Smallmouth Bass Fishing Tips – Make Fishing for Smallies a Success

Smallmouth bass fishing tips and catching a smallmouth bass holding it above the water
May 15, 2023
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Few fish in North America can rival the beauty and fight of smallmouth bass. These freshwater gamefish are native to the Midwest but have been introduced into many other states throughout the country. They are often found in lakes, ponds, and reservoirs where they naturally feed on insects, crayfish, and minnows.

Smallmouth fishing is not always an easy task. You have to be able to catch them on light tackle, and you need to use the right baits and techniques.

Smallmouth bass fishing is a great pastime for all ages and skill levels. The best way to find smallmouth bass is by using the right bait, fishing with the right techniques, and knowing what fish you are targeting.

Smallmouth Bass Tips

smallmouth bass caught on a hook

Fishing for smallies is one of the most rewarding experiences a fisherman can have. I’ve compiled a series of 10 smallmouth bass fishing tips I have picked up to help you get the most out of your next fishing trip.

1. Use Buzzbaits for Smallmouth Bass

I have been fishing smallmouth and largemouth bass for many years, and I have used a variety of techniques, lures, and baits to catch these fish. But I have found that the most consistent method is with buzzbaits.

Buzzbaits are a type of fishing lure that is designed to imitate an insect. They work great in calm water and work wonders with a little chugging motion. Although, they also work wonders with a little chop/ripple on the water!

Buzzbaits are one of my favorites because they’re easy to cast and are very effective. The key to using buzzbaits is to use them slowly and steadily. They are also great at catching older bass.

They are very successful at catching smallmouth bass on the surface of the water or just below it. Be careful not go get too close to the weeds though as buzzbaits are likely to get snagged.

 Overall Buzzbaits are a great lure and one of my favorites when trying to catch big smallmouth bass.

2. Catch Smallmouth Bass on windy days

Many of us have heard the phrase "fish where the fish are" and it is true. Smallmouth bass feed on smaller creatures that live in water such as bluegill, shad, crayfish, and worms. However, wind plays a crucial role when trying to find smallmouth bass.

Windy days are perfect for smallmouth bass fishing. The wind is blowing the bait into the area where the smallies are waiting and feeding. 

Baitfish love to feast on algae and smallmouth and largemouth bass love to feast on baitfish. The Wind pushes the algae which the baitfish will follow. If you are hunting smallmouth bass, use the wind to your benefit and fish for bass where the wind has taken the algae. The bass most certainly will be lurking around.

3. Match the Hatch

The key to catching smallmouth bass is matching them with a bait they eat naturally. If you're fishing for schooling smallmouth bass, then sometimes you have to match the hatch in order to catch more of them! You’ll want to use a variety of baits and lures.

The term match the hatch comes from fly fishing. Try to match the bait that the smallmouth bass are trying to find naturally using lures that look natural.

Smallmouth bass are very aggressive feeders, and they will be more attracted to lures and baits that look more natural. Smallies are less likely to take a bait that looks unnatural. I find Matching the hatch also attracts and gives a better chance of catching big fish.

I also recommend using soft plastic jigs and jig heads to imitate the natural bait. You’ll catch more smallmouth bass when you use these lures and fishing techniques.

4. Chatterbaits for Dirty Water, Spinnerbaits in clearwater

What’s the best lure to use when fishing for smallmouth bass in dirty water? The chatterbait. Chatterbaits are designed with a unique spinning action that creates an erratic, noisy sound and vibration which is especially effective for smallmouth bass when they can't see their prey.

Many anglers are familiar with spinnerbaits, but have you ever considered using them in clear water? Spinnerbaits work well when the smallmouth bass are suspended mid-water.

You can use a variety of colors to match the forage in that particular body of water. Spinnerbaits work so well in clear water because they are so sparkly and the smallmouth bass can see them from a good distance away.

5. Check and Sharpen Your Hooks (or replace)

As a fisherman, you know that the most important piece of equipment is your fishing rig. You can have all the right bait and technique to attract fish but without a good way to catch them, it's just like throwing your money out to sea.

