To get the bass to bite, there needs to be something at the end of your fishing line that gets their attention. Sight, sound, smell, and taste are all important when it comes to the best bait to use for fishing bass. There are hundreds of options when it comes to live bait and artificial lures. But, how do you choose the best bait for bass fishing?
Is the Best Bait for Bass Live or Artificial?
You might think that live bait is always a better choice for bass fishing than an artificial lure. But, that is not necessarily true. While bass will go after worms, minnows, crayfish, frogs, small sunfish, insect larvae, and leeches, you need to keep your bait fresh and make certain that the live bait you are using is on that the bass you are fishing for will prefer! If you are not getting any hits on your line with one kind of live bait, how many different varieties do you want to bring along and keep sufficiently fresh to be of use?
A prime advantage of fishing lures as the best bait for bass fishing is that you can pack a lot of individual lures in the same space as one container of live bait. That gives you the option of trying several types of lures back to back until you find the one that works the best. Although most lures are similar to live bait in appearance, many are brighter, flashier, or louder than the real thing. This often works because we are not trying to convince the bass that the lure is the real thing but rather to trigger an instinctual response that causes them to strike immediately.
Why Do Bass Strike at Bait?
There are three reasons why any fish will go after your bait. First, they are hungry and the bait is, or looks like, food. This is called a feeding strike. The second reason is that the bass responds aggressively to a perceived threat. The bait agitates the bass and it responds automatically. This is called a reaction strike. The third reason a bass strikes at your bait is that it is protecting its territory. It “sees” a competitor and attacks it. This is called a territorial strike.
If you are fishing an area that has lots of tiny bass and no middle-sized bass it is often the case that an old, very large bass has been attacking and killing any non-tiny bass it encounters. You will catch grandpa bass with a lure engineered to provoke a reaction strike. For each type of strike there are lure features that work best. That having been said, here are a few thoughts about popular and effective bass fishing lures.
Best Bass Fishing Lures
The lures we discuss have been in use across the country for years and have stood the test of time. We include specific ideas about lure sizes, colors, and techniques to use to make your bass fishing the most successful it has ever been.
Stick baits have been around forever and are an essential part of your lure collection for bass fishing. Stick baits are long, slender, and designed to resemble bait fish. Colors that work for bass are chartreuse, cinnamon, and green pumpkin. We find the Wacky Rig to be the best for your stick bait although many soft plastic rigs can work. Stick bait needs to have action imparted to it so that you convince the bass for an instant that this is food. Cast it out and let the tail end flap back and forth in the water. Retrieve the lure and cast again. Try shaded spots under rocks or areas of cover like spawn beds for the best luck.
Curl Tail Grub
Appearances can be deceiving with bass lures. The Curl Tail Grub is not much to look at but is a highly versatile lure that has stood the test of time. It belongs in everyone’s tackle box from beginners to pros. We like the three inch Brown Grub as it seems to catch bass anywhere we fish. Use this classic lure on a 1/8-1/4 oz. barbed jig. You can cast and retrieve through the middle of a stream or let it bounce along the bottom. Or you can Carolina rig it or drop shot it. Its versatility is in the fact that virtually any of these techniques is likely to get results with the curl tail grub so long that you keep it moving.
Spinnerbait is used to provoke a reaction strike. It can be quite effective in murky water as its brightness gets the attention of your bass. The spinner provides a larger bait “profile” which helps in provoking reaction strikes. Some bass fishermen add a curly tail grub to spinnerbait when going after lunkers. Bumping or bouncing this lure over a hard surface like a submerged rock or log provides the sort of action that tends to stimulate bass strikes. You can also work it through tall grass or reeds. However, you will commonly need to retrieve the lure and remove weeds that it has accumulated before resuming. We like green and white for colors and 5/ oz. Cast it out and take your time dragging it over hard surfaces or through reeds and grass.
Square Bill Crankbait
This is the lure to use when you are fishing shallow ponds and lakes for Largemouth Bass. It works best in water that is four to eight feet in depth. Use a shad colored lure and air for four feet down near the shoreline. Bring it back in slowly, pausing from time to time which helps mimic a bait fish that is wounded and vulnerable.
Skirted Bass Jig
This popular and versatile lure is near the top in its effectiveness. But, to get optimal results you need to master how to flip and pitch it. We suggest using the first lures that we have mentioned before moving on to a skirted bass jig. 5/8 oz. in black or brown seems to work best, especially if you tail it with a curl tail grub. Pitch it under boat lifts, hanging branches, or any other cove that is well concealed and hard to reach.
This is perhaps the best bait for bass in deeper water. The great part about lipless crankbait is that you can use it to go after bass at any depth. Let it drop at a foot or so per second and work it anywhere within that water column. This lure has a rattling action that attracts distant bass which is especially effective in bringing in distant bass in deep water. We like it especially for Smallmouth Bass that are often found as deep as 15 to 40 feet.
The Finesse worm can be Texas rigged weedless style to avoid snags and catches as you fish for Bass along the bottom. Use Green Pumpkin as the best color and use a 6-7” size. Alternatively, choose Bubble Gum for your color. When you bounce it along the bottom pause and move to get lots of wiggle from the tail end.
Although tube bait works for all species of Bass it does best with Smallmouth Bass. This is because its tail and tube design mimics Crustaceans and Gobies. It works well on both mud flats and rocky bottoms. Rig it to ¼ oz. jig and make sure to bounce and thump it along the bottom to raise puffs of sediment.
Because Swimbait effectively mimics the action of baitfish in schools it works well to provoke feeding strikes. Use this lure where baitfish are schooling and where Bass are lurking. Cash and bring in steadily so that the swimbait paddle tail thumbs to attract lunkers. This may be the best bait for bass when they are in a feeding mood but not so good for searching for an otherwise disinterested bass.
Jerk Bait: Soft Plastic
Every Bass tackle box needs a 4” soft plastic Jerk Bait lure. This lure is especially important in cooler months when Bass are to be found in deeper water and are less aggressively looking to eat. To fish deep water for Bass, hook this bait through the nose of your 1/0 Octopus hook. Use a red color and drop shot style rigging. This is a good way to avoid spooking Bass in deep water and get their attention and interest.
This commonly featured lure on sports magazine covers is excellent for a few specific situations. The Topwater Frog is excellent for scummy water with lots of vegetation and ideally shallow water as well. Use this lure during hot weather to entice Bass to strike from dense cover. We prefer Black, Yellow, or Green Topwater Frogs. Cast in places like clusters of Lilly pads. Pump or play it and pause along the surface mimicking the movement of a real frog. Always wait to set the hook until a second bite.