Best Baits for Smallmouth Bass in Summer: Lures that Work in Rivers in the Warmer Months

Smallmouth bass (Micropterusdolomieui) prefer colder, more oxygenated waters than do largemouth bass, and they usually live in rivers and deep lakes. They may be found throughout much of the Eastern United States and Southern Canada, making them available to anglers in many regions.

Some of the best places to fish for smallmouth are in rivers of the Eastern United States, and the deep lakes of the upper Midwest and Canada. Smallmouth bass like many of the same baits that work for largemouth bass, but there are certain lures that work better for river smallmouth.

Plastic Worms

Perhaps the best all around baits for smallmouth bass are plastic worms, as they successfully represent many of the different creatures on which the bass feed. These worms look like minnows when they are retrieved quickly, but they may also imitate elvers (baby eels), hellgrammites, and actual worms, all of which smallmouth will happily engulf.

It does not really matter what food item a plastic worm imitates as long as the lure is in natural colors, such as shades of tan, brown, gray, and black. Lures in bright colors tend to be less productive for these fish, as they seem out of place in rivers.

Large plastic worms, such as Yamamoto senkos are excellent baits to use for smallmouth. Lighter worms, such as Zoom finesse worms may have to be weighted when fishing in rivers.

Using Soft Jerkbaits for Smallmouth Bass

Jerkbaits, like flukes also work well for smallmouth that are feeding on minnows. These baits are generally best when fished against the shore, and retrieved slowly, which allows the lures to sink a bit.

When sight casting to smallmouth bass, jerkbaits should be retrieved quickly (the retrieve should always consist of twitches in the rod, and reeling, which gives the flukes natural motion). These baits are best in shallow water, or when fished with weight around rapids.

Fishing with Jigs and Tubes

Crayfish represent year-round food for smallmouth bass. They are always present in the rivers where the fish are found, and they are easily imitated by many lures. The most fundamental bait that mimics the crayfish is the jig and pig. This bait works for bass all year long, but in the summer, jigs may be retrieved faster than in the late fall, winter, and spring.

Tubes also work well for smallmouth, and they may be jerked around more during the retrieve (by twitching the rod), because they also imitate darting minnows and hellgrammites. Tubes and jigs are great choices when fishing in deep eddies behind large rocks or rough areas of water in rivers.

And in deep water near the shore, these lures will entice fish cruising along the bottom, looking for crayfish.

Spinnerbaits and Crankbaits

Spinnerbaits and crankbaits also work for smallmouth bass in rivers, but they should be used in deeper, calm water. Reeling spinnerbaits along a deep, shaded bank is an excellent way to induce smallmouth into striking, although plastic worms and jigs work in the same areas. Crankbaits also work around deep banks, but where too much structure is present, the lures are likely to snag. Rapalacrankbaits are among the best to use for smallmouth.

Smallmouth bass are undoubtedly among the strongest freshwater fish in the world, and they are a blast to fish for. Although they will often eat anything that anglers throw their way, these fish may be foraging for specific food items at times, and it is best to use lures that mimic what the bass are looking for.

Donald S. Cochran

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