The author with a nice shoal bass and his favorite bait for catching them.

Shoal bass, a popular game fish native to the Southeast., are known for their aggressive nature and strong fighting ability. That, combined with the picturesque habitat in which they are found quickly made them my favorite fish to target after moving to Georgia. Anglers pursuing these unique fish should use lures that mimic their natural prey and trigger their predatory instincts. 

In this article, we’ll explore the five best lures for shoal bass fishing, guaranteed to improve your chances of success on the water.

Natural Diet of the Shoal Bass

It’s important for anglers to understand what the fish they pursue naturally eat, because the best baits will be those that mimic these natural food choices. In the case of shoal bass, these predatory fish have a diverse diet, feeding on a variety of aquatic organisms to support their growth and overall health.

One of the primary components of a shoal bass’s diet is smaller fish, such as minnows, shiners, and other baitfish species. These fish provide a good source of protein and nutrients, helping the shoal bass maintain their energy levels and muscular development. 

In addition to smaller fish, shoal bass also consume aquatic insects, crayfish, and even the occasional amphibian. They are known to feed on various insect larvae, such as caddisflies, mayflies, and stoneflies, which are commonly found in the rivers and streams they inhabit.

Top Baits

With their natural diet in mind, let’s take a look at five types of lures that are effective at attracting big shoalies. 

1. Soft Plastic Swimbaits

My personal favorite baits for shoal bass are soft plastic swimbaits, specifically those that mimic crawdads.  These soft plastic baits offer lifelike swimming action that is hard for shoal bass to resist. Their realistic appearance and natural swimming motion make them an excellent choice for imitating worms, crawdads, lizards, or juvenile game fish.

Tips for success:

  • Choose 3-5 inch swimbaits in shad, bluegill, or other natural baitfish colors.
  • Rig the swimbait on a weighted swimbait hook or jig head to ensure proper swimming action and depth control.
  • Retrieve the lure with a steady, moderate pace, occasionally twitching the rod to impart a more erratic action.

My top pick: 4” Googan Bandito Bug

Product image of the Googan Bandito Bug soft plastic bait.

2. Spinnerbaits

Spinnerbaits are versatile and highly effective lures for shoal bass fishing. Their combination of flash, vibration, and lifelike movement make them irresistible to these aggressive predators. The spinning blades mimic the appearance of small baitfish, while the skirt provides a lifelike swimming action.

Tips for success:

  • Use a 1/4 to 1/2-ounce spinnerbait in natural colors, such as shad or crawfish patterns.
  • Cast along the edges of shoals, drop-offs, and submerged structures, retrieving the lure with a steady, moderate pace.

My top pick: Booyah Blade Spinnerbait

Product image of a Booyah Blade spinner bait.

3. Crankbaits

Crankbaits are designed to imitate baitfish or crawfish, depending on the model, and are ideal for covering large areas of water quickly. Their wobbling action and built-in rattles attract shoal bass from a distance.

Tips for success:

  • Choose shallow to medium-diving crankbaits in natural colors, such as shad, bluegill, or crawfish patterns.
  • Cast parallel to rocky shoals, ledges, and submerged structures, making sure the lure makes contact with the bottom to trigger strikes.

My top pick: Rebel Craw 

Product image of the Rebel Crawl crawdad lure.

4. Topwater Poppers

There is nothing more exciting than a big shoal bass busting a topwater popper. Topwater poppers create surface commotion, imitating wounded baitfish and attracting shoal bass looking for an easy meal. The explosive surface strikes these lures elicit make for exciting and memorable fishing experiences.

Tips for success: 

  • Use a popper in the 2-3 inch size range, with colors that mimic local baitfish or frogs.
  • Fish during low-light conditions, such as early morning, late evening, or overcast days, when shoal bass are more likely to be feeding near the surface.

My top pick: Rebel Pop-R

Product image of the Rebel Pop-R topwater lure.

5. Jigs

Jigs are a time-tested lure for targeting shoal bass, especially when they are holding near the bottom or around submerged structure. The jig’s skirt and soft plastic trailer provide a lifelike crawfish or baitfish imitation, enticing even the most wary bass to strike.

Tips for success:

  • Use a 1/4 to 1/2-ounce jig in natural colors, such as green pumpkin, brown, or black and blue.
  • Pair the jig with a matching soft plastic trailer, such as a craw or creature bait, to enhance the lure’s action and profile.
  • Cast the jig to likely holding spots, such as rocky shoals, ledges, or submerged timber, and retrieve with a combination of hops, drags, and pauses to mimic the natural movements of crawfish or baitfish and trigger strikes from shoal bass.

My top pick: Booyah Boo Jig

Product image of the Booyah Boo bass fishing jig.

Additional Tips for Success

In addition to selecting the right lure, consider these additional tips to increase your chances of success when targeting shoal bass:


Focus on areas with fast-moving water, rocky shoals, and submerged structures, as these are prime habitats for shoal bass. Pay close attention to current breaks, such as those created by rocks or downed trees, where shoal bass often lie in wait for their prey.

Seasonal Patterns

Shoal bass behavior and location can change with the seasons. During the spring, focus on shallow, rocky areas near spawning sites. In the summer and fall, concentrate on deeper ledges, drop-offs, and submerged structures. During the winter, slow down your presentation and fish deeper pools, where shoal bass tend to congregate in colder temperatures.


Vary your lure presentation and retrieve speed to find what works best in a given situation. Shoal bass can be aggressive and willing to chase fast-moving lures, but they can also become more cautious, requiring a slower, more subtle approach to entice bites.

Tackle and Gear

Use a medium to medium-heavy action spinning or baitcasting rod with a fast or extra-fast tip for casting accuracy and sensitivity. Match the rod with a quality reel and spool it with 10-15 pound monofilament or fluorocarbon line, or 20-30 pound braided line for improved casting distance and sensitivity.

Final Thoughts

With these lures and tips in hand, you’ll be well-prepared for an exciting and successful day on the water targeting shoal bass. Remember that fishing conditions can change from day to day, so remain adaptable and be prepared to experiment with different lures and techniques to find what works best in any given situation. Tight lines and happy fishing!

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