Any tips on how to catch smallmouth?

Ok, if we know we are in water that has some smallmouth, it would help to know how to catch some.

I’ve caught a few small ones on spinners, and wonder if anyone would share some good tips on technique and lures. Thank you, mickjetblue

Keeping it simple…
You didn’t say what kind of water you’d be fishing. Assuming it’s a river, and you’re fishing it in warmer weather, you really only need a few lures to do well. Simplest lure to use, and effective, would be a curly tail grub on a jighead. You don’t have to do much with it, just cast it out and reel it in steadily and you’ll catch fish. Vary the speed of your retrieve from very fast so that it runs close to the surface, slower so it runs mid-depth, and very slow so it crawls along the bottom…sometimes they want it one way, other times another way.

Smallmouth usually relate to cover in streams. Rocks are the most prevalent cover in most rivers, but don’t overlook logs and weedbeds. The fish will almost always be in some current in warm weather, and often in fairly fast water. Cast as close as you can to the cover.

Of course, this is just the simplified version…for a WHOLE lot more good info, go to

What Al said, plus
My favorite technique in a river, and I only fish smallies in rivers because they’re so convenient to where I live, is to cast to ledges with overhangs facing into the current. I use a long cast, cast past the ledge and drag the lure - my favorite is a 3" to 4" tube in whatever color is appropriate to the season and weather - over the ledge. Let it fall on a moderately slack line and keep eyes peeled for sudden movements of the line. If you get one, set the hook. My not-quite-patented and occaissionally even effective mid-river ledge technique.

Most guys outfish me just banging the banks with unweighted grubs though.

  • Big D

When I fish rivers for smallmouths, mostly the New River, here’s what I do:

1 - #7 flyrod with a dark wooly bugger

2 - look for rocky bottom

3 - wade and cast downstream at 45 degree angle

4 - strip line about 6" at a time

5 - get ready for a fight

So far so good
I like to shoot through a run and eddy out below in the slower water facing upstream. I pitch a white twin tail grub carolina rigged for weedless action into the fast water and let it tumble through past the slow water. Bass tend to be ambush feeders and will hang along the current waiting for food to come by. Rocks, logs, anything that creates a refuge from the current. This all depends on many other things so your water may be different. Mix it up and experiment, you’ll find your own favorite presentation and tactic in little time.

Good luck!


rocky bottom and a salty spider

I prefer the pumpkin color. They sure work on the Susquehanna.

They’ll Bite
Smallmouth bass are not picky eaters. Almost any lure can work well. The trick is to find out where they are hanging out. They go shallow as the water warms.

The dumb “depends” answer.
It depends, on where, when, and under what conditions. I fish a moderate-sized river–about 100 yards wide, average 6-8 feet deep, rock shelves and rip rap, bordered by a lot of cottonwood and sand.

In the spring when season opens, it seems like the smallmouth will eat anything, so I fish lures that are easy to fish–spinners, floating rapalas, and perhaps a maribou Road Runner.

My most consistent lures are crayfish-pattern crankbaits and curly-tail jigs in brown or black. I could cry that Berkley stopped making the old brown Powershad; they were perfect. They are fished similarly–get them as close to the bottom as possible without snagging, and fish in spurts to resemble a crayfish. I finally started carving my own crankbaits because the river ate too many. My two favorites are the Bomber Model 5A (crayfish, chrome, baby bass or shad) and the Cotton Cordell Big O (chrome or baby bass). I had to pattern my hand-carved lures on these two, and they work well.

Under tougher (low water) conditions, I go to smaller lures like hand-tied bucktail, feather, or squirrel-tail jigs; tiny Rebel crawfish; the mini Fat Rap; or other smaller versions of my usual stuff. I used to catch and use live crayfish, but I’m too impatient to do that any more.

Sometimes, it helps to burn a lure as fast as it will go, in a stop & go retrieve. I couldn’t believe how this worked, but you can’t make a bait go fast enough in the water to outrun a smallmouth. They will catch it.

“Wierd” stuff that worked in a jam:

–ice-fishing flies tipped with power bait or worms;

–full-sized plastic worms;

–Ratt-L-Traps, as fast as possible;

–A Bomber “Flat A” in the baby bass pattern. Still my puny personal (local) record of 17" bass in a river that produces 10" SMB with boring regularity.

After a thunderstorm, the bass in my river don’t bite. PERIOD. On anything. Ever.

Sometimes, all the bass want to die, and it doesn’t matter what you use. And sometimes, you can’t catch a fish to save your life. So you drop a tear drop (lure) with some bait and scratch hand-sized bluegills out of the shelves, and watch the baby gar swim by. Life is good.

crayfish pattern cranks
A good place to get cheap effective crankbaits is -less than $2 each so when you loose one it doesn’t hit the wallet as hard. The 2" runs about 3-5 feet deep but I like the 3" than runs deeper and bangs into rocks with its biger bill. You put your own hooks on them (they stock all kinds try the Eagle Claw barbless trebles) Have all kinds of jigs and other lures as well. Any walleye fisherman reading this has to get thier 4" perch patern diver.