Best Lures for Winter Smallmouth Bass

The 5 Best Lures For Winter Smallmouth Bass

Are you struggling to catch smallmouth bass in the cold of winter? You’re not alone! As an avid angler, I’ve faced the same challenge. But fear not, because I’ve done the research and found some of the best lures for winter smallmouth that will help you reel in those elusive football bronze backs this winter.

Did you know that smallmouth bass can be both finicky and aggressive when it comes to feeding? It’s true! That’s why choosing the right lures is crucial for success. In this article, I’ll share with you some of the top lures for catching smallmouth bass in cold water and provide valuable tips on how to use them effectively. So if you want to improve your fishing game, keep reading!

Key Takeaways

  • Use Ned Rigs and Z-Man Finesse TRD for finicky smallmouth bass in cold waters.
  • Cast hair jigs like the Outkast Feider Fly around shallow, rocky areas to catch bass hiding there.
  • Try swim baits and jerkbaits, such as the Keitech Fat Swing Impact and Duo Realis Rozante 63SP, to cover different depths and actions.
  • A Tube works well when dragged along the bottom or twitched in open water.
  • Keep a Jig ready; its bulky profile triggers aggressive feeding from smallmouth bass.
Best Lures for Winter Smallmouth Bass

These are the Best Lures for Winter Smallmouth Bass Fishing

I just love the thrill of smallmouth bass fishing in winter. Cold water makes these fish tricky, but with the right lures, you’re set for success. I always start with a Ned Rig, especially the Z-Man Finesse TRD on a Finesse ShroomZ or a Mule Jig.

It’s like magic how it gets those finicky bass to bite.

Jerkbaits work wonders too, and my go-to’s are the Duo Realis Rozante 63SP and the Eurotackle Z-Spender. Their colors pop underwater, drawing strikes even on sluggish days. Paddle tail Swim baits and hair jigs should be in your box as well.

They mimic winter baitfish perfectly, which is exactly what those smallies are after. Trust me; these lures will boost your catch rate when others struggle to get a nibble!

Let’s go Deep – like where the Smallies Are!

Winter smallmouth are usually related to deeper water, so these lures are aimed at fishing those deeper pockets that have structure. If you can find a spot that creates current breaks at all water levels and conditions, you’ve likely found a possible winter hole.

And once you find them, you can likely keep going back to the same spots throughout the winter. Let’s talk specifics about each lure that will help you land those winter smallies.

Ned Rig


I’ll tell you, the Ned Rig has been a game-changer in my smallmouth bass fishing adventures. Honestly, it’s the lure that got me into Bait Finesse fishing to begin with! Picture this: it’s February, and while others may struggle with bites in cold water, I tie on a Ned Rig with its trusty stickbait. And usually, if the fish are there, I’ll get bit. It’s called the “deadly Nedly” for a reason!

This finesse technique shines brightest when patience is key—slowly dragging it along the bottom makes those finicky bass take notice.

Now, clarity matters—a lot. If I’m facing murky waters, I reach for darker tones; crystal-clear conditions call for natural hues. And let me share a little secret: Z-Man Finesse TRD teamed up with a Mule Fishing jighead? That combo works wonders for nailing those smallmouths.

Trust me; this simple setup does wonders when fishing slow is the name of the game. The downside is – you’re gonna lose some and spend time retying.

Hair Jigs

Hair Jigs

Let’s talk about hair jigs. They are a big deal in my tackle box, especially during the cold February waters. I’ve had some of my best days on the water tossing these little beauties around shallow rocky areas where smallmouth bass love to hide.

The thing about hair jigs is their subtlety; they don’t make a lot of noise or movement, which is perfect for those finicky bass looking for a simple meal.

One of the top producers of smallmouth is the Outkast Feider Fly—it is the lure that brought me back to hair jigs. It mimics those tiny creatures smallmouth can’t resist and works magic in chilly conditions when other lures just won’t cut it.

Cast it out there, give it a gentle twitch, and watch as those savvy fish get fooled into biting. You’re playing into their world with something that fits right in—a proven winner for smallmouth angling gear.

