from weedless and texas rigged to a standard jig head setup or even put it on an umbrella rig for schooling baitfish presentations.
Storm makes a ton of great lures, many of which are soft plastic swimbaits, and the great part about Storm is that not only are the baits very effective and feature great fish-catching action, but they are also some of the best-valued baits on the market and are easy on your wallet.
With the wildeye shad you will get a bait that falls straight and swims true with a thin tapering tail section that allows the paddle to thump indiscriminately at all speeds.
The wildeye shad also features an integrated top hook, so you can fish it directly from the store without needing any swimbait hooks or weights. Don’t worry about the exposed hook, as this thing will still work through some seriously dense underwater vegetation without any issue.
The lead weighted head of the strike king tour-grade football jig is designed to give the jig great action in the fall, as it imparts a wobbling and rocking action while still maintaining great balance and a hook-up orientation when worked on the bottom.
The jig is constructed with a unique line tie design to keep it from landing in an undesired position or shifting to the side when being bounced or dragged across the bottom.
The Strike King tour-grade football jig also features a high-quality premium silicone skirt and high-quality gamakatsu hook to keep those big bass pinned and help it stay razor sharp for longer periods of time.
Swim jigs are great search baits, being an effective tool to cover water quickly, as well as being able to work in and around heavy cover or bounce off of rock bars.
The Divine swim jig went through three years of hardcore field testing and has now become one of the finest swim jigs on the bass fishing market today.
The head features incredible detail, including indented eye sockets with lifelike eyes and gill plate details, making the Divine not only one of the best swim jigs on the market today but also one of the best-looking jigs on the market.
The Divine swim jig is keel weighted and features a semi-flat belly which gives it an enticing swimming action that allows it to work especially well when you want to skip under docks and cover.
While being popular with anglers who predominantly fish largemouth bass, jerkbaits are very prevalent for smallmouth fishing, especially in lakes with deep rock bars and other structures where smallmouth bass cruise in search of food.
The X-rap has earned a reputation for itself and has become one of the top jerkbaits ever created. And it's no surprise it is such a deadly tool; it is made by one of the top lure manufacturers of all time, Rapala.
It has an action that is unmatched and so many deadly-looking color patterns that you will have little trouble finding a suitable pattern to match the hatch for any body of water that smallmouth bass inhabits.
With small taps of the rod tip, you can make this bait dance, dart, and twitch with deadly effects. Walk the bait with a side-to-side dart that will absolutely drive the fish wild, or rip it and pause it to entice an explosive strike. This is one of the best smallmouth basses lures ever.
The Baitball series of lures is hands down one of the coolest-looking designs I have ever gazed upon; not only is it unique and awesome to look at it's also designed to be effective in catching the eye of a fish as well as the angler.
The baits have a clear body design that has multiple “baitfish” inside of them, giving the appearance of a group of tiny baitfish swimming in a tight school or pod instead of a singular larger baitfish.
This an exceptionally deadly presentation in the spring when young of the year baitfish are swimming around in large amounts, but also when used in deep and clear water, as well as deep water mimicking suspended baitfish.
The Live Target bait ball lineup or jerkbaits feature an excellent erratic, further enticing bass to strike. And as usual, these baits come in a plethora of color patterns and sizes.
The baitball lineup doesn't stop at jerkbaits either; they have everything from crankbaits to topwater baits as well, as well as different shapes like shad bodies.
Can’t forget crankbaits! Crankbaits are incredible fish-catching tools despite the species. Let’s dive in and look at the ones that are particularly effective for smallmouth bass.
The Flicker Shad is a smallmouth bass-catching monster, and the only thing it will catch more than smallmouth are walleyes, which is just a bonus when bass fishing. When wielded by a proficient and effective bass angler, it will whack fish repeatedly, and if you find a pod of smallmouth bass on a spot and tie one on, it can be downright devastating for bass lips all around.
The Flicker Shad perfectly mimics, you guessed it, a shad, one of the favorite dinner choices of any species of bass, and its tight wiggling and swimming action entices them to eat when coupled with its appealing color patterns and shape.
The Flicker Shad comes in a variety of shapes, weights, and sizes and comes with premium wide gap treble hooks for exceptional to improve your hooking ratio.
The Rapala Ripstop is to put it frankly, different. It has a very unique design, but different doesn't mean bad. As a matter fact, different in relation to a lure's action and appearance can be super effective, and most seasoned anglers look for that slightly different action that fish have never seen before.
It's a slash bait, jerkbait, and crankbait all in one single lure package, and that is all attributed to the unique rear lip of the bait. The rear lip of the bait works to stop it dead in its tracks on the pause, like slamming on the brakes in your vehicle, eliminating all forward momentum on the pause.
Stopping the bait dead-cold while a smallmouth bass is following it creates a serious reaction strike opportunity as the fish doesn't have time to think and just strikes.
