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When searching for bigger smallmouth bass, the destination is so important. There are just some places that grow some enormous smallmouth bass while others will just produce smaller fish. The Great Lakes have absolutely taken off with monster-sized smallies. Door County, WI and Lake Erie are extremely popular big fish destinations. Northern Wisconsin has so many lakes where you can catch bass in the 4 pound range and bigger and many of these lakes get very little fishing pressure. Minnesota and Michigan also have some big fish waters. Down south, Tennessee’s Dale Hollow Lake and Pickwick Lake are known for having some trophy-sized fish in there as well. Take a look at our “Best Smallmouth Bass Fishing Destinations” page for help planning an awesome trip for big smallies.
Finesse-sized baits like you see to the left will take some very big smallmouth bass. The biggest reason why the finesse-sized baits work so well for big smallmouth bass is because smallmouth have smaller mouths than largemouth bass. If you’re used to fishing for largemouth bass, you need to look at the size of a smallmouth’s mouth to get an idea of why the bait size is so much different compared to largemouth. The destination is a huge part of it as well. For example, when fishing in the Door County, WI area, anglers catch huge smallies on 3 to 4 inch baits all the time. On some lakes or rivers though, the finesse-sized baits will catch a bunch of 12 to 14 inch fish with an occasional big fish mixed in and you will need to upsize your baits to target bigger fish. You have to experiment to see what works better on any given day, but many times, when fishing some of the big fish waters, the finesse-sized baits will usually get you more bites and plenty of big bass in the 3 to 4 pound range and some even bigger. Try using 3 to 4 inch grubs, 4 to 6 inch skinny worms, 4 inch ring worms, 3.5 to 4.5 inch crayfish baits that have a skinnier profile and you’ll have plenty of action with big fish too.
Upsizing your baits is one of the easiest way to target bigger smallmouth bass. The problem with going bigger for smallmouth bass is that they do have much smaller mouths than largemouth bass. Go too big and take the chance of missing fish due to short strikes. Some anglers do report catching smallmouth bass on very big baits, but the key to catching good numbers of bigger smallmouth bass is to go just big enough. For example, curly tail grubs in the 5 inch range, going from finesse-sized worms to the thicker wacky worms, 4.5 to 5 inch soft plastic minnows, longer finesse-sized worms (6 to 7″), 4.5 to 5 inch swimbaits that are thicker, 6.5 to 7 inch lizards are just some examples. On some bodies of water, you won’t have to upsize your baits at all and on others, you’re going to need to or you will be attracting mostly smaller smallmouth bass.
Upsizing minnows is the easiest way to target big smallmouth bass. Go with the bigger shiners, chubs or sucker minnows in that 5 inch range and you’ll have a good chance to catch a bigger bass.
Smallmouth bass love crayfish and with bigger crayfish you can usually target some of those bigger smallmouth bass. Most of the skinnier finesse-sized crayfish baits in the 3.5 to 4.5 inch range are usually the better baits for targeting good numbers of smallmouth with some big fish mixed in. For those of you looking for just size, going to the thicker-sized crayfish in similar lengths will usually help you target some of the bigger bass. The thicker and bigger crayfish baits won’t always put more big fish in the boat though, so experiment with them to see what works best on the body of water you’re fishing. At times, the 2 to 3 inch crayfish baits will get more overall bites and actually catch more big fish. Consistently though, if you go with the bigger crayfish baits, you should catch more big fish on average.
Curly tail grubs are such awesome baits for smallmouth bass. Many anglers report great success with the 3 and 4 inch sizes and those sizes are great. To draw more big bass strikes, try using the 5 inch grubs and use some of the grubs that have thicker bodies as well. A 4 to 5 inch grub made with a little more thickness to it than most other grubs will help draw more strikes from bigger smallmouth bass. Most of the grubs are similar on the market, but there are some manufacturers that make thicker grubs.
The bigger minnow-style soft plastic baits will usually attract bigger smallmouth bass. Many anglers use the 3 to 4 inch models that many manufacturers make. These work great, but to target the bigger bass, try using the 4.5 to 5 inch sizes and experiment with some of the thicker minnow baits. At times, the bait may be the same exact length, but the extra thickness or width of the bait gives it a much bigger appearance which will help to draw strikes from bigger smallies.
Going with bigger swimbaits is one of the best ways to hook up with a nice-sized smallmouth bass. Most anglers have a lot of success with swimbaits in the 3 to 5 inch range and many of the better ones for smallmouth bass are skinnier and more of a finesse-sized swimbait. When upsizing for smallmouth bass, you have to account for the smaller size mouths that smallmouth bass have compared to largemouth bass. Upsizing to swimbaits in the 4.5 to 5.5 inch range work well when searching for a big smallmouth bass. You don’t need to go super big like many anglers do when targeting trophy largemouth bass. The key though is finding swimbaits that have a little more thickness to them in the size range recommended above. A thicker and wider 5 inch swimbait will usually attract more big bass than the skinnier ones.
At times though, the smaller swimbaits actually work a lot better, so make sure you experiment to see what works best on the body of water you are fishing and that any given day. By upsizing to some of these bigger swimbaits, you will usually catch quality bass, but don’t be surprised if you go long stretches between bites. It’s just part of the process.
Bigger tubes are a great way to target bigger smallmouth bass. At times, the better bite may come on smaller crayfish, so don’t be set on wanting to go bigger all the time for big smallies. The majority of the time though, if you go with the bigger tubes in the 4 to 5 inch range, you will get more big bass bites. Some tubes are much thicker to, so even though they may be the same length, it still has a bigger profile compared to tubes the same length and the bigger profile helps attract bigger bass.
Adding trailers to spinnerbaits will give them a bigger profile and usually help to target bigger fish. You may not always get a lot of bites by doing this, but the fish that do bite should be better quality. Grubs, curly tail worms, swimbaits and swimming worms are the most common trailers for targeting bigger smallmouth bass with bladed swim jigs. Fish these baits slowly and don’t be surprised when you get a big bass to bite the bait short. Keep retrieving the bait in slowly after you miss the fish with your hook set. Many times, the fish will come back and eat the entire bait.
Add trailers to your bladed swim jigs is one of the easiest way to upsize your bait. Grubs, curly tail worms, swimbaits and swimming worms are the most common trailers for targeting bigger smallmouth bass with bladed swim jigs. Fish these baits slowly and don’t be surprised when you get a big bass to bite the bait short. Keep retrieving the bait in slowly after you miss the fish with your hook set. Many times, the fish will come back and eat the entire bait.