August 29, 2020 6 min read

smallmouth bass fishing in new york

Smallmouth Bass Fishing Baits

Even though smallmouth bass feed similarly to largemouth bass, there are some lures that can directly allow you to key in on smallmouth. Usually if you want to switch your objective from species to species, you might seek various lakes or lake areas.

Largemouth bass are most often located in weedy or shady environments, smallmouths are mostly located in and near sandy and rocky areas. Smallmouth love to eat crayfish and herd bait up on flats. Smallmouth are primarily sight eaters so sunny days with a slight wind and clear water are the perfect conditions.

Now this doesn't mean that you won't see them sometimes in grass or under docks but the environments they choose more frequently than not are more open where the smallmouth can feed with thier eyes. There have even been reports of trout fisherman out in depths of over 100 ft that have caught smallmouth trolling around.

The mission of Bass Fishing Hub is to help you choose the best smallmouth lures and catch more fish. So, keep reading and we hope you enjoy!

Targeting Smallmouth Bass

As we began to discuss above smallmouth bass tend to be more of a roaming species of bass. Smallmouth bass are often found in large schools, kinda similar to Striped Bass. One interesting fact is that the schools tend to all school in like sizes. If you find a school of 1.5 lb fish, then most of the time the rest of the fish are the same size. On the contrary, if you find a school of 4 pounders you are in for a fun time and sore arms.

Finding smallmouth on flats

Places to start targeting smallmouth bass are large flats in a lake or river, then find the point or dropoff that has the steepest exist to deeper water. This edge will congregate the baitfish, crayfish and hence the smallmouth as well.

If you can find a flat or bar with some current, whether that be from a river or the wind it can make the flat even that much better. Now when you are fishing the flat do not be alarmed if there isn't a bunch of cover. I have found more smallmouth just cruising seemingly barren flats.

If the body of water you are fishing is a natural lake simply look for the mouths of rivers. These areas tend to have a delta of silt and sand, and can be magnets for baitfish and smallmouth.

Topwater lures, tube baits and even a Carolina rig can be very effective at cover the water till you locate the mother load.

Locating smallmouth on rocks and boulders

Early in the spring of the year and in many southern reservoirs you can target smallmouth bass on rip rap banks. Rip rap banks that are located around a bridge often times have current pushing thru and can act like a magnet for all sized smallmouth. Baits that tend to shine are crankbaits, spinnerbaits and jerkbaits. Simply parallel the bank and retrieve your lure for maximum effectiveness.

The holy-grail of smallmouth fishing can sometimes be found way off the bank on isolated boulders. These boulders sometimes do not hold massive schools of fish, but they do have some of the largest smallmouth in a lake. To locate these types of structure a sonar and even a side-finder graph can be used.  

After you locate an isolated boulder make sure you drop a way-point on the spot and continue to ideal the area to see if that boulder is the only one. If you can not find another boulder come back to the GPS waypoint and hold on!

The best baits for smallmouth on isolated boulders hands down is the drop shot rig. You can either cast to the boulder or if the water is deeper than 15 feet or so you can fish it vertically. The benefit to fishing the drop shot vertically is that you can watch for fish on your fish finder.  

TOP 5 SMALLMOUTH BASS LURES

The following lures are the best smallmouth bass lures in order by the optimal water temperature. Water temperature plays a very big role when choosing a bait to fish for smallmouth, so we have listed the optimal range for each lure!

1. BLADE BAITS

Blade bait for smallmouth

Fishing for smallmouth when the water temperature is between 35-45 degrees there is no better bait then a blade bait. Fishing the blade bait around rocky humps or even on deep flats holding the smallmouth.  

Typically I work the bait with slow jerks of the rod. The colder the water the slower I will hop the blade bait.

Simply cast the blade bait out, let the lure go all the way to the bottom and let it sit for a second. Most of my largest smallmouth bass have been caught on the initial drop. Somehow the fish find the blade bait and are on it when you raise your rod.

