We have a team of avid anglers and we travel all over the country to fish, work with other fishing professionals, manufacturers and guides and get to experience more tackle, fishing locations and good tips than most. So we try to bear down on some of those experiences to provide good usable accurate information when it comes to topics like best lures for this or that. And smallmouth bass is something we are passionate about so you can trust us when we tell you some of the best smallmouth bass lures for 2023 are some old staples and some new soon to be staples.
Smallmouth are as predictably unpredictable as any fish that swims. We generally know where to find them and how they will react on most days but then some days they completely flip the script on you and the lure they were all over yesterday, they won’t touch as good today and something else really trips their trigger. It’s obviously what keeps us all coming back for more trip after trip and year after year.
So we ran down a list of our top smallmouth bass lures for this year based on what’s been working around the country and the hot new baits that have really been working for us.
Best Smallmouth Lures for 2023: Our List
- Best Drop Shot Bait: Berkley Flatworm
- Best Tube: Strike King Coffee Tube
- Best Spy Bait: DUO Realis Spinbait80
- Best Ned Rig: Z-Man Finesse TRD on a Finesse ShroomZ
- Best Jerkbait(s): Megabass Ito Vision 110 / Rapala Maverick Jerkbait (lead image)
- Best Hair Jig: Outkast Feider Fly
- Best Swimbait: Keitech FAT Swing Impact
- Best Topwater: ARK Topwater Blower Twitch
- Best Craw: Savage Gear Ned Craw
- Best Minnow Plastic: Great Lakes Finesse Drop Minnow
BEST DROP SHOT BAIT: BERKLEY MAXSCENT FLATWORM
It’s hard to argue with the immediate and lasting success that the Berkley PowerBait MaxScent Flat Worm has had with smallmouth fishing. The first year they were introduced, anglers were trading packs of Flat Worms for rods and reels. That’s how in demand the bait was. Now with it being a lot more readily available, it’s become a staple when smallmouth fishing all over the country. It’s a dynamite shape, action and scent for a drop shot and teasing big smallmouths into biting. It comes in good colors although the scented material does limit the ability to make baits translucent.
Other Favorite Drop Shot Baits: Yamamoto Shad Shape Worm
BEST TUBE: STRIKE KING COFFEE TUBE
The micro tube options have gained a lot of steam with smallmouth anglers, and the Fat Coffee Tube is a great option. But day in and day out, the 3 1/2 inch Coffee Tube is a dominant tube for smallmouth for us. We catch a ton of smallmouths on Kentucky Lake, Minnesota Lakes, the Great Lakes and more on this tube and it’s our staple when we wade small creeks. Slide a Strike King Bitsy Tube Crackin’ Tube head in it or if you need a more weedless rig, try the Jenko Trick Tube head.
Drag it, hop it, shake it, crack it. The Coffee Tube fishes so well all over the country for smallmouth and mimics crawfish, gobies and small baitfish very well.
BEST SPY BAIT: DUO REALIS SPINBAIT80
The Duo Realis Spinbait80 is the bait that put spy baiting on the map and is one of the best options that consistently fishes perfectly to catch and land lots of big smallmouths in a variety of conditions. When I’m around smallmouth, I always have a rod with one rigged up because they produce so well for smallmouth in clear water feeding up on baitfish. I’ve caught them around stumps on Ky Lake and fishing open water up north. They cast extremely well, have the best body roll in my opinion and that subtle spin and flash that makes it the total package. The bait is slightly less than 3 1/4 inches, weighs 3/8 ounce and fishes well in that 8-17 feet range on light line. And it comes in so many great colors, you are sure to find the perfect one for where you fish.
BEST NED RIG: Z-MAN FINESSE TRD
The original is still one of the all-time best in sheer numbers of smallmouth caught. A lot of the top pros are still throwing the original Finesse TRD from Z-Man and we still throw it with regularity because it just catches fish so well from the bank out to 25 feet of water. It’s deadly on small streams, when fish are spawning and out deep when they are foraging on crawfish and small baitfish. It’s hard to not have a ned rigged Z-Man Finesse TRD rigged up on a rod. We pair it with the Z-Man Finesse ShroomZ head and just go to work.
These Finesse TRD baits are 2 3/4 inches long, come in great colors and for $4 you can catch an absolute pile of smallmouth bass on a single pack.
BEST HAIR JIG: OUTKAST FEIDER FLY
Seth Feider will tell you he’s a largemouth guy, but he’s had so much success with smallmouth that he definitely gets your attention when he talks his favorite smallmouth lures. The Outkast Feider Fly was built to chase smallmouth shallow and has been a dominant producer since it came out on the market. When they are on a hair jig bite, you better have these on the line. They are hand tied with high quality marabou to produce a lifelike plume in the water. The work very well in cold water where synthetic hair jigs struggle. They come in three sizes from 1/16 to 1/8 and come 2 to a pack in great natural color options.
BEST JERKBAIT No. 1: MEGABASS ITO VISION 110
While the Megabass Ito Vision 110 (full review) has been the staple for many years when it comes to trophy smallmouth and numbers of fish, it’s hard to argue that it has lost any luster with the fish. These baits still produce amazingly well for smallmouth and we almost never fish without them in our boats when we are around smallmouths. The sheer range of colors and the perfect action on these baits have made them stand the test of time. The Ito Vision 110 is 4 1/3 inches long, weighs 1/2 ounce, has a weight transfer system that makes casting these so precise without detracting from its fish catching action. And they come with the most beautiful details you will find on a jerkbait.
