Swimbaits for Spring Smallmouth

Smallmouth as a species love to chase baits. That makes swimbaits perfect for chasing bronzebacks, especially during the spring before they start to spawn. 

Since the fall is another primetime for smallmouth, I work backwards from the last place I catch them in the fall and make sure I select the right bait when I prepare for spring smallmouth.

Timing and Location

Location is key and the smallmouth will let you know when you are in the right place . They will often bite as soon as you arrive.

During the spring months I move frequently until I find them and then slow down and fish more thoroughly after I catch one.

Typically smallmouth will begin to move from the flats in late fall and begin to move to steeper banks, channel swings and deep points for the winter.

As the water warms, they begin to migrate back and the deep water next to the flats is usually the first place I find them in the spring. I will follow them up the depths and fish the flats both directly before and after they spawn.

Bait and Gear Selection

There are many different types of swimbaits that will work for smallmouth, but I prefer a boot tail style bait on a jighead. I use these for two reasons; better hookups and the ability to fish deeper water. 

I’ll often start with a ¾-o.z jighead when fishing deeper than 20-ft. and will use a ½-oz. for water between 10- to 20-ft.

As I move shallower a 3/8-oz. seems to be the perfect size and still provides plenty of weight for long casts.

When it comes to the bait itself, I’ll use a 4 or 5” AA's Shad Tail swimbait in a color that matches both the water clarity and forage base.

On lakes with perch, Rags to Riches is my favorite color. If shad or kokanee are present, a Ghost Minnow or Ghost Rider color is my go-to.  I like these baits because they are hand-poured and kick very well with hardly any movement.

I’ll fish the swimbait on a 7’6” heavy Abu Garcia Villain 2.0 with a Revo Premier baitcast reel and 15-lb Seaguar AbrazX fluorocarbon. This is an ideal length rod for long casts and I have found 15-lb test to be the best for casting distance and not losing any strength.


In my opinion, there is no wrong way to fish one of these AA's Shad Tails. The retrieve just depends on the day.  There are times when a fast retrieve mid-water column will work, but most often fishing it right above the bottom. while periodically ticking the rocks and other cover is the best way to catch spring smallmouth.  Retrieve speed is the biggest variable and again depends on the day.

Fishing swimbaits for smallmouth is an excellent way to cover water and catch multiple bass in one area. They are often grouped up tightly and a swimbait will allow you to catch them quickly when they are feeding.