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My Top Smallmouth Lures of 2016


We as anglers enjoy the mental aspect of fishing, almost as much as the physical thrill of a jarring hookset. Placing together the pieces of a puzzle in order to have a successful day on the water can be very rewarding. All of us have those days where every lure tied on gets whacked, but then there are days where we can’t buy a bite. Seasonal fish patterns, bait migration, matching the hatch, water clarity, and weather are all factors that influence a day of fishing. At the end of every year, I evaluate the top producing baits and when they were most successful. This helps me be more mentally prepared for the years to come. This seems to tremendously help my learning curve for the upcoming year. Remembering different scenarios where certain lures triumphed, eliminates the guessing game. Ultimately making it easier to narrow down your selections and lighten your load of lures that you never use. So, without further ado lets jump into my Top 5 Smallmouth Lures of 2016 and why I picked them.


5. 412 Bait Company’s Small Jaw Craw

Available online and in many local kayak shops around the East coast. The Small Jaw craw comes in the 2.75 and 3.75 inch versions. Many things set this craw apart from others on the market. Versatility, durability, color selection, and action are important reasons why it makes my list. There are many ways to fish it, but its right at home behind a jig, be it as a trailer for a swim, football, or any other skirted jig of your choice. My favorite is on the back of a ChatterBait. It also excels on its own, placed on the swivel head jig. It is a fantastic option when dragging the river substrate or pitching the thick lay downs. The unique flapping action when falling or swimming really gets the Smallie’s attention. This bait will catch bronze year round without question. In my experience the smaller 2.75” version is a better match the hatch size in the spring, but don’t discount the 3.75” for the big fish bite. Some of my favored colors are Green Pumpkin, Copperhead, Filthy Pumpkin, and Pumpkin Fireseed, although there is an immense selection to fit your needs.


4. Zoom Super Fluke

Lets be honest it isn’t a secret, anglers across the world fish the Fluke, but it makes my list due to performance. It produces in both quality and quantity when it comes to river smallmouth. It is easy to fish and the action is tantalizing to bronze backs of all shapes. I think it really reigns supreme once the water temps approach the 60 degree mark. I can fish it fast, slow, subsurface, or as a top water bait. The subtle baitfish silhouette makes it a clear water killer. It can be rigged weedless on an EWG 3 or 4/0 hook and fished just about anywhere. I’ll throw it into tree tops or in the slop grass without worry of hanging it up. In open water it can be deadly rigged in the nose with a small mosquito hook. Hookup ratios seem to be higher rigged this way, but you lack the weedless capability. Durability is an issue, but they are very affordable, so I can live with changing baits every few fish. This is predominately a late spring through fall bait for me. It is always tied on in the summer when the fish are more aggressive and in the fall when the fish are actively feeding up for winter. I usually stick to baitfish patterns, colors like whites and silvers, although in overcast conditions, I will throw black with great results.


3. Ned Rig

The Ned Rig is a technique that has really gained monumental attention over the last few years with the introduction on the ZMAN TRD. Essentially a small piece of a senko on a lead head, fished on light line. This technique is relatively simple to fish, and manufactures a ton of bites. It works well on pressured fish and can save a day on the water. Anglers have started to figure out that there are many great baits to fish with this technique. I also have figured out my favorite baits to fish with it. Originally it was fished on a round ball jig head and still is by many. I prefer the 1/8 oz mushroom style head which fits up against the head of the bait well, and snags less.
My go-to baits are usually a tad bigger than some of the standard baits. I prefer a 3.5 or 4 inch bait and it breaks down to forage replication. I’m trying to imitate small crawfish, darters, worms, leeches and my baits are based on that.

My first choice is the 412 Bait Co 3.5” Free Minnow simply because it offers a ton of action. It matches the forage of all the above and it flat out gets bit the best for me. It is a bait that not everyone knows about and the ones that do keep close to the chest. This is almost a do-nothing technique therefore I want my baits to be unique in presentation. The 412 plastic formula consents to an irresistible tail quiver, just waving helplessly on the river’s floor. If their’s hungry smallmouth in the area they’ll be hard pressed not to engulf the free minnow.

Coming in a close second is the ZMAN Hula Stickz. A stick style bait with 4 small tentacles on one end. The Hula Stickz gets the nod for two reasons; its buoyant properties and tough as nails composition. You can catch numerous fish on a single bait without any noticeable damage to the bait. This bait floats upright once settled on the bottom, allowing for another unique presentation that mimics the crayfish’s defensive position. Overall it’s a great natural forage offering. At 4 inches, I feel like it entices the bigger fish. I keep it simple with both baits, selecting natural colors like green pumpkins and browns. I’m fishing these baits year round relying on it to get me a bite when nothing else will.


2. River2Sea Whopper Plopper

In the fishing world there are new, innovative, eye catching lures hitting the market every year. Let me be the first to tell you, they don’t all work, or at least not for me. This is not one of those lures. If you don’t know anything or haven’t heard your buddies talking about the WP then you might want to check it out. I’ve fished a lot of dynamic lures, but this is gonna be one that catches fish for many years to come.

All I can say after a year fishing this lure is “WOW”! If you love top water fishing (who doesn’t) then you need to pick up on of these bad boys. The swiveling propeller on this lure creates the noise it’s named after, “PLOP, PLOP, PLOP” and it’s a noise that even I find alluring. The smallmouth strike this lure violently with clobbering force, generating large boils on the water’s surface. If you’re not paying attention or lose focus you may quickly be scared out of your seat. I love it because it’s a lure anyone can fish efficiently. Cast it as far as you can and retrieve it back to the kayak letting the lure do the work. If you’re on the fence about this lure, or aren’t the type of guy who likes to follow the crowd, I can promise you’re missing the opportunity for bone crashing blow ups alongside multitudes of smallmouth. This lure worked for me from April until November when temps dropped below 50 degrees. Find the top colors at

1. New River Custom Lures Crankbaits

Custom painted hard baits are becoming more and more popular with the fishing community. Be it the fact that anglers want a lure that other anglers don’t have or that isn’t mass produced by the big name companies. Airbrush artists all have their own style and level of craftsmanship, but in my opinion one company sets itself apart from the competition. NRCL get their paint finished in my hometown of Hinton, WV by Bryan Coulter.

This West Virginia native has a number of blank canvas’s, but my favorite is the S Blank. It wobbles through the water column with a distinct hunting action, deflecting off nearby cover ever so effortlessly. Its is built with wide shoulders and tapers off becoming more slender at the butt. This design makes the bait run nose down, almost identically impersonating a fleeing crawfish. Pair that special action with world class artwork and then you know why this is my TOP lure of 2016. If you couldn’t already guess, my favored baits have been branded with one of a kind crawdad patterns. Smallmouth primarily feed with their eyes first, so I want my baits to match the hatch. The closer my baits look to the actually food source, the more likely I’m gonna get bit. The more I get bit, the happier I am. I fish these baits in the spring with alarming results, but they produce 9 months of the year.

This concludes my Top 5 list for 2016. Don’t forget to make your evaluation annually and I promise it will make those tough days a little easier and make those great days even more satisfying. Consider supporting small business lure makers if you can and have a great season in 2017. Tight Lines!!!!