Choosing the correct bait or bass lure and knowing how to use it will significantly increase an angler’s chances of landing their next big bass in a shorter amount of time. Based on decades of personal experience on the water from our expert fishing guides. We’ve put together the ultimate guide to success for deciding on which bait to use when bass fishing.
The Best Live bait For Largemouth Bass are:
Small to medium size baitfish like shiners, herring, or minnows, as well as worms or crawfish
The Best Artificial Bait For Bass are:
Jigs, Crankbaits, Plastic Worms, Spinnerbaits, and Swimbaits
When bass fishing, anglers want to have a small box of all the necessities to be ready for most situations. It’s a good idea to include weedless jigs, jig trailers, deep to shallow-running crankbaits, spinnerbaits, swimbaits, and some topwater lures in your box.
Above is the shortened version of which baits generally are most effective and versatile enough to use throughout the year.
But when it comes to catching bass consistently, anglers need to know which to use based on current conditions and the time of year. As well as the best techniques for presenting those fishing lures and baits, whether live or artificial.
Live bait is always an effective method and requires much less presenting from the angler; this guide will explain the best live baits to use when bass fishing and how to rig them.
In general, anglers catch bass most frequently when using bait; the largemouth bass and crappie that feed naturally. For this reason, baitfish and crawfish are usually the most consistent types of live bait for catching bass because these are what bass usually eat in many different places. Other popular baits are frogs and worms. Anglers can also use mice, salamanders, and various bugs or larvae for bait to pull bass, depending on where you are fishing.
The best live bait will handle most of the presentation for you by drawing attention without skepticism from your targeted fish. As a rule of thumb, use whatever is prevalent in your local waters as bait to attract a nonskeptic bass. More times than not, bass will not eat something they have never seen before. Another bonus is live bait often attracts the most trophy bass!
As previously mentioned, there are endless baits to use that will catch fish. But every angler should know the most consistent baits that can be used in most places year-round. These are what the fishing pros consider to be the “best baits” that bass anglers could always use as a go-to. Additionally, using live bait doesn’t require the angler to do any crazy presentations making it more beginner-friendly. An essential thing to stay on top of is whether your bait is alive or not.
Baitfish (Minnows, Shiners, Herring)
There are various ways to rig or hook your baitfish, depending on how you want it to look in the water. The most common way to hook a baitfish when presenting it to largemouth bass is to hook the bait through both lips from the bottom up, so it gives the most natural presentation with the slightest chance of damaging the bait while hooking it. Anglers can also hook the baitfish on its back below the dorsal fin. However, once your baitfish starts slowing down and not moving very much, it’s time to replace it with another one.
Shad style minnows, or shiners are some of the best live baits for bass, hands down. Baitfish come in different sizes and can be used in all types of bass waters, but they are incredibly productive in deeper water to target huge bass. They also work to catch more fish in general since they also attract giant catfish and other species.
The method you use to fish will depend on where you are, but it’s very effective to cast a shiner near lily pads and other structures. Wait for a big strike, and then start reeling in. Most charters using shiners will cast out multiple rods and use bobbers to help keep track of them when they get a bite. Then, when the bobber goes down, the angler needs to set the hook and start reeling in their big catch. The bobber method is suitable because it helps keep the bait off the bottom of the lake, which helps increase the lifespan of the baitfish so you won’t have to change it out as often.
The next most popular method when fishing with baitfish is using a split shot in shallow water near dense cover. In this case, it’s essential to keep your rig tight when fishing shallow in order to keep the minnow from drifting too close to the surface and looking unnatural. Another method to use with shiners involves drift fishing with an egg sinker and barrel swivel.
Crawfish, also referred to as crayfish and crawdads, are popular baits for largemouth bass. Many professionals swear by them, saying the presentation is always on point and no bass can resist them.
To set up your crawfish bait, you want to penetrate the crawfish’s tail with a hook of proportionate size to the crustacean.
It’s best to cast them near rocks and vegetation, or they can be drifted. Then drop them in the water and let them present themselves to the bass.
