best lures for river fishing bass

Best Lures and Baits for River Fishing Bass – Ultimate Guide

Bass fishing in rivers is a popular and rewarding outdoor activity that can be enjoyed by anglers of all skill levels. Choosing the right lure for river bass fishing is crucial for success, as each location and condition requires a different approach.

This article aims to inform you about what is the best lures and baits for river bass fishing, as well as provide tips and techniques for a successful fishing experience.

Understanding River Bass Fishing

Before diving into the best lures for river bass fishing, it’s essential to understand the differences between types of bass fishing locations and their characteristics. The main types of bass fishing locations are:

  1. Lakes: These large bodies of water often require a combination of lures to attract bass, as fish are usually spread out in various depths and structures.
  2. Rivers: Moving water in rivers can make fishing more challenging, but using specific lures like spinnerbaits, shallow diving crankbaits, and soft plastics can prove successful.
  3. Ponds: Smaller bodies of water like ponds often call for top water lures, frogs, and soft plastics to entice bass hiding in vegetation and shallow areas.
  4. Reservoirs: Bass in reservoirs can be found at various depths and structures, making a wide range of lures necessary for success.

Best Times and Conditions for River Bass Fishing

The most productive times for river bass fishing are during the summer and fall, particularly when water levels are falling. Falling water levels often force bass to move to more predictable locations, making them easier to target with lures.

Ideal locations for river bass fishing include:

  • Backwater areas with reduced flow, which provide bass with a more comfortable environment.
  • Areas with a little bit of current, as bass tend to face the current to spot their prey.
  • Different types of cover depending on the season, such as submerged logs, rocks, or vegetation.
  • Keeping your lure depth less than 5 feet, as bass in rivers are typically found in shallow water.

Top Lures and Baits for River Bass Fishing

Now that you have a better understanding of river bass fishing, let’s dive into the best lures and baits to use.

  1. Soft plastic crawfish: These realistic lures mimic the movement of crawfish, which is a favorite meal for bass. Rigging a soft plastic crawfish on a jig head or Texas rig can be highly effective.
  2. Spinnerbaits: These lures feature a spinning blade that creates flash and vibration, attracting bass from a distance. Spinnerbaits are ideal for fishing around cover and in murky water conditions.
  3. Topwater baits: These lures are designed to float on the water’s surface, mimicking insects, small mammals, or injured baitfish. Topwater baits can trigger explosive strikes from bass and are most effective early in the morning or late in the afternoon.
  4. Buzz baits: Similar to spinnerbaits, buzz baits create noise and commotion on the water’s surface, drawing bass from cover. These lures are best used in low light conditions or when bass are feeding aggressively.
  5. Tube baits: Soft plastic tubes can be rigged with a jig head and bounced along the bottom to imitate crawfish or baitfish. This versatile lure is excellent for fishing around rocks, logs, and other structures.
  6. Crankbaits: These hard-bodied lures feature a diving lip that allows them to dive to specific depths when retrieved. Shallow diving crankbaits are ideal for river bass fishing, as they can be used to target fish in shallow water and around cover.
  7. River jigging: Using 1/4 to 1/8-ounce jigs, or up to 1 ounce in areas of stronger current, can be an effective technique for river bass fishing. Jigs can be tipped with soft plastics or live bait and bounced along the bottom to entice bass.
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Live and Artificial Bait Options

While artificial lures are highly effective, sometimes using live bait can be the key to success in river bass fishing. Some options for live bait include:

  • Small to medium-sized baitfish, such as shiners or minnows.
  • Worms or nightcrawlers.
  • Crawfish, which can be especially effective when they are locally abundant.

Alternatively, a variety of artificial lures can also be used to target river bass, such as:

  • Jigs
  • Plastic worms
  • Swimbaits

By experimenting with different lures and techniques, you can discover the most effective approach for your specific river bass fishing conditions. Whether you’re a seasoned angler or just starting, the joys of river bass fishing await you.

Tips and Techniques for Successful River Bass Fishing

To increase your chances of success in river bass fishing, it’s essential to learn a few key tips and techniques. Here are some suggestions to help you get started:

Learning Freshwater Tackle and Gear

Familiarize yourself with the various types of freshwater tackle and gear, including rods, reels, lines, and lures. Understanding the differences between baitcasting and spinning setups, as well as the advantages of specific line types, will help you make informed decisions when selecting your equipment.