On the pause and fall the bait has a slight shimmy and wobble added in for good measure in the reaction department and allows you to hold the pause for a long period of time.
There is no wrong way to fish this thing as long as it is in the water, you can crank it, jerk it like any standard jerkbait as it was designed for, rip and pause, twitch it, all of this will work in the right time and place. This is definitely one of Rapala's best smallmouth bass lures.
Spinnerbaits and spinners
Spinnerbaits are incredibly effective for all predatory fish, from crappies to musky and anything in between, and they are more popular with bass anglers than with anyone.
The Booyah Pond Magic is a downsized spinnerbait that is intended for tough conditions like cold fronts or when the big-bladed spinnerbaits just aren’t producing as they should. In some situations, the baitfish are also smaller. In these cases, the pond magic can help match the hatch.
For being a small-sized bait, it still has ample fish-catching power and features a small colorado blade for vibration coupled with the flashing pulse of the willow blade as well. The spinnerbait also features a premium Mustad 1/0 hook, the hook is very beefy for the smaller size of the spinnerbait, and although the bait is small, you won't have an issue hauling in giant smallmouth bass over 5 pounds.
The Booyah has some amazing color patterns, typical of all booyah lures, and there is certainly no shortage of color selections to choose from to match any bait in any body of water where smallmouth bass swim, With up to 20 different color patterns in total this is one of the best smallmouth basses lures around.
The lead head on the terminator has many features incorporated into its design, and it runs just as well with a trailer on the hook as it does without one. The design or the hook angle works at keeping the trailer from losing its action when being dragged on the bottom.
The Terminator's wireframe has 30% better bend resistance than many of the competitors who use standard stainless steel wire. The wire works like a spring, going back to its original position after flexing or getting crushed by a fish and eliminating any time-wasting and repetitive hand-tuning.
The colors and skirts are exceptional as well and look incredibly realistic in the water, mimicking bait fish-like shad in great detail, such as their scale reflections and chrome flash.
The favorite way to fish for many smallmouth anglers, topwater fishing is plain amazing; explosive strikes on the surface are hard to beat, regardless of species. Let’s look at the best topwater lures for smallmouth.
The Whopper Plopper is one of the most productive and cool topwater baits that was ever made. It has a flexible plastic tail that can handle any abuse you or the fish can dish out, and it’s cupped in a precise way to create a very prominent and effective “plopping” noise that drives predatory fish absolutely wild.
The Whopper Plopper comes in a variety of 8 colors, and even if the from smaller forage minnow and shad sizes to giant 8-inch versions intended for musky and pike, if the large version seems too like it would be too much, think again, as they have caught some absolutely monstrous bass as well.
One of my personal favorite topwater for smallmouth bass, in particular the ultra-aggressive river bass, is the Heddon Super Spook.
Its torpedo-shaped design makes the bait zig-zag and glides in a walk-the-dog style with the tiniest of rod taps, driving the smallies wild as it gives the impression of a fleeing baitfish skittering on the surface of the water.
The super spook is made from hard-impact plastic and can take a ton of abuse, like when you accidentally slap it onto some rip-rap or rocks, and the super sharp hooks will keep even the most acrobatic of fish pinned.
How to Choose a Smallmouth Bass Lure
Lure selection is dictated by the depth at which you need to fish, and not all lures are fished at all depths. Sure, lures like jigs, spinnerbaits, and soft plastics can be fished at virtually any depth, but other lures like crankbaits and jerkbaits are designed with diving lips that will reach a specific depth range, and it’s these lures where you must ensure that the diving lure matches the depth you will present it at.
At certain times smallmouth bass and any predatory fish species will respond to very certain presentations. Fish can be picky, and some days they might want a crankbait with a tight wobble, while other days, they might want the steady pulsing thump of a swimbait.
It’s your job as an angler to experiment when on the water to find what the fish are responding to best on any given day.
For some species like musky, color isn’t much of a deciding factor; instead, contrast can be what is most important despite the colors chosen. For bass, this rule can still apply, but species like bass and walleye definitely have a color preference from one day to the next.
Again, to figure out what colors to use, you need to experiment, but one can never go wrong with using a color pattern that matches or closely resembles the forage present on the body of water you are fishing.
If you have any doubt about what color to use, my general rule of thumb goes like this, “when in doubt, throw black.” Black gives the best silhouette in any water clarity and sky conditions.
Smallies love structure, as do most fish. But in the environments where smallies are prevalent, like deep clear lakes, areas like rock bars, reefs, humps, and other structures can hold large numbers of fish, so be sure to fish those. Other areas are common areas where you would find largemouth bass, like docks, timber, and even around underwater vegetation.
Final Thoughts on Smallmouth Bass Lures
Smallmouth bass pack a punch, and the technical fashion of fishing for them on mid-lake structure or in fast-moving rivers is the reason why they are so popular in the areas where they are found. If you are going to chase some smallies, the lures in this post will definitely get the job done and lead you to bronzeback success.