Smallmouth Bass Lures

Knowing which lure to use based on current conditions is the best thing any angler can learn to catch more fish and be more successful at catching smallmouth bass consistently. Deciding on which good smallmouth bass lures to use depends directly on the current water temperature.

Finding the best spots for smallmouth fishing is only part of the equation which becomes second nature to recognize which sites look “fishy.” However, getting the fish hiding in those areas to eat is another essential skill to master.

A group of expert anglers and professional fishing guides put together this complete guide to give you the rundown of the best types of lures, their specific favorites, and when and how to use each one.

The Best Lures To Use Are:
  • Topwater Lures – Heddon Spook and Rapala X Rap Pop
  • Small Soft Plastics – Bass Pro Shops Tender Tube, Storm Wildeye Live Goby, and YUM Craw Papi
  • Crankbaits – Cotton Cordell Big O Crankbait and Bomber Fat Free Shad
  • Spinnerbaits – Booyah Blade
  • Jigs – Strike King Bitsy Bug and Luck “E” Strike Smallmouth Hair
  • Jerkbaits – The Flit 120
bucktail jig - great cold water baits

Smallmouth Bass Lure Breakdowns

Topwater Lures

When targeting smallmouth bass, the best topwater bait styles are walk the dog lures, such as the Heddon Spook and the Rapala X Rap Pop.

The Rapala’s thin, cupped mouth makes the kind of commotion that imitates shad activity splashing and walking on the surface, while its sleek body promotes long casts. Its tail-down posture also helps improve hookups.

The best time to fish topwater is when there isn’t a chop on the water or heavy cloud cover. So early morning and evening are usually best, but midday can work too on sunny calm days.

The classic side-to-side walking action with noisy rattles naturally taunts the smallmouth bass into vicious strikes, even from the fish that are surprisingly deep. Also, the sharp rotating treble hooks of the spook decrease the chance of shake-offs from the aggressive bass.


Fish a spook with long, slow pulls so it glides back and forth like a snake swimming on the surface. Even the slightest tugs will bring these topwater lures to life to land that trophy smallmouth. There is no better feeling for an angler than a hard topwater strike from an aggressive smallie. Any walk the dog lure will generally work since they all appear like a struggling baitfish, making for an easy meal.

Water Temperature

The topwater bite seems to be best when the temperature of the water is about 65 degrees. However, any temperature between 55 and 72 can potentially lead to your next memorably topwater bite from an aggressive smallie.

Berkley Poper MF Bluegill

Small Soft Plastics

Soft plastics generally fall into the finesse fishing lure category. The preferred soft plastics are tubes, kietech paddle tails, and ned rigs.

The Bass Pro Shops Tender Tube is a favorite. Its wiggling tentacles will entice even the pickiest of smallmouth bass into biting, and the tube’s soft body makes them hold on even longer.

The Storm Wildeye Live Goby is another excellent option. The non-native goby is an invasive fish found in the Great Lakes region, which the smallmouths love. However, even in the areas devoid of this bottom-hugging forage species, the Storm’s head-weighted Goby imitator will often entice a bite still.

The YUM Craw Papi is undoubtedly a lure worth mentioning since smallmouths will hardly ever turn down a crayfish meal. The limber, flapping motion of the large, thin claws on this bait creates a convincing display.


Typically anglers can fish all soft plastic finesse lures the same way by dragging and hopping the bait along the bottom. They are ideal for rock piles and sandy bottoms to find smallmouth bass cruising for gobies.

When fishing tube baits, anglers can use a 60-degree tube jig head to drag and drift it, so the tube kicks up the bottom while plowing forward. Another option is to rig with a 90 degree head for exaggerated cracking presentations when verticle jigging.

These soft plastics are usually best when fished from a boat, so anglers can easily retrieve them without getting caught between rocks. All soft plastics should be rigged with a jig head to keep them on the bottom. This setup also keeps the head down and tail end facing up, mimicking a Goby or crayfish. They can all be rigged weedless when situations call for it.

Water Temperature

These lures are an excellent cold-water technique as well as in warmer water when dealing with lethargic fish. These baits are very hard to resist that even the most lethargic fish takes them in most cases. So any time you’re having a hard time getting a bite with other lures, whether it be in extremely cold water temps or warmer ones, the baits that sink to the level of the bass and hop off the bottom will often work.

fish bait facing upwards


The Cordell Big O is the original square-lip crankbait and is effective on all types of bass, especially largemouth bass and smallmouth bass, as well as other popular gamefish. The short, squared lip lures deflect off the cover, making them excellent options in most bass lakes full of vegetation and another cover.

The Bomber Fat-Free Shad is another excellent crankbait with its realistic colors, eyes, and deep-diving abilities. Its flat-sided profile helps dig down into the deeper water reaching depths of 14-18 feet with No. 2 hooks. In addition, this shad has an enticing action that temps even the hard-to-reach smallmouth bass lures. Its rotating treble hook then helps keep the fish on once hooked.

A Blade Bait is a metal crankbait with two treble hooks on each end. They are very effective because of their vibrations that draw reaction strikes from smallmouth bass.


These lures have a buoyant body and the ability to deflect cover. So smallmouth anglers should crank them over rock, gravel, or vegetation where the smallmouth typically eat, depending on the fishery.

When fishing with a blade bait, anglers want to raise the rod tip and lower it to reel in the slack. This motion makes the bait vibrate and swim upward, then flutter down as it sinks, mimicking an injured baitfish. This popular smallmouth lures in the fall work well as bait for largemouth bass.

