The Best Lures for Smallmouth Bass

Grubs are some of the most effective plastic baits for smallmouth bass fishing. (Photo courtesy of Matt Straw)
Grubs are some of the most effective plastic baits for smallmouth bass fishing. (Photo courtesy of Matt Straw)

A grub’s augering tail mesmerizes fish of all sorts – trout, walleyes, crappies, pike, lakers, redfish, stripers, white bass and sea trout. But none match the enthusiasm of smallmouth bass. Its appeal to them seems like natural law, akin to gravity. From the remote lakes of Nova Scotia and Maine to the bustling immensity of the Columbia River, nothing catches bass as consistently.

Some lures are seasonally productive, others deadly in certain conditions. But whether they’re active or inactive; spring, summer, fall or winter; before, during or after a front – a grub can always catch at least a few fish. Even when other lures work better, grubs still score. Open the emergency kit for smallmouth bass and you find one thing: A 5-inch green pumpkin grub on an 1/8-ounce jig.

Of course, the deluxe kit contains jigs from 1/16- up to 3/8-ounce and grubs in 10 colors (now what would you pay for such a kit?) The instructions read: “Choose weight to match depth. Use a slow, steady retrieve or troll at .8 to 1.2 mph.” Worms with twistertails work, of course, as well as craws and tubes. But I think a grub’s tail is better at hypnosis.

The Grub Trolls for Thee

Casting and retrieving grubs is our bread and butter technique. Trolling is relatively obscure yet positively dynamic. Pull a grub on a jig behind a moving boat, canoe, or kayak and the underwater world gets smaller.

The program is simple and should meet the approval of those who typically despise trolling. The rod is held, not placed in a holder. That means the strike is felt and you adjust for depth, adjust speed and set hooks. No special equipment required. You can quickly reel up and cast to key spots with the same rod.

Smallmouths often move off spots where casting is so effective. Cold fronts are the usual suspects, but other conditions can cause an exodus to deeper areas for several days or the remainder of a season. Sometimes it’s fishing pressure. An exodus of fish also can occur when scads of pike invade shallow reefs during or after a big blow. Extremely clear water can push smallmouths deeper in calm, sunny conditions, too.


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