Minnows work great for smallmouth bass from spring through fall.  Many anglers use fathead minnows and shiner minnows and these minnows work great for smallmouth bass.  Go with the largest fathead minnows you can and use shiners in the 4 to 5 inch range and you’ll catch better quality fish.  Chubs and suckers also work great for targeting bigger smallmouth bass.  Take a look below at the different types of minnows you can use for smallmouth bass.

Best Rigs for Using Minnows for Smallmouth Bass

Bobber / Slip Bobber

A minnow under a bobber or slip bobber is one of the better ways to target smallmouth bass that are suspended in the water column.

Carolina Rig

This rig is a great live bait rig.  Most anglers use the Carolina rig when fishing deeper water.

Drop Shot Rig

The drop shot rig is an awesome way to fish a lively minnow.  Fish it shallow, deep, in open water or around cover and you can have a lot of success.


A simple jighead and minnows one of the easiest ways to target smallmouth bass.  Fish it around the rocky cover that smallmouth bass love and you will catch some bass.

Split Shot Rig

The split shot rig is a great rig when you just need a little extra weight to get your minnow down farther through the water column.  Most anglers use this rig when the bass are shallow and it can be super effective.

Popular Types of Minnows

Creek Chubs & Redtail Chubs are some of the best live baits to use for smallmouth bass, especially big smallmouth bass.  Chubs aren’t real common among bass anglers, but they should be.  Bass absolutely love them and chubs tend to catch much bigger bass on average than nightcrawlers, leeches or minnows.  For smallmouth bass, the smaller chubs work well for bass 14 inches and up.  A 5 pounder isn’t necessarily more likely to eat a bigger chub because the bass is bigger.  Smallmouth bass have much smaller mouths than largemouth bass, so we recommend not using the real big chubs for smallmouth bass.  You can catch them on the bigger chubs, but you will catch more bass and plenty of big bass by using chubs in the 4 to 5 inch range.  When using chubs, you need to make sure you are using big enough hooks to get a good hook set.  The wide gap hooks tend to work much better with chubs.

Suckers will work well for smallmouth bass, but most bass anglers do not use them as bait.  Suckers are used more for walleye and pike, but suckers will catch some big smallmouth bass.  The key is to use the smaller suckers in the 4 to 5 inch range for smallmouth bass because smallmouths have smaller mouths, which makes it difficult for them to go after a sucker in the 7 to 8 inch range.  When using suckers, you need to make sure you are using big enough hooks to get a good hook set.  The wide gap hooks tend to work much better with suckers.  The easiest way to lose bass when using suckers is by using hooks that are too small.

Fathead minnows are one of the most popular minnows for smallmouth bass.  The large fatheads are perfect sized for catching good numbers of bass as well as catching some big bass too.  Most of the bait shops will carry fathead minnows as well so they are usually easy to get when you need bait.

Golden shiners work well too.  When you want to upsize a little bit, a bigger shiner will do the trick.  I would rather have a chub or sucker than a shiner when targeting smallmouth bass, but the golden shiners work well too.

Emerald shiners will also work.  Some bait shops carry them, so if you can get them, go ahead and use them.  They are a good size for catching lots of bass with some big ones too.