Identifying Key Areas

When fishing in rivers, focus on key areas that are likely to hold bass, such as:

  1. Calm areas with less current, where bass can rest and ambush prey.
  2. Vegetation, which provides cover and attracts baitfish.
  3. Islands or other structures that create breaks in the current.
  4. Merging currents, where two streams or channels come together, creating an area rich in food sources for bass.
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Mastering Specific Techniques

To improve your river bass fishing success, practice and perfect the following techniques:

  1. Bottom bounce: Use a jig or soft plastic bait and bounce it along the bottom, imitating the movement of a crawfish or baitfish. This technique is highly effective around rocks, logs, and other structures where bass hide.
  2. Upstream cast: Cast your lure upstream and allow it to drift with the current, reeling it in slowly. This approach presents a more natural presentation of your lure to the bass, as they typically face upstream to spot prey.
  3. River jigging: Use a jig with a soft plastic or live bait, and bounce it along the bottom with a vertical jigging motion. This technique can be highly effective in areas with strong current or deep water.

Largemouth Bass Baits for River Fishing

When targeting largemouth bass in rivers, it’s crucial to choose the right bait and tactics. Consider the specific fish species, water conditions, and casting/retrieving techniques when selecting your lure. Some popular largemouth bass baits for river fishing include:

  1. Crankbaits: These diving lures are great for targeting bass in shallow water and around cover. Look for shallow diving crankbaits that mimic the local baitfish in size and color.
  2. Topwater poppers: These lures create a popping noise and splash on the water’s surface, attracting bass from a distance. Topwater poppers are most effective early in the morning or late in the afternoon when bass are actively feeding.
  3. Soft plastic worms: Rigged on a Texas or Carolina rig, these lures are versatile and can be used to target bass in various river conditions and structures. Experiment with different colors and sizes to find the most effective combination for your location.
  4. Jigs: Jigs tipped with soft plastic trailers or live bait can be highly effective for river largemouth bass, especially when bounced along the bottom to imitate crawfish or baitfish.
  5. Spinnerbaits: With their flashy blades and vibrating action, spinnerbaits are great for targeting bass in murky water conditions or around cover. Choose a spinnerbait with double Colorado blades for slow-rolling presentations in shallow water.

By considering the specific conditions and bass species, and by practicing various casting and retrieving techniques, you’ll be well on your way to a successful river bass fishing experience.

River Fishing Strategies and Setups

To maximize your chances of success when river fishing for bass, it’s essential to develop effective strategies and use the right gear setups. Here are some suggestions:

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Finding the Warmest Water During Prespawn

In the prespawn period, bass often seek out the warmest water they can find, as this helps speed up the development of their eggs. Focus on shallow areas with dark bottoms that absorb heat, as well as areas near shallow-running warm water inflows.

Combining Moving Baits with Slow Retrieve Speeds

When river bass fishing, try using moving baits like spinnerbaits and crankbaits at slow retrieve speeds, allowing the lure to stay in the strike zone longer. This can help entice sluggish or less aggressive bass to bite.

Focusing on Areas with the Most Heat During Cold Fronts

During cold fronts, bass tend to become less active and seek out warmer water. Target areas with the most heat, such as shallow bays, creek mouths, and areas with dark bottom substrates that absorb sunlight.

Northern Shores of Lakes as Shelter from Cold Winds

When fishing during cold weather, focus on the northern shores of lakes, as they are more likely to be sheltered from cold winds. This can create warmer water conditions and improve your chances of finding active bass.

Specific Gear Setups for Each Lure

Having the right gear setup for each lure can significantly impact your river bass fishing success. Here are some suggestions for specific lures:

  1. Squarebill crankbait: Use a medium-heavy baitcasting rod with a moderate action, paired with a baitcasting reel and 12-15 pound fluorocarbon line.
  2. Bladed jig (Z-Man ChatterBait Jack Hammer): Use a medium-heavy baitcasting rod with a fast action, paired with a baitcasting reel and 15-20 pound fluorocarbon line.
  3. Stick worm (Z-Man Zinkerz): Use a medium-heavy spinning rod with a fast action, paired with a spinning reel and 8-12 pound fluorocarbon line.


In summary, the best lures and baits for river bass fishing include soft plastic crawfish, spinnerbaits, topwater baits, buzz baits, tube baits, crankbaits, jigs, and various live baits. By experimenting with different lures, techniques, and strategies, you can find the most effective approach for your specific river bass fishing conditions.

Remember, practice makes perfect, and the more time you spend on the water, the better you’ll become at identifying productive areas and techniques. So, gear up, get out there, and enjoy the rewarding experience of river bass fishing!