Fishing with live worms or nightcrawlers is a very effective form of bass fishing, and it’s a great technique to use with newbies or kids to get them hooked on the sport. Remember, the fishing hook sizes matter; rig the worm on the hook through the tip and keep as much of the hook covered while ensuring that the barb is still protruding enough to set the hook.
You will most likely want to go near the shallow areas and fish with a lighter tackle when bass fishing with nightcrawlers. In most cases, using a light or ultralight rod, a six-pound monofilament line, and a split shot with the worm on the hook will work great. Usually, worm setups can be jigged and used to catch various types of fish, including sunfish, crappie, other panfish, smallmouth bass, and other bigger fish, such as walleye, depending on where you are fishing.
Frogs are an excellent option when choosing a live bait for bass, and frogs usually don’t get the credit they deserve. Frogs work great, especially in dense covers or anywhere with heavy vegetation. Using frogs to catch bass is a little less beginner-friendly than the other forms of live bait bass fishing, but with some experience, you will see that this is one of the best strategies for fishing densely vegetated areas.
When rigging your frog, using a wide gap hook with a split shot about a foot from the hook is best. Going through the forelegs with the hook is the best way to rig them so you don’t hinder their ability to move, allowing them to swim freely and naturally.
Toss your frog near lily pads and other bass covers; the frog will usually swim to the bottom and immediately draw attention. If you aren’t getting any attention, try making a quick jerk motion with the rod tip, which should get the frog moving erratically and draw more attention from the bass lurking nearby.
The largemouth bass is a predatory animal, so the best artificial lures to use mimic the prey in the water at the time. Many artificial lures have a unique feature that helps attract bass despite not looking very similar to a real prey animal. For example, they may flash in the light.
Jigs, Crankbaits, Plastic Worms, Spinnerbaits, and swimbaits, are all effective bass lures. Most of these are very versatile lures making them practical for largemouth bass fishing in most conditions throughout the year when used effectively.
Best Year-Round Lures
Jigs are weighted bass lures that often have a skirt that pulses in the water to attract bass.
When To Use a Jig
Jigs are probably the most versatile bass lure, making them a great place to start when unsure of which lure to use based on conditions. They can be used throughout the year in almost any temperature, whether 50 degrees or 90 degrees.
Jigs can work in both shallow and deep waters and work in various environments, including shoreline grasses and steep underwater banks.
Crankbaits usually look like crayfish or small fish with a lip on the front, causing them to dive underwater and wobble as retrieved. However, there are also lipless crankbaits that are just as effective. They get their action from a nose-down altitude by placing the line on the back of the bait and its slender body, which will vibrate rapidly as the water passes over both sides.
When To Use a Crankbait
Similar to jigs, crankbaits are pretty versatile and can be used in most types of weather, deep and shallow water. Many professional guides have said lipless crankbaits are extra productive during the early spring and late fall, but it’s been proven on many excellent fishing trips that these can work year-round.
The largemouth bass is like lipless crankbaits over deep points and dying grass flats during cold water. However, during warmer times like the summer, fishing crankbaits are suitable for covering areas of water targeting schooling fish.
The plastic worm is popular among bass fishermen because it can be used in various conditions. And rigged in many different ways to be fished in both shallow water and deep water. Finesse worms don’t look very exciting on the outside but don’t be fooled because worms can catch largemouth bass all day, every day in many cases. Conventional methods of rigging plastic worms are the Texas rig, Carolina rig, weightless, and drop shot.
When To Use a Plastic Worm
Plastic worms are one of the simplest and most effective year-round lures that consistently catch fish. In addition, these versatile lures can be used in almost any condition.
In cold water, anglers can drag a worm on a Carolina rig or shakey head. In warmer water, anglers should twitch one weightless near the boat dock and vegetation.
Spinnerbaits contain metal blades on them which rotate when pulled through the water. These rotating blades reflect the light, making them look like baitfish to bass. Spinnerbaits also have rubber skirts that flutter in the water to make them extra attractive to bass.
When To Use a Spinnerbait
These can be used in shallow and deep water in various environments. Spinnerbaits are usually most effective during the early morning and when night fishing. However, they can also be good throughout the day during the spawning season for attracting bass over spawning beds.