Then keep your rod tip up high, reel up the slack and hop the bait about 12 inches. Not the key is to let the bait sink back to the bottom on a slack line.

Customizing your blade baits to spice them up have been really effective for us at Bass Fishing Hub. Here is an article on how to customize your blade baits.

2. SMALL SOFT PLASTICS

drop shot rig for smallmouth basss

The following baits are considered small soft plastic lures and are fished slow on the bottom. As soon as the water temperature is above 45 degrees these baits really come to life. Simply cast them out, let them sink to the bottom and slowly drag or hop them back to you.

Here is a list of soft plastic baits to use...

  1. Drop Shot Rig
  2. Shakey Head
  3. Tube bait
  4. Ned Rig
  5. Stick Bait

All of these small soft plastic lures mimic shad, baitfish, crayfish, gobies or even yellow perch. Often times the best way to fish these lures is to simply cast the bait out and let it sit on the bottom. Since smallmouth bass are primarily sight feeders they track the bait with their eyes while the bait sinks to the bottom. Then the smallmouth get in a staring contest and can't stand the bait just sitting on the bottom. Slurp! Set the hook!

3. JIGS

Jigs, but particularly finesse jigs are the most popular lure to use so catching smallmouth bass because they work all year round. Anytime the water is above 40 degrees tie on a Jig and you have a chance of catching a smallmouth of a lifetime.

Typically jigs that weight between 1/8 oz to 1/2 oz are used for smallmouth fishing. Round head and football style jigs work better since those types of heads work thru the rock cover with less chance of getting a hang.

Most bass fisherman when they think of jigs think flipping jigs with a large silicone skirt. Finesse jigs have a smaller profile and closely resemble a small crayfish, the smallmouths favorite food. Do not look past a hair jig, or even a small black marabou jig.

To fish a jig simply cast the lure out and let the bait go all the way to the bottom. Either drag the jig back to you or hop the jig. Sometimes when water temperatures are above 60 degrees you can perform a technique called "stroking a jig". This is when you snap the rod tip hard and cause the jig to fly off the bottom. This technique can really trigger aggressive strikes from smallmouth and should always be tried.

4. JERKBAITS

jerkbait for smallmouth bass fishing

Jerkbaits are a favorite of many anglers to catch smallmouth bass in water temperatures between 45-75 degree water, especially in the spring of the year. Since smallmouth are primarily sight feeders, the flash of a jerkbait erratically swimming above them is often times to hard to handle.

Jerkbaits come in two different varieties. Hard jerkbaits like the Bomber Long A, or soft jerkbaits like the CASTAIC JERKY J.  The soft jerkbaits will be at their best during the smallmouth spawn, and especially right after the spawn when the bite can be particularly tough.

To fish a jerkbait for smallmouth make a long cast. Then with your rod tip pointed down twitch the rods tip. The most important tip is to immediately after you twitch your rod, is to give the jerkbait slack line. What this does is allow the jerkbait to dart off side to side. Then when you twitch again the jerkbait will erratically dart which drives smallmouth crazy.

5. TOPWATER LURES

Whopper plopper topwater for smallmouth bass

Anytime the water temperatures are above 60 degrees a topwater bait is an ideal choice to catch smallmouth bass!

Walking baits, poppers and Whopper Ploppers are the best lures to use for smallmouth bass. The aggressiveness of the smallmouth really shines when these tiny tuna come rocketing to the surface to strike a bait.

Remember to always wait till the smallmouth has your lure to set the hook. Often times smallmouth strike so hard they can miss the bait on the first strike, but keep working your bait as the follow-up strike may hook the fish of a lifetime.

Unlike Largemouth Bass, which bite best in cloudy or overcast conditions, a smallmouth bass can be caught all day long on topwater. Some of the largest smallmouth I have ever caught have some from the middle of the day in flat calm conditions!



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