Three Ways to Tweak Your Baits for Smallmouth Bass

Make your soft plastics look sweeter on the dive to smallmouths.

_ Taken Down A trophy bass from Lake of the Woods in Ontario. Photo by Bill Lindner_

Crawfish, baitfish, and hellgrammites in open water all avoid predators by scooting to the bottom. That’s why it’s so common for smallmouths to strike soft plastics on the drop. To increase the chances that you’ll flip the bail and have a fish on right away, try these tweaks to make your baits look even sexier on the descent.

Photo by Cliff Gardiner & John Keller

1. Weight Loss

Lightening up your tube jighead creates a slower rate of fall, and the reduced weight makes it easier to swim tubes over deep weeds without getting covered in vegetation. If you’d normally use a 1⁄4-ounce jighead, try 1⁄8 ounce. Opt for tube colors that match baitfish, such as golden or silver shiner, instead of crawfish, which aren’t apt to be near the top of the weeds. Cast across the flow and let the tube swing downstream as the boat drifts. If you’re on the bow, cast farther ahead of the drift and retrieve slightly faster than the current so the tube glides and darts as it falls.

2. Slow Dance

In calm or rippled water, wacky rig a Senko and fish it weightless, targeting the outside edges of weedlines, or open patches in deep weeds. On days when the fish are less aggressive, the slow wobbling action of the falling Senko will prove its worth. Use muted colors, like green pumpkin or smoke. Feather line with your finger on the spool as the bait falls, maintaining just enough tension to keep contact. To get an early jump on a strike, watch the spot where your line enters the water for any change in direction or sudden slack.

3. Touch of the Bubbly

Some of the biggest summer smallmouths are taken in weedy shallows early and late in the day. To target these fish, insert a bit of plastic bubble wrap into a 31⁄2-inch tube, and then rig it Texas-style on a 1/0 Gamakatsu Skip Gap hook. Next, pinch a small split shot a few feet above the tube. The shot will take the rig to the bottom along thicker weed edges, but the buoyant tube will fall very slowly behind the weight. If it doesn’t get hit on the fall, let the rig settle to the bottom. As the tube hovers off the river bed, impart slow hops to mimic a baitfish trying to right itself.