The hair jig reminds me of the Wooly Bugger for trout fishermen. It’s likely imitating the same type of prey.

Now onto swim baits.

Swim Baits

Keitech Fat Swing Impact

Swim baits are my go-to lures in year-round for catching those tricky smallmouth bass. I’m not talking glide baits here – it’s all about the thump of the soft plastic paddle tail swimbait.

They’re versatile, letting me cast near all sorts of cover where these fish like to hide. My buddy Ish even fishes these on the bottom like a Ned rig quite often.

I start with smaller ones like the 2.8″ Keitech Fat Swing Impact and then sometimes switch to bigger sizes as the water warms through spring. It’s a smart move that often brings more bites from bigger fish.

I keep swim baits ready at all times because they’re an essential piece of my fishing gear. I built rod and reel combos specifically for throwing swimbaits. Other anglers might be tossing jerkbaits or hair jigs, but it’s the swim bait that can make a real difference for me in cold waters. That and the Ned are my confidence baits, for sure.

Whether I’m slowly retrieving them through current breaks or twitching them along rocky bottoms, these artificial baits get results.


BFS Jerkbaits

Now, let’s talk about Jerkbaits. The Eurotackle Z-Spender and Duo Realis Rozante 63 SP top the list for smallmouth bass jerkbaits for me. Their effectiveness is undeniable – particularly with reactive strikes from smallmouth bass.

As a BFS guy, the famed Megabass Vision 110 is too heavy for my set-ups, but I’ll need to try the 110 Jr and maybe the X-80 sometime soon.

Experts recommend varying retrieval speeds based on water temperature to up your chances of a successful catch. These recommendations aren’t just hearsay; they’re backed by professionals, manufacturers, and guides sharing their expertise and experiences.

I kind of switch between a jerk-jerk-pause cadence and a jerk-jerk-jerk-pause cadence. Some anglers let the pause be measured in minutes. I’m not that patient – and maybe that’s why using a jerkbait is hit or miss for me.

The Rapala X-Rap Jerkbait is touted as another of the best options; I use it for trout in the smallest sizes. It’s known for enticing those sought-after reactive strikes from smallmouth bass – and every smallmouth angler dreams of feeling that weight on the line when they go to twitch the lure again!


Strike King Bitsy Tube

Now honestly, I have yet to catch a fish on a tube. But many people swear by them. And 2024 will be the year I finally make it happen!

When targeting smallmouth bass in winter, the tube bait is a game-changer. Specifically, the Strike King Coffee Tube stands out as one of the best lures for this time of year. Its soft plastic construction mimics natural prey with remarkable accuracy, enticing even the most cautious bass. But the Z-Man and Berkley Max Scent tubes are also popular.

Additionally, its design allows for versatile fishing techniques – whether you prefer dragging it along rocky bottoms or subtly twitching it in open water, this lure is adaptable to your preferred style.

The effectiveness of tube baits goes beyond their appearance and versatility— they have proven to be highly effective in catching smallmouth bass year round. These lures are engineered to excel in cold-water conditions while capitalizing on the predatory instincts of smallmouth bass.

I also picked up some of the Strike King Bitsy Tubes for an even more finesse presentation.

I seem to have the worst luck with getting tubes snagged – and that’s part of the game with tubes. You Will lose some. I recently found Confidence Baits “Draggin head”, and that might be the next trick I try to build my own confidence up in the tube as a top producer.

Jig and Pig (Jig and Trailer)

Keitech Finesse Jigs

The Jig and Pig is a top lure for catching smallmouth bass year-round. Its effectiveness makes it an essential part of any angler’s gear. When fishing, I always make sure to have a Jig ready to go – it’s a dependable choice that consistently yields great results out on the water.

The jig mimics a crayfish, and smallies are just hard-wired to munch on them! If I’m not getting bit on a ned, I’ll switch to a jig for that bottom-contact fishing and it will usually produce. And it’s not unusual for my biggest catch of the day to come on a jig.

