Trolling can be very effective when targeting smallmouth bass when these fish are in deeper water.  When the bass are shallow, you are better off casting so you don’t spook these shallow water fish.  Think deeper water and you’ll have more success.

Slow Trolling for Smallies (Trolling Motor)

Slow trolling with live baits and soft plastics is one of the more popular ways to target smallmouth bass in deeper water.  Use your trolling motor and keep the speed fairly slow and you’ll catch a lot of bass.

Best Baits for Slow Trolling

Curly Tail Worms

Curly tail worms look great when slow trolled.  Use the smaller finesse-style curly tail worms and you’ll get a lot of action with some quality fish too.

Curly Tail Grubs

It is tough to beat a curly tail grub for smallmouth bass and these baits look great when you slow troll them as well.

Small Swimbaits

With the smaller swimbaits, you need to make sure your trolling speed is fast enough to get the tails to swim.  The weight of the jighead or whatever other rig you use is also super important when fishing small swimbaits with this technique.

Speed Craws

Some crayfish baits come with claws that are similar to the swimbait paddles that you will see on swimbaits.  These crayfish baits look great with a faster retrieve.  You can slow troll them over a rocky bottom and expect to catch some quality smallmouth bass.

Creature Baits that Swim

The creature baits that have some type of swimming feature will usually be more productive than the creature baits that don’t swim when you are using the slow trolling technique.  Make sure the weight you use is heavy enough to keep your bait down near the bottom and you should be able to get quite a few bites with this technique.

Live Baits


While nightcrawlers won’t swim like a minnow would, you don’t need the swimming feature with a lively nightcrawler.  Smallmouth bass will pick off these nightcrawlers that are slow trolled near the bottom.  You will usually get more bites though if the trolling speed is super slow, so instead of trying to make the bait swim, you’re just trying to cover a little more water with a lively nightcrawler.


Leeches work really well with the slow trolling technique.  Keep the speed slow and present a lively leech to as many bass as you can and you will catch a lot of smallmouth bass.


A lively minnow works great with the slow trolling technique.  You can slow troll a little bit faster than you do with nightcrawlers and leeches and still have a lot of success because the minnows will swim with the boat moving.  However, a slow trolling speed works great, so don’t feel like you need to put the trolling motor on full speed.

Deep Water Trolling with Your Big Motor

When you are looking to pick up the speed a little, try using your big motor and troll with crankbaits, swimbaits and spinners at the appropriate depths and you’ll catch plenty of smallmouth bass.

Best Baits for Big Motor Trolling


Crankbaits are the most popular lure for most anglers when trolling with a bigger motor.  Most anglers will troll at speeds faster than 2 mph with speeds in the 2.2 to 2.5 range working really well.  Some anglers do experience success at slightly slower or faster speeds as well, so don’t feel like you have to be locked in at a certain speed if you aren’t catching any fish.


Spoons are more popular for pike fishing, however, some anglers do well with smallmouth bass as well.  The key for most anglers is to use spoons with a smaller minnow-like profile compared to the bigger spoons that are better for northern pike.  On some bodies of water, there will be a very good open water bite on a variety of baitfish.  If you can troll a smaller profile spoon through these schools of smallmouth bass, you will catch some quality fish.  You will most likely be trolling in that 2 to 2.5 mph range.


Spinners can be effective for smallmouth bass, but most of the smaller profile spinners will not be very heavy.  Because of this, these baits won’t get down to the deeper water that you need to be fishing during the summer and fall.  If you can pair these spinners with a Carolina rig or 3-way rig, you can do well trolling inline spinners in deeper water for smallmouth bass.  Anglers usually troll a little bit slower with spinners, so plan on having better success in that 1.8 to 2.2 mph range.

Blade Baits

Blade baits are a great trolling bait as they mimic a variety of baitfish that smallmouth bass will be feeding on in deeper water.  Just make sure to get a heavy enough blade bait or pair up a lighter blade bait with a rig that allows you to fish deeper water.  You will most likely be trolling in that 2 to 2.5 mph range.