Live Bait For Smallmouth Bass

Is using live bait for smallmouth bass cheating?  Or is it the best way to insure a great day on the water?

Tournament fishing has spawned an explosion in artificial baits that us anglers feel we have to have to be successful on the water. There is definitely skill and technique that must be learned to fish with artificial baits and this often separates the top anglers in the country.

If you are interested in using live bait or are looking for a new perspective on using live bait, read on.

Live Bait For Smallmouth Bass

I have found that there are a number of fishing guides that use live bait for their fishing trips.  There are several reasons for this:

  • Beginners can fish live bait and be successful – it is not real dependent on technique
  • No treble hooks are needed
  • Long casts are not necessary most of the time
  • Catch rates are higher – guides don’t want clients to get skunked


Here is a portion of a recent article on live bait fishing for smallmouth bass.  Put your comments below to let the world know what you think!

I recall a conversation with Ronald Lindner about live bait.

As in previous conversations, Lindner noted professional bass tournaments do not allow participants to use any live bait. Ron claimed the reason for that is because there are no live bait sponsors shelling out big bucks for the honor of having a banner on the stage during weigh-ins proclaiming “Joe’s Nightcrawlers Are Squirming Their Way to First Place.”

He and brother Al were great devotees of the use of nightcrawlers, leeches, and minnows in the early days of the development of their famous Lindy Rigs (the live bait, slip-sinker setup that turned angling on its head).

And when Al wanted a big bass to film when he and Ron were associated with the old In-Fisherman television show, he would often use water dogs (salamanders) on some of the lakes around his home grounds.

Up until this year I had spent a lot of time wading sections of the Fox River.

The late Buck Squancho and I would have our fly rods strapped in the backs of our fishing vests while we alternately used spinning gear for the river’s mighty smallmouth bass.

And when we couldn’t get live leeches to use as our primary bait, we switched over to the Uncle Josh pork leech. It turned out to be just what the smallies liked for chow.

Of course there were many times when I experimented with nightcrawlers and minnows, especially when I fished the shorelines near the Kimball Street Bridge in Elgin.

One chap came over to me while I was “dunking” some live bait alongside a deadfall tree in South Elgin and asked how big a hook I was using.

The rig was 8-pound mono connected to a 8-pound fluorocarbon leader (for invisibility), a tiny split shot and finally, a No. 8 bleeding-bait hook. It’s as simple as one could get.

I’ll often bring two types of live bait with me in my boat. There is a section in the livewell for minnows, and I sometimes use a large bag-cooler loaded with ice blocks. The bag is where I store the nightcrawlers on hot days.

I’ll also drop a couple pounds of ice into the bait well to keep the little guys and gals happy and fresh.

Artificial baits and minnow imitators are good under the right circumstances. The same is true with plastics as well. But I say, time is of the essence, and if live bait is a confidence-builder, I say go with it.

It’s up to the angler to keep switching until the right trigger creates the opportunity for a fish to stuff its mouth.   Source

There are times when I have had more success fishing with lures for bass while other anglers were fishing with minnows or night crawlers.  It may have been that the bass were going more for a reaction strike as opposed to feeding.

In addition, it is very satisfying to figure out a pattern and get on the bass with artificials.  I think I would be bored out of mind fishing live bait for smallmouth bass because I enjoy casting and reeling, jigging, etc.

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