We’re massively spoilt for choice when it comes to choosing baits and lures for bass fishing, there are a ton of options, so much so that it can be difficult to choose a single lure. After a few years of buying the odd lure here and there, the garage ends up looking like a professional tackle shop, but we don’t stop buying, instead, we keep trying to find the best bait for bass.
It perhaps goes without saying, but the best bait for bass for one angler, might not be the best for another. It depends a whole lot on your style of fishing, the environment, the time of day, season and a whole host of other variables. So while some baits are clearly superior to others, it’s important to employ a certain amount of intelligence when picking a lure and choose something that suits the environment and your needs.
Having said that, we strongly believe that jigs edge out the competition when it comes to the best bait for bass. Jigs are versatile, inexpensive, effective and they come in a huge range of styles, hues and shapes.
What Kind of Baits are Available
Bass baits are largely available in two forms, artificial lures and live baits. If you’ve used either in the past, you probably have a strong bias as to which one you prefer and which one you think is most effective. The truth is that both types offer a variety of advantages and disadvantages.
Like any other animal, bass like to eat when they are hungry or when the opportunity to do so presents itself. Artificial lures are crafted in order to present an object that has physical characteristics that are appetizing to bass, even if it visually doesn’t resemble something it’s eaten before.
Some artificial lures vibrate or make other noises that are intended to be detectable by bass from a distance, while other lures such as crankbait are made to mimic the behavior and actions of a fleeing fish.
One of the biggest advantages of an artificial lure is that a single lure can last many fishing trips, assuming, of course, the line isn’t snagged on something. A small investment of a few dollars can pay for itself over the course of a fishing season.
We’ve just established that artificial lures are designed to mimic the behavior of live baits. This is one of the big advantages presented by live baits, there is no mimicry required, and they are naturally attractive to bass. Any number of avid fisherman will tell you that there are varieties of fish that will only respond to live bait. If you’re in a situation where your artificial lures are failing to elicit a response, the only option might be to respond with some live bait.
The cost comparison of live bait versus artificial lures is probably up for debate. An artificial lure has the benefit of being used on multiple occasions, assuming, of course, it’s not lost, however, the initial cost can be high. Meanwhile, live baits are generally single use and are normally pretty cheap to purchase.
If you’re constantly losing your artificial lures or you’re just a fan of collecting them, the cost over time can be high. While live bait generally requires very little setup and they’re often the most fun baits to use, children generally respond better to live baits when you’re trying to teach them to fish. You can even look and catch your own live bait which can be a fun and educational task in itself.
Best Artificial Baits / Lures for Bass For Year-Round Success
According to my wife, I have a mental illness that causes me to collect every artificial lure I can get my hands on. Sometimes I’ll go through a draw and find lures I bought years ago that are still in their original packaging and have never been used.
I only wish the number of lures you owned had a direct correlation to the amount of fish you catch…
For any anglers that’s new to the hobby, coming back to the sport after a break or are working to a limited allowance, it can be incredibly overwhelming and difficult to choose the baits and lures that are worth your hard earned cash.
For most anglers, choosing a lure that is versatile and can be used in a range of fishing scenarios is the intelligent choice. You’ll want to focus on baits that can be used in nearly every season and on a range of water types. To make your decision process easier, we’ve worked to put together a list of the artificial lures that we think can be used all year round and on any body of water. If you start off building your collection from these baits, you’ll be assured regardless of where you go or what the weather is doing, if there are bass in the water you’re going to be in a with a good chance of success.
In our opinion, skirted jigs represent the ultimate option when it comes to year-round fishing success. No matter what the weather is doing or what the body of water is like, if it’s raining, snowing, sunny or overcast, you can use a skirted jig to catch bass. It doesn’t matter if the water is 40 feet deep or only a couple of feet deep, a jig can be used. In the wintertime pull them along sheer rocky shores for fishing success. If the sun is out and the temperature is rising, attach a paddle tail to the jig and fish it around the grassy shorelines. The point is, no matter what the weather is doing or what the water is like, a jig can be used to catch bass can be used 52 weeks out of the year.
It jigs didn’t exist, then the number one best bait for bass would probably go to crankbaits. There isn’t a fishing location or condition that I’ve come across that doesn’t have a type of crankbaits that can be used to accomplish the job. During the colder months, a crankbait that features a slight wobble that sports flatter sides will be the key to success. As things begin to warm up during spring and summer, a more pronounced wobble and a faster retrieve will ensure the bass remain interested. If you need to fish at depth, simply choose a big lipped plug to get the crankbait into deep water where the fish are lurking. If you need to avoid obstacles, square bill works well. The amount of options available to an angler using crankbait is staggering, so much so you’ll have a hard time finding a body of water you can’t fish with one.
Many anglers might be startled to see jerkbait making an appearance in our collection of lures that are suitable for year-round bass fishing since most anglers would relegate these baits to fishing in the winter months. This is, of course, a mistake. The truth is, the biggest reason that most anglers don’t catch bass using jerkbaits during the warmer months is that they aren’t even trying to use them. Our cousins in the north are pulling bass out of the water all year rounds using jerkbait. Twitch them over flat bottoms or pull them through grassy shallows, just make sure you’re not retrieving them to fast during the summer months.
Even though finesse worms are a bit boring to look at and they don’t have a very exciting action in the water, they offer a massive advantage over many baits. They simply work in every condition and in any water that bass is swimming in. It’s for these reasons that they’re on our list of productive year-round bass plastics. In the winter weather, put on a shakey head when you drag it through the water. Once the weather begins to warm up, pull it around thick vegetation, piers and boat docks. If you need to fish in deep water, simply add a weighted rig. Whatever your fishing hole throws at you, the finesse worm will be there to generate bites.