One key part of ensuring that you'll get more bass is swapping out those old hooks for new ones periodically so they don't break or become dull in their ability to snag a hungry smallmouth bass. Keeping them sharp will prevent the fish from getting hurt and will make it easier to remove the hook.

6. Choose Correct Lure Color

In the world of fishing, there are a number of different colors that can be used on lures.

The lure color you choose depends on where you fish and what type of fish you're trying to catch, but there's one thing for certain- it is important to match your lure's color with the water in order to get more bites.

Clear-water uses natural colored lures (brown, green). In dirty water use dark color lures, and in light coffee/tea-colored water, use red lures to give yourself the best chance to catch them smallmouth!

7. Use a Frog Lure From Spring Till Autumn

The frog lure is a perfect way to catch smallmouth bass from spring till autumn. You can them in small or large lakes, streams, rivers, and reservoirs. One of the most important elements to consider when choosing a time to fish is what bait you are using.

Topwater baits like a frog lure are most effective early or later in the day but can be used with success at any time during those periods. 

If you're looking for an easy way to reel in that trophy smallmouth bass, try fishing a frog lure from spring to autumn, when the suns out!

8. Avoid Casting a Shadow

Amongst loud noises and other things, unnatural shadows can spook the smallmouth bass easily. This will hinder your chances of catching.

When you cast on a sunny day, it is recommended to cast towards the sun to avoid casting your shadow on the water and scaring the fish.

Fast-moving shadows on the water will make the fish dart away and avoid coming into your area.

9. Fish for Smallmouth Before Stormy Weather and Rain

Try to fish for bass before stormy weather. Smallmouth bass fishing after a heavy downpour or cold front can be very difficult and requires a different.

The bass sense when the cold front and pressure change is coming so you are best trying to fish before the cold weather comes for the best chance of catching.

10. Pack Fishing Tackle Well and Use Good Tackle Storage

Don't take lots of heavy items and bulk out too much. Move light and always on the move.

Smallmouth bass can sense movement and noise in the water. This is why it's important to move around quietly when you are smallmouth bass fishing!

I recommend a good fishing backpack to help you store all your tackle. It makes life so easier when you are organized and don't have to worry about all your tackle being untidy.

FAQ's on Smallmouth Bass Fishing

I’ve been doing some research on the topic of smallmouth bass fishing and have compiled a few of the most common questions asked.

What is the best bait for smallmouth bass?

Depending on where you are fishing a good all-around bait is a small plastic worm. They are also attracted to crankbaits, spinnerbaits, buzzbaits, and other lures.

What is the best time to catch smallmouth bass?

The best time to catch smallmouth bass is early morning and late afternoon. These fish feed on prey in the water column, which because of low light gives them an advantage in the morning and late afternoon. They will also feed on insects and worms at night.

How do you fish smallmouth bass?

Smallmouth bass can be caught in lakes, rivers, and ponds all over North America. The best time to catch them is when they're feeding in the spring and fall. The best way to catch smallmouth bass is to use live bait such as a minnow, or a lure such as a spinnerbait or soft plastic worm. 

What depth do you fish for smallmouth bass?

Smallmouth bass are typically found in shallower water, but they can be caught anywhere from just a few feet to as deep as 20 feet. Most anglers are content with a depth of 5 - 20 feet. During spawning season male bass will be in the shallows protecting their eggs from prey.

Are smallmouth bass good to eat?

Smallmouth bass are delicious, safe to eat, and low in calories and fat. They are also high in protein, so they make a healthy, filling meal.

How do you catch a large smallmouth bass?

Catching big smallmouth bass is the same as you would with all smallmouth using a variety of techniques, but the most common method involves the use of a minnow, or live bait. They are also caught with a variety of lures, including jigs, spoons, and crankbaits.

Final thoughts

Smallmouth bass fishing can be a blast. If you’re new to smallmouth bass fishing, I would recommend taking it slow and learning the basics first. But, once you feel confident, you can really start to catch some big smallmouth bass!

Good luck with your smallmouth bass fishing journey.

Learn how to fish for smallmouth bass in the winter to keep catching in the hardest season of the year.

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