BEST JERKBAIT No. 2: RAPALA PXR MAVRIK
The lead image to this buyers guide is the brand new offering this year, the Rapala PXR Mavrik 110 which looks to be the best jerkbait they have ever produced, and they have a storied history of producing great jerkbaits that have caught thousands of smallmouths over the years for us. So we’ve been very excited about these new Mavrik Jerkbaits this year. The PXR Mavrik 110 is 4 3/8 inches long, weighs 1/2 ounce and features No. 5 VMC RedLine hooks that are the sticky sharp type of hooks we want on a jerkbait. It’s unique internal weight system helps it cast like a bullet. It’s going to make this new jerkbait a flagship smallmouth jerkbait for years to come. Should be available in the fall of 2023.
BEST SWIMBAIT: KEITECH FAT SWING IMPACT 2.8 or 3.8
Again another staple that simply can’t be left off of a list of the best smallmouth producing baits on the market for anglers. Again and again on a tough bite, the Keitech just produces quality fish. It comes in a wide range of colors and sizes but the beauty is in its perfect swim. It has a very unique shape that makes it keel perfectly while body rolling and tail kicking in a way few smallmouth bass can resist. We’re always amazed how far these baits draw smallmouth and how much the fish react to their subtle swim. Super slow or ripping fast, these swimbaits catch. Our favorite sizes for smallmouth would have to be the 2.8 and 3.8 sizes on 1/8 to 1/4 ounce heads. Personally I like to fish it on a screw-lock ball head like the VMC Hybrid Swimbait Head or the STC Prowler Finesse Swimbait Head. Read our full Keitech Fat Swing Impact Review.
BEST TOPWATER: ARK TOPWATER BLOWER TWITCH
A good-sized walking bait such as the Ark Topwater Blower Twitch Pencil Popper flat-out generates big bites. The Blower Twitch Bait casts a mile, a plus when covering lots of water and maintaining offset in clear water, draws them in with the right blend of internal rattles and surface disturbance and sticks and holds them with its 3-hook design.
“I’m also a fan of the rear feathered treble, which seems to convert a few extra bites over a naked treble, especially when the bait is at the rest,” Video Producer Ryan DeChaine said. “Excellent color options — I’d had this bait tied on and at the ready all summer and into fall. Catches smallmouth very well in rough waters and cloudy days as well as sunny and calm water days.”
BEST CRAW: SAVAGE GEAR NED CRAW
This has become a Ned-rigging go-to for our Video Producer Ryan DeChaine. Rig it on your favorite Ned head and fish it on the bottom or through the water column.
“I can put this setup in newbies’ hands, and they’ll consistently catch smallmouth,” DeChaine said. “There are fisheries and specific times on many lakes where ultra-realistic crawfish imitating plastics outproduce conventional Ned rigs (stick baits)—when they get on the crawfish chew. The small 2 1/2-inch bait seems to be an optimal size that consistently gets bites. Fish hold on to it well too. They’re super durable, being made from PTFE which SG calls Duratech. Lots of natural colors so you can match your crawfish or experiment in general.”
BEST MINNOW PLASTIC: GREAT LAKES FINESSE DROP MINNOW
The rage lately in bass fishing circles in a move towards jig and minnow combos to throw at fish on forward facing sonar and one the baits that a lot of guys are keyed in on now for smallmouth bass is the Great Lakes Finesse Drop Minnow. Rigged on a simple ball head and just straight reeled, this has been a dynamite bait for catching smallmouths this summer. It’s accounted for some big wins and finishes and this plastic is equally as deadly on a drop shot for smallmouths. The small size, matte finishes, and subtle action gets bit from the smartest and most leery of smallmouths. It’s 2 3/4 inches long, comes in 10 very natural and good looking colors and comes 8 to a pack. And thus far they have been pretty durable to mean smallmouths.
Best Smallmouth Lure Companies
There are a lot of great companies that make lures that will catch smallmouth bass and a few that make baits that specifically are made to catch smallmouths. Companies like Great Lakes Finesse and even Rapala have made baits that focus on smallmouths. Other bigger brands likes Berkley, Strike King, DUO Realis, Megabass have created offerings specifically geared towards smallmouth in their lineup of bass fishing baits. A lot of the northern companies like Rapala, Megabass, Outkast, and Great Lakes Finesse have a lot of background in testing baits on smallmouth waters and have a lot of solid offerings as a result.
Best Smallmouth Bass Lure Categories
For us it’s all about matching what smallmouth bass eat which is crawfish, small baitfish and insects. So we’re sticking with the following lures for smallmouths:
- ned rigs
- small soft plastic craws
- swimbaits on light jigheads
- drop shot plastics
- spy baits
- small hair jigs / skirted jigs
With those baits you can cover the water top to bottom and the mood of the fish season to season.
Best Smallmouth Lures for Rivers and Creeks
For us, a small popper, a tube, a ned rig, and something like a curl tail grub or or small swimbait are hard to beat for smallmouth streams and rivers. You can pack everything into a small sling pack or fanny pack, and grab one rod and just go exploring. You really don’t need to make it harder than that. We’ve had a lot of fun this year playing with Bait Finesse gear in rivers and streams for smallmouth bass. But a simple spinning rod with 4-pound mono, a handful of 2 1/2 to 3 1/2-inch plastics, some 1/8-ounce jigheads and a few hard baits, and you are good to go.