A sensitive rod helps your catch rate. I just love the subtle tick you feel when a smallie sucks in the jig. Set the hook and hold on for the rush!

My favorites are the Keitech Mono-spin and the Keitech M2 Football Jig. Just put any finesse craw on there as a trailer. Mule Fishing Burro Bug and the Zoom Speed Craw are two of my favorites.

Understanding Each Type of Lure

When fishing for smallmouth bass, it’s crucial to understand the different types of lures and their specific applications. The Ned Rig excels in cold water and finesse techniques, while hair jigs mimic natural prey with their lifelike movement.

Ned Rig

Swimbaits are versatile and effective for covering water quickly, whereas jerkbaits imitate injured baitfish to entice strikes. they can cover water, but most anglers fish them very slow in the winter. So it’s kind of a suspending Ned rig in some ways.

Tubes provide a subtle presentation, ideal for pressured fish, while jig and pig combinations create a bulky profile that triggers aggressive feeding responses. Both are mimicking crayfish – just in different ways.

These are the best lures for winter smallmouth. Not all of these will work every day – but usually one of them will work on any given day – and that’s why they are my best lures for winter smallmouth.

Consider water temperature and conditions

In winter, water temperature and conditions play a crucial role in determining the behavior of smallmouth bass. Understanding the temperature preferences of smallmouth bass can guide your lure selection. If you can find a warm water discharge, you might find the fish.

Pay attention to forage availability, current patterns, and cover/structure when choosing lures to match the natural prey and habitat of smallmouth bass.

As an angler, it’s essential to adapt your fishing tactics based on the specific water temperature and prevailing conditions. This knowledge will help you select the right lures that mimic natural prey and entice bites from smallmouth bass.

But the main thing to remember is to fish slow. Sometimes really slow. Ken over at Pond Fishing for Bass has a great article on winter fishing.

Vary your retrieve

Vary your retrieve to keep the bass interested. Try slow, steady retrieves at first, then switch to quick, jerky movements. Sometimes pausing can also trigger a strike. Sometimes the biggest smallies seem to enjoy “finding” the lure rather than chasing it down in winter. Smallmouth bass react differently each day.

Pay attention to their behavior and adjust your technique accordingly.

Due Realis Rozante 63SP jerkbait

Conclusion: Catching Smallmouth Bass with These Top Winter Lures

In conclusion, mastering the art of selecting the right lures for smallmouth bass in winter is crucial. Applying practical tips such as considering water temperature and matching the hatch can greatly enhance your fishing success. Pick colors that resemble your local forage.

These strategies have a significant impact on not only locating bass but also enticing them to strike.

And once you find smallies in winter, you might be able to fish that same area for most of the season and be productive. The best winter smallmouth anglers put in the work during the fall, so they already KNOW where the fish are in winter.

Hopefully, I’ll be one of those guys some day – but for now, I’m usually tracking them down in December and hoping to stay on them through February with these lures and techniques.

Remember, with dedication and a willingness to adapt, you can elevate your fishing game and reel in those prized smallmouth bass!


1. Why are smallmouth bass lures different in Winter?

In winter, smallmouth bass lures may differ due to changes in the fish’s behavior and feeding patterns caused by colder water temperatures. Most fo these lures will work year-round int he right conditions.

2. What types of lures work best for smallmouth bass in Winter?

Jerkbaits, jigs, and swimbaits are effective choices for catching smallmouth bass during the winter. Ned rigs and Tubes are also good choices.

3. How should I retrieve lures when fishing for smallmouth bass in February?

A slow and steady retrieval with occasional pauses is often successful when using lures to target smallmouth bass during the colder months of winter.

4. Should I use live bait or artificial lures when fishing for smallmouth bass in February?

Live bait can always work. I just prefer artificial lures. We’re fishing, not feeding the fish.

5. Where are ideal locations for using these specific lures in pursuit of smallmouth bass during winter?

Look for areas with rocky bottoms or near deeper channels where water temperature remains relatively stable. Also look for structure that will provide current breaks in all water conditions; here you might find success targeting Small Mouth Bass throughout the winter months.

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