Written by Andrew Schadegg
Bass are the most popular gamefish in America, inspiring billions of dollars a year in fishing rods, reels, boats and of course baits. Since so many people are chasing after largemouth, smallmouth and spotted bass, questions like, “How to fish for bass?” and “What are the best bass lures?” are some of the most popular search terms in the sport.
Learning how to fish for bass can be challenging, but we want to breakdown the best bass fishing baits that you must have in your tackle box. Whether you’re fishing rivers, lakes, reservoirs or just a backyard farm pond, these are the bass lures that are essential for every angler.
If you polled a dozen anglers about the first bass lure they used as a kid, it’s a good bet that half of them would mention spinnerbaits. The spinnerbait is such a perfect lure for bass anglers, especially to get beginners into the sport, because it’s easy to fish and very effective. Typically fixed with anywhere from one to even four or five blades, sometimes narrow “willow leaf” blades, sometimes a bigger teardrop shaped “Colorado” blade, the purpose of which is to give maximum vibration.
Fishing a spinnerbait for bass is pretty simple, too. You throw it out and you reel it back in. That’s really all there is to it. You can cover a lot of water quickly and it’s fairly weedless, making it a perfect bait for many situations.
#2 WORMS (PLASTIC BAITS)
Now if half of the anglers polled said that spinnerbaits were their first bass lure, the other half would probably tell you that plastic worms were their introduction to bass fishing. Now when we talk about plastic worms, it’s a bit of a catch-all that includes lizards, creatures, beavers, craws and any number of shapes and sizes.
Plastic baits can be fished in so many different ways. You can fish smaller, finesse versions on light line and a drop shot setup. You can fish a 10-inch version on heavy gear with a flipping setup and literally everything in between. Learning to fish soft plastic baits for bass is definitely an essential tool.
#3 SQUAREBILL CRANKBAITS
When it comes to reaction baits for bass, it’s hard to beat a squarebill crankbait. This is the workhorse of shallow water power fishing. It’s built to bump and grind on the bottom, deflect off of cover and it’s another bait that’s really easy to fish. You can mix up your retrieve, but if you just cast it out and reel it back in, you will catch fish.
Deflection is the key to fishing a squarebill crankbait for bass. Run it right into the stumps, cast it parallel to the bank on the rocks or bang into the pilings on a dock. All of these things can trigger a strike with a squarebill.
Before swimbaits rose in popularity, big bass fishing experts swore that jigs had caught more giant bass than any other bait and they were right. Jigs can be paired with different types of trailers to give it more bulk and weight. They are perfect for flipping heavy cover, docks and wood. If the fish move out of the shallows, you can fish a deep water structure jig or football head jig. This is a bait that can be dragged along the bottom and really help identify where the schools are hanging out.
Most successful anglers do not go to the lake without a jig tied on. It might be the fact that crawfish are one of the top forage for bass around the country. Matching the forage and learning what color jig is best is a key to catching bass with jigs.
What used to be a niche technique relegated to the big bass fisherman of the west, swimbaits have now become an essential tool for all anglers. Rather than being only giant 6-12 inch baits that are focused on catching the big ones, now you can choose from baits ranging in size from 2 inches and up. The smaller paddletail baits are fantastic when fished on a jighead, as a trailer or dozens of other rigging options. Included in this category are jointed baits and glide baits as well. These can be tremendously effective at drawing fish out and figuring out where the bigger bass are at.
Remember to fish these baits slowly. Most of the time, a very slow retrieve along the bottom will serve you the best. Of course, there are exceptions to the rule, but if you keep that bait creeping slowly you will have success.
The thin, sleek design of a jerkbait is meant to pop along anywhere from 1 to 10 feet below the surface. Jerkbaits are especially effective in the fall and winter, when drawing a strike from suspended bass can be difficult. However, it can definitely be utilized year-round and when you find a school of bass, you can put a bunch of fish in the boat in a hurry. This is why jerkbaits have always been considered one of the top bass fishing lures.
Throw them on points, bluff walls, rocky banks or anywhere that bass are suspended or feeding up in the water column. Your retrieve is really important, as you need to have your rod tip pointed downward and using small rips or pops, moving the bait in an erratic action mimicking the look of a fleeing baitfish.
Whether you’re fishing with a traditional single winged buzzbait or something more propeller driven like a plopper-style bait, there is nothing more fun than fishing a fast moving topwater. Learning when and how to fish a buzzbait for bass will be one of the most exciting things you ever do. Particularly in the spring and summer, buzzbaits can be fished over lily pads, along weed edges and even in open water. The strikes are violent and explosive.
Remember to always keep your rod tip high and get the bait on top of the water quickly. Once you have it on the surface, you can burn it quickly or slow roll it so that it barely gurgles. Mix it up and see what the bass are reacting to best.
Also in the topwater category, but giving a very different presentation than a buzzbait is the hollow body frog. Frogs are an important tool in your tackle box, because you can fish them in places that no other bait can go. Heavy cover or dense weed canopies are prime places to throw a frog on top. Heavy tackle is required, so that you can pull the bass out of the thickest, gnarliest places and braided line over 65lb test is suggested as well.
Work your frog in a “walk-the-dog” style much like you would a Spook or other walking bait. When you get to a hole in the mats or weeds, let it pause for a few seconds. Many times, that is when you will get your strikes.
#9 BLADED SWIM JIGS (CHATTERBAITS)
The chatterbait takes elements of a crankbait, spinnerbait and jig and combines them together to create a very effective bass fishing lure. It displaces a ton of water, creating a heavy vibration which causes some violent reactions from bass. A lot of anglers now use bladed swim jigs to fish in areas they would have traditionally used a spinnerbait, believing the added vibration of the chatterbait gets more bites.
Whether that is true or not, one thing is for certain: bladed swim jigs need to be in your bass fishing arsenal. They are versatile and effective. Make sure you have the right kind of rod and some decently heavy line, so that you can fish this bait properly.
#10 LIPLESS CRANKBAITS
Rounding out the final lure in our top 10 countdown is the lipless crankbait. A long lasting standard in bass fishing, that can be fished shallow or deep, fast or slow, and can call bass from a long distance. Most of these baits have loud rattle chambers that give off a very distinct sound when pulled through the water. Typically, you can cast these baits a mile and cover a ton of water.
Try letting the bait go to the bottom and then lifting and lowering your rod tip or even “snapping” it up, in what anglers call a yo-yo retrieve. You can burn it near the surface or you can slow roll it on the bottom.
Stocking up on the best bass baits is the first step in becoming a more successful angler. If you’re just starting out and not sure which brands or products to buy, consider signing up for a subscription box like Lucky Tackle Box. You’ll get tons of new baits, from different brands, every month. There are lots of new products coming out all the time and it can become overwhelming. We promise that if you master fishing these 10 baits, you’ll be loading the boat on every trip to the lake.