It’s best to use a medium speed when retrieving a spinnerbait. If you reel to quickly, the lure may skip out of the water, but if you’re too slow, the bass will have too much time to look at it and possibly decide to ignore it.
Many bass anglers know Swimbaits to have a relatively lifelike action. They have a natural rolling motion, and their tail shakes when retrieved. Combined, these two characteristics create vibrations in the water that largemouth bass can’t resist (usually).
When To Use A Swimbait
Swimbaits can mimic various baitfish common in bass waters, making them effective all year. In the winter, bass anglers often have success hopping them on an umbrella rig or underspin and then letting them fall to look like a dying baitfish for the nearby bass. Swimbaits are most effective on either a jighead in open water areas or a weedless hook going through shallow grass during the summer.
When bass fishing with a swimbait, be sure to reel in slowly to imitate the swim pattern of prey fish. Reeling in slowly makes the lure look like a dying baitfish near the water’s surface. A topwater swimbait is sometimes more effective in the early morning or late evening when the water is usually calmer. Big largemouth bass often thinks swimbaits are dying baitfish and will strike hard.
Other Top Lures
Crawfish are often found in the shallow weeds and deep rocks of bass fisheries. They are usually most active during most of the year except for any cold fronts.
Tips for Crawfish
Bass anglers can fish plastic craws on the back of a jig, dragged on a Carolina rig, flipped into cover, and fished on a shakey head. Crawfish are one of the most important forage species for largemouth bass, so anytime you suspect some are around, it’s a good idea to give a craw lure a shot.
These lures sit on top of the water, and by jerking the rod, bass anglers can give them a lifelike action making it extremely hard to resist to the largemouth bass.
Tips For Jerkbaits
Jerkbaits tend to work best in cold water, clear water, or for active bass feeding on baitfish. Jerkbaits are often most effective during the cooler months, but that doesn’t mean bass anglers shouldn’t give these a shot during the summer months. They have proven effective during warm months too when appropriately fished, meaning not too fast.
One of the most exhilarating moments in bass fishing is getting a hard strike off topwater lures. The adrenaline rush of a largemouth bass coming up from underneath to attack your lure on top of the water is like no other, and more times than not, this strike is from a giant bass rather than a peewee.
The strikes on a topwater lure are often extra aggressive because the predatorial largemouth bass is doing more than just grabbing its next meal; it’s trying to kill the frog, baitfish, or rodent struggling on top of the water. Topwater bass lures come in all shapes and size that bug, pop, and burble across the water, from small bug imitations to giant cigar-shaped baitfish that anglers can “walk the dog” or zig-zag across the surface.
Tips for Topwaters
Topwaters can be fun to use in many different conditions, but some of the best times to use them are when the largemouth bass seems to be dug deep into the vegetation or roaming the flats in the shallow water of about two feet deep. Another good time to use them is to entice a bite from a spawning bass.
A few of the most effective topwaters to attract big bass are the Hula Popper, the Arbogast Jitterbug, the Heddon Zara Spook, the Lunker Lure Buzzbait, and the Snag Proof Frog. Frogs are the most effective fish lures when casting around lily pads and mats. Make sure to let the largemouth bass eat the lure for a second or two before setting the hook!
Assessing Conditions To Catch Bass
Bass fishing can be done in various ways to have the most success. Bass anglers must assess the current conditions to choose the best bass lures and techniques throughout the day.
Understanding their lifecycle, habits, and ideal bass habitat will also be beneficial for anyone who is largemouth bass fishing—for example, understanding that largemouth bass is usually found roaming closer to shore during spawning. But also during summer mornings and winter afternoons. At these times, anglers can usually catch bass near different types of vegetation or deep structure like fallen trees and boat docks.
During other times, largemouth bass tends to be in deeper water, especially the big largemouth bass.
When the water temperatures are more relaxed, largemouth bass tends to be more lethargic, and anglers should use a slower retrieve to catch them. Conversely, when the water temperature warms up, largemouth bass becomes more active and are more likely to bite a lure or bait, moving more quickly. Once the water temperature reaches its highest summertime temperatures, the reverse effect occurs, and the bass starts to slow again.
General Tips For Any Conditions
Largemouth bass generally favors areas that offer any cover where they can easily ambush their prey. So when bass fishing, anglers generally have the best luck when casting near or into cover. The best bait or bass lures can easily be fished in cover.
The good news is there isn’t a single correct way to catch bass. They are ambush predators, so they often strike at the bait or bass lures even if they aren’t actively feeding. Therefore, when bass fishing, the best thing to do is to analyze your local area. Observe the environmental and water conditions around you, then adjust your tactics to entice a strike.
The spawning season for bass is one of the most exciting times for bass fishing. This is when the BassOnline guides love seeing clients catch their new personal best. Or a newbie catches a seven-pounder as the first fish that keeps them hooked for life.
Our top guides have created a list of their most effective baits and how to present them. To bass hanging out in or around their spawning beds for their client to land a giant spawning bass.
Baits For Spawning Bass
In general, when largemouth bass spawn, they aren’t usually actively eating. They turn into extra aggressive fish to protect their eggs, so the goal when targeting bass laying up in their spawning beds is to entice a reaction strike.
Some of the best bass baits to entice a strike from a spawning fish are the Strike King 4-inch Game Hawg, the Berkley Powerbait Maxscent, The General Worm, Bagley Bang O Lure Spinetail, the Dirty Jig No Slack Swim Jig, and the Googan Baits Bandito Bug.
Tips For Spawning Fish
Many topwater baits can effectively land a spawning largemouth bass. But the Berkley Bang O Lure Spinetail has proven to be one of the best ways to get a bite from the giant females that usually hang off the beds out of sight. A tip from the pros when using this bass lure is to cast it in an area where the beds are present. Then let it sit until all ripples have settled, then start to retrieve it with tiny downward twitches of your rod, mixing it up between one and three at a time.
This motion will cause the lure to dive 3 to 8 inches deep and create a lot of commotion in the water.
The methods for almost any lure you choose when targeting a spawning bass will be similar. Many times, texas rigged is the preferred method regardless of other techniques used when presenting the bait. Regardless of the lure, you are using if you are going after the largemouth bass sitting in the bed. Then you want to get the bait right in the bed and either shake it in place or snap it up in the bass’s face when they look at it to entice a reaction strike.
If you are going after the females outside the bed, it’s best to use the method explained above by casting near the bed rather than in it and waiting before retrieving it.
There are endless routes to take when going after a spawning fish. But there will always be times when they just aren’t going to eat. Good anglers can usually learn to read the mood of the fish they are after. One common occurrence is if the largemouth bass stays close to its bed, then usually you will be able to catch it. But if the bass stays away for a while or swims in big circles, then it may be best to move to another fish after a few tries.
Final Tips From The Pros
You generally want to spend your time fishing your bait or bass lure around any potential largemouth bass hideouts. It’s good practice to vary your retrieve this way. You can adjust to any conditions. Some days bass may prefer a faster retrieve, while other days, it may take a slower action to trigger a strike. Jigs, Crankbaits, Plastic Worms, Spinnerbaits, and swimbaits are excellent bass lures that will work in many conditions throughout the year when cast near the bass cover and presented properly.
If fishing with live bait, nightcrawlers are generally the most straightforward method and almost always produce a bite of some kind. This is an excellent method, especially for beginners and kids. Otherwise, baitfish such as shiners or minnows are usually the best live bait method because they have a high chance of producing a quality-sized largemouth bass and are relatively simple to get and use. Frogs are adequate but a little more challenging to set up and use.
Learn And Practice With The Experts
The best way to improve skills in any subject is with hands-on practice with someone whose been doing it for years. Fish with a pro on one of our fishing charters at a destination of your choice so they can teach you some insider tips and tricks to take home with you and apply to your next fishing adventures.
Whether you’re a first-timer who wants a general overview of the essential things to know when learning to catch bass or a seasoned angler looking to improve on techniques and presentations, a fishing charter will help get you where you want to go. The best part about the Bassonline booking process is that we will pair you with a guide specializing in what you want to Learn about Bait for Largemouth Bass!
Call 888-629-2277 to set up your private fishing charter with a professional guide who knows which bait for largemouth bass to take your fishing skills to the next level!