Bass will tend to feed on a variety of species throughout the year, however, the one species that tend to be at the menu throughout the year is crawfish. Crawfish tend to be found in and around deep rocks or within shallow weed beds, they are available during all but the coldest winters. This, in turn, means that plastic craws can be fished year round, either on a jig, on a shakey head or on any other set up you can think off. As they replicate one of the bass’ favorite year-round meals, they are suitable for using nearly 365 days of the year.
Even if they are relatively new to the fishing tackle industry, there’s no doubt in my mind that swimbaits have managed to prove themselves as effective year-round artificial lures. They effectively emulate the behavior of several species of baitfish and can be used during all 12 months of the year, regardless if the weather is hot, cold or somewhere in between.
The reason that lipless crankbaits are so effective is that they can be used in nearly any depth of water, both deep and shallow. This is also why they make a for a good year-round artificial lure. During the colder periods of the year, bass will go mad for lipless cranks that are pulled over grassy flats. When things begin to warm up they can be used to cover both open water, covered areas and can be fished around difficult terrain.
Best Live Bait for Bass
As we’ve covered above, artificial lures are capable of securing a bite year round, but I for one think that there’s nothing quite like fishing with the real thing.
Like nearly every other bass angler I’ve ever talked to, I have tackle boxes, draws and cupboards full with a huge array of colorful jigs, spoons, spinnerbaits, plastics and everything in-between. But, live baits hold a special place in my heart and still end up on the end of my line more often than not.
There are a couple of things you need to bear in mind when using live bait in order to maximize your chances of success:
Keep your bait lively and fresh. Dead, limp and sad looking baits aren’t anywhere near as interesting to bass as baits that are actively swimming, wiggling or swimming.
Know the state laws governing the use of live baits. You can find these in your states fishing regulations.
Having knowledge of the kinds of live baits that are available and how to use them will improve your artificial lure game as well. Nearly all artificial lures are meant to imitate food, so knowing how that food moves and responds will help you replicate that action.
One last thing. You might just find that the memories you have of collecting the bait are better than the memories you have of the actual fishing, especially if you take your kids with you when you do it. Gathering bait can be a tone of fun.
These delicious crustaceans are nearly always at the top of the favorite food lists for bass. The challenge is getting your hands on them in the first place. If your local bait shop doesn’t have any, your next best bet is to use a commercial crawfish trap baited with scraps. Setting one of these traps in a pond or weedy ditch nearly always lands a crawfish or two. If you really want a challenge you can try catching them by hand by turning over rocks and stones.
Retrieve crawfish slowly on the bottom by using an egg sinker to get them into the deep water. Cast the crawfish into areas that look like a good bass ground, and reel in a few feet every few seconds to make sure the crawfish don’t get a chance to hide. Once the crawfish get picked up by a bass, set the hook and you’re off.
Every bait seller should be well stocked with night crawlers, but if you prefer the DIY approach, a few minutes digging around in the dirt should bag a few dozens in no time at all. Either store them in the same first you found them in, or you can get specialized worm bedding online. Just remember to keep them cool and away from any direct sunlight or freezing temperatures.
Setting yourself up with light tackle is the best option for night crawlers. A small hook and 6 pounds monofilament will do the job nicely. Hook the worm through its tip and work it onto the bottom. If the body of water is weedy you may need to switch to heavier line, but keeping things light will increase the chances of a strike.
Given half a chance, most bass would gorge themselves into oblivion on minnows. You should be able to find a readily available supply of minnows at your local bait shop. Try to pick the biggest and most active they have. Store them in cool well-oxygenated water. Most bait shops should provide a bag that is suitable for a small amount of time. I like to place this bag in a cooler box with ice to keep them comfortable.
You’ll want to use a strong 20-pound line and sturdy rod so that pulling bass out of cover is not an issue. Hook the minnow through the tails and cast them into covered areas where bass are likely to hang out. Play out line so that the minnows can make a run for it.
Bass tend to suck minnows up, so an explosive strike is unlikely. Instead, you’ll feel a steady increase in pressure as the bass take the minnows in before swallowing. Set the hook once you feel a steady pull on your fishing line.
If you’ve been fishing for bass enough times, you’ll have probably witnessed bass charging straight into a school of shad, resulting them diving in all direction to escape. It’s not a stretch to say that bass love these fish. However, catching and keeping shad alive is no easy task.
I use a cast net to round up some shad. It’s a skill that’s well worth using and can be used in a number of scenarios. If you’re not comfortable with a cast net, you can also use a sabaki rig. Drop one of these over the side of your boat with a sinker and you can quite often catch two or three shad in one go.
Unfortunately, shad will tend to die quickly unless they’re kept in cool well-oxygenated water. One of the easiest ways to accomplish this is to keep them in a catch net alongside the boat or in the shallows of the lake.
It’s best to use a spinning reel and a size 2 hook attached to 10 pounds line. There’s no need to use a sinker or float, as these tend to hinder the shads movements.
Hook the shad through its nose and then lower it into the water to let is swim. Don’t cast it out. Keep feeding the line out as the shad swim away. Once you feel a bite wait a few seconds and then set to hook.
Frogs are an often overlooked bait that can be deadly when used correctly. Take a walk along rural roads on a warm summers evening after it’s been raining and you’ll be tripping over frogs all over the place. Simply put them in a damp pillowcase and you’re all set for some bass fishing.
To use them, put a hook through one of the forelegs as this helps keep the bait healthy and freely swimming. Cast the frog into bass cover and let the from swim to the bottom, as they swim down lookout for a bite. If you fail to get a strike, raise the frog off the bottom to repeat the action. A swimming frog is an eaten frog.