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3 PROVEN Tactics for Desert Smallmouth Bass

Some of the best smallmouth bass fishing around me is in the middle of the desert. When people typically talk about smallmouth bass fishing they are talking about those Northern Smallmouth bass of the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence River. In this article, I’m talking about smallmouth bass in lake like Mead, Mohave, and Havasu! I'll discuss 3 proven ways I have found to catch them consistently. These techniques will probably work on those northern smallies as well!

I am going to place a product list down at the end of the article, along with discount codes and affiliate links to help you find any products you may be interested in after reading this article.

1. Jerkbait

For some people that fish the desert lakes regularly, and fish for smallmouth often, they may take for granted how good a jerkbait is for smallmouth. This past January, I was blown away about how good the jerkbait bite was at Lake Havasu. More recently, I went to Lake Mohave in completely different conditions and caught a ton of fish on jerkbaits once again.

One major key is determining what depth jerkbait to use. In January, I was using a deeper diving jerkbait. The 6th Sense Provoke 106DD. This bait gets down a little deeper than the normal 106X. That little bit deeper depth gets the bait close to those cold fish, and can get them motivated to come up and eat the bait. It can also get down to the tops of some of the left over grass that the bass are sitting in that time of year.

However, in my recent trip, I was using the shallower Provoke 106X jerkbait. The water was dramatically warmer and a lot of the fish were post spawn, so the fish were more active and more likely to travel a little further to get the bait, and the jerkbait was also in similar depth ranges of the bass fry swimming around which could also trigger strikes from bass protecