June 23, 2014 Share

Best River Smallmouth Baits Ever?

Originally Published on Nov 30, 2011 “From the Docks” NBC Sports

The quickest way to start a fight is to say something is better than something else; in the process you’ll likely step on some toes. Well, I just finished Bruce Ingram’s article “The Best River Smallmouth Lures…Ever” in in the December issue of Bassmaster magazine and, well, Bruce and I don’t see eye-to-eye on the baits selected.

And you might not like my list…

For those who have not yet read the piece, here are Bruce’s picks for the Seven Best: Jig-N-Pig, Gitzit (Tube), Heddon Tiny Torpedo, Curl Tail Grub, Rapala Original Floater, Cotton Cordell Big O and Rebel Pop R.

My list (in no particular order) goes like this: Jig (marabou or hair tipped with plastic, pork or minnow), Tube (PowerTube), buzzbait, curltail grub, spinnerbait, inline spinner (Mepps, Panther Martin, etc.), crankbait (Big O is a good one).

If room allowed I would have added poppers, vibrating cranks, and prop baits because all produce river smallmouth. Also, if live bait was an option I would have quickly added live minnow and crayfish, fished on a bare hook.

Growing up on the banks of the Upper Mississippi River, I’ve spent much of my live chasing smallmouth over a 150-mile stretch of the river that featured everything from shallow rock riffles to a dredged channel, wing dams and massive backwaters. In most places blades, whether part of a spinnerbait or an inline spinner, produced massive numbers of fish. The inline spinner rarely gets much play in today’s press, but it’s still a deadly fish producer, especially for river smallmouth.

But my favorite river bait is still a jig, whether it features marabou or hair. The jig is still the most versatile bait ever designed, and by tweaking weight, color and what you tip it with, you can target virtually every bass in the river. The curltail grub is also a must-bring bait.

Topwaters definitely have their places and times, and seem to produce bigger fish on average than other baits. I’m a big fan of buzzbaits, especially in the fall, and work them along current seams, rock and other cover. A stinger hook is a must.

Rounding out my list is cranks, which are great for covering a ton of water, especially when fishing larger pieces of structure.—Steve