Best Live Bait Rigs for Smallmouth Bass
The basic bobber or float is used with a split shot for the weight and a hook with your bait. This is a common technique for catching smallmouth bass when the fish are located in shallow water during the spring and fall.
Once these fish go deep, anglers tend to go to the slip bobber rig so they can get their baits down deep where the fish are. Live baits such as minnows, leeches and nightcrawlers work well when fished under a float.
The Carolina Rig is an effective rig for smallmouth bass. The rig is used mostly to fish deeper water around points, near weed edges, on offshore structure, along rocky shorelines and on reefs near deep water. You can use lighter weights for shallow water fishing, although, the Carolina rig isn’t as popular for shallow water. You can fish many different types of live bait and artificial lures with the Carolina rig.
The drop shot rig is one of the most popular rigs for catching smallmouth bass, especially when the bass are in deep water. Whether you fish shallow or deep, the drop shot rig works well with a variety of live baits and many types soft plastics.
A simple jighead and live bait works very well for smallmouth bass. A jig & minnow, jig & nightcrawler and a jig & leech will all do well when fishing for smallmouth bass. A variety of soft plastics will also work very well on a jighead. Grubs, worms, crayfish, swimbaits and many other types of soft plastics will all work well with a jighead. You can hop your baits along the bottom, vertical jig with them or swim them at various depths throughout the water column.
The Split Shot Rig is a very popular rig that works well with live bait and soft plastics in shallow and deeper water. Smallmouth bass anglers have so many options when they dig into their tackle box because the split shot rig works so well with so many different baits.
Best Lure Rigs for Smallmouth Bass
When using the Carolina rig with lures, you have a lot of options for targeting smallmouth bass. Most anglers will use some type of crayfish bait as they cover rocky bottoms that are usually home to plenty of crayfish that the smallies are feeding on. You can use pretty much any soft plastic and many hard baits with the Carolina Rig too.
When fishing with the drop shot rig with lures, anglers are usually using a variety of finesse baits. From minnow baits to worms to creatures and even crayfish baits, it is tough to beat a drop shot rig when fishing deeper water for smallmouth bass.
Jigheads are great for soft plastic baits. The regular jigheads that come with a smaller hook are great for many of the finesse baits that anglers use for smallmouth bass. However, the longer shank jigheads will usually be better for many of the bigger baits especially if there is some type of swimming tail on the back of the bait. Smallmouth bass are notorious for hitting the back of the bait when the bait is being retrieved with a steady swimming retrieve. When you use a longer shank jighead, the hook is closer to the back of the bait, which allows anglers to hook a lot more bass that bite their bait.
The Ned rig is one of the best rigs for catching good numbers of smallmouth bass. It’s a finesse-style rig, so plan on catching a lot of smaller bass with some big fish mixed in. On trophy lakes though, this rig will put plenty of big smallmouth bass in the boat. On lakes with lots of smaller bass, you’re going to catch a bunch of them. Just use a jighead to rig the smaller piece of wacky worms (2.5 to 3 inch works best) and work this bait slowly along the rocky bottoms or over suspended bass and hang on.
The Neko rig is a unique rig and it’s becoming very popular among many anglers. As you can see in the tank to the left, the hook is in the center and the weight is at the head of the bait. In this case, it’s a screw that is screwed into the head of the worm. Because most anglers use smaller baits to target smallies, you may not see many anglers using the Neko rig when targeting these fish.
The Scrounger Jighead works well for smallmouth bass. The key is finding out which soft plastics will work best with these jigheads. Some baits work great while others don’t look good at all. A slow and steady retrieve is the key to giving these baits their action. Use these lures around shallow water cover such as weeds, docks, wood and rocks and you will catch plenty of smallmouth bass.
Standup Jigheads, also called Shaky head jigs, do a great job of keeping the bait up off the bottom. It’s definitely one of the best rigs to use for catching smallmouth bass.
The split shot rig is very effective for lures too. Anglers usually use a split shot rig when fishing shallower water, but this rig works great for suspended bass over deeper water too. You can use a variety of soft plastic on a split shot rig such as minnow baits, creatures, worms and more.
Swimbait hooks are great for rigging a variety of soft plastic baits for targeting smallmouth bass. Most anglers will use them to rig a swimbait, but you can fish just about any soft plastic bait that you would use on a Texas rig with a swimbait hook too.
The Texas Rig is more common for largemouth bass, but it can be very effective for catching smallmouth bass as well. The Texas Rig is great for fishing a soft plastic worm in and around many different types of cover, over deep water and in the shallows if you go with a lighter weight. Most anglers won’t go with the Texas rig because you usually don’t have to use a weedless rigged bait when fishing for smallmouth bass. Also, for many of the finesse-sized soft plastic baits that anglers use for smallmouth bass, the baits tend to look better on a regular jighead, shaky head jig or a drop shot rig.
The Wacky Rig is a great rig for catching smallmouth bass with soft plastic worms and live nightcrawlers. Hooking the worm in the middle gives the worm a different type of action that helps to entice more strikes. Most people think of the weightless rig when they think of a wacky rig and they are accurate, however, you can use the wacky rig with some other popular rigs as well when you need to get down deeper a little quicker.
At times, smallmouth bass will be around cover that requires these weedless style jigs. Anglers usually use these jigs when fishing soft plastic baits around weed lines, in scattered vegetation, next to docks and wood.
Smallmouth bass anglers typically use the weightless rig in the spring and fall when bass can be found in the shallows. It can be super effective for many different soft plastic baits, but the wacky worm is definitely the best bait on a weightless rig.