Water Temperature

Smallmouth fishing with blade baits is a very effective cold-water technique, but they can also be used in the warmers months.

How to fish a crankbait


Spinnerbaits are generally flashy and effective for smallmouth bass lures for fishing. The Booyah Blade is an excellent choice for a spinnerbait with its bright red flaring gills and a head that offers a realistic target for the fish. It’s made of quality material and light, 0.35 gauge wire made for maximum vibration and quickly returns after each bite.


Target the windblown sides of the structure, or cover it with your spinning gear and spinner bait. Smallmouth anglers generally want to use a faster retrieve in clear water and a slower retrieve in murky water.

Fish a spinner bait along rock piles and weed edges to entice a smallmouth to feed aggressively. These are good lures for fishing deeper water, anywhere from six feet to over thirty feet.

Water Temperature

Spinnerbaits and crankbaits are power fishing lures and are very popular when smallmouth are active.

Carolina rig and heavier jigs


The favorite jig when targeting bass for our guides is the Strike King Bitsy Bug Jig, especially when targeting smallies playing hard to get—downsizing to a finesse jig such as this one is often what it takes to get that bite finally.

The Luck “E” Strike Smallmouth Hair Jig is another favorite when fishing for smallmouths. This jig has a lifelike presence with glitter strands that accent its bucktail skirt. The bucktail skirt contracts and flares, creating a stop-and-go swimming motion or erratic hopping action.


Jigs are most effective when fishing between 4 and 12 feet deep. Once you start using 3/8 ounces or heavier jigs, it’s best to use baitcasting gear. But for 1/4 ounce finesse jigs or lighter, it’s better to use spinning gear.

Water Temperature

Jigs are also a great lure option in your tackle box on every trip, no matter the time of year. They are the most popular and effective smallmouth bass lure overall. They are very popular smallmouth lures because there is no wrong time of year to be using one when smallmouth fishing. They also have the reputation of being big bass producers, so the potential to land your next trophy smallmouth bass is good when fishing a jig.

smallmouth bass lures


Suspending jerkbaits are the best lure choices when fishing Northern lakes after the fall turnover when the smallmouths are more scattered and suspended. These lures work so well because they have the ability to be fished really slow, especially a suspending jerkbait. One of the best jerkbaits is the Flit 120. 


Suspending jerkbaits can be worked along rocky and sandy bottoms that drop dramatically from 5 feet to 20 feet. Natural colors are usually best, and working them slow is necessary when fishing in extremely cold water temps. In general, jerkbaits are excellent at getting a reaction strike.

Water Temperature

Jerkbaits lures are great in cold water, making them excellent fall and early spring go to baits.

a few examples of smallmouth bass lures

Final Tips From The Pros

When smallmouth bass is actively feeding, they can make a largemouth bass look like a slug. Remember to look for their preferred habitats when targeting smallmouth bass lures specifically. Usually, largemouths are found in weedy areas with heavy vegetation, while smallmouth bass is typically found in areas with rocky and sandy bottoms. Smallmouths are also more likely to be found in better numbers in clear water rather than stained water.

If you need a go-to lure, the experts suggest using a jig or a soft plastic lure with natural patterns. Smallmouths almost always search rocks for crawfish, which represent the jigs and soft plastics.

Generally, a smallmouth bass lure doesn’t have to be as weedless as largemouth lures since you will usually be on a rocky bottom. Also, smallmouth lures are generally smaller. And they can present more challenging to catch in the summer than largemouth bass. Here are a few tips for that.


Good Smallmouth Bass Lures To Try:
  • Heddon Spook and Rapala X Rap Pop Topwaters
  • Bass Pro Shops Tender Tube, Storm Wildeye Live Goby, and YUM Craw Papi Soft Plastics
  • Cotton Cordell Big O Crankbait and Bomber Fat Free Shad Crankbait
  • Booyah Blade Spinnerbait
  • Strike King Bitsy Bug Jig and Luck “E” Strike Smallmouth Hair Jig
  • The Flit 120 Jerkbait

Experience Smallmouth Bass Fishing

If you’re interested in the ultimate smallmouth bass fishing adventure, look no further, as the Bassonline Guides are eager to take you out and make fishing memories that last forever. The best smallmouth bass fishing is happening at the Great Lake Erie in Pennsylvania, where we can get you on the best seasonal smallmouth bite.

While on a smallmouth trip, anglers can also experience the area’s hard-fighting largemouth bass, walleye, and other popular species. Lake Erie and the surrounding Presque Isle Bay are breathtaking and places that all smallmouth anglers of all ages should experience. There is no better place to experience smallmouth fishing and improve your skills!

If you like this article on smallmouth bass lures, you may also be interested in tips on stripers, types of bass, different lure types, bass fishing at night, or even how to fish for crappie!

Explore Smallmouth Trips

baitcasting outfit - smallmouth bass lures


  1. Bill DeMaria

    Hi my name is bill DeMaria. I am interested in going fishing for smallmouth bass I was wondering the best time to go for smallmouth in lake wallenpaupack. I’m also interested in a guide for three man if possible. Thank you. ASAP

  2. Ayanna Arambuia

    I am very thrilled to be part of your community


      Thanks, Ayanna hope you enjoy!

  3. Red

    What color flit120 is working best for the smallies


      Try Green pumpkin, you can’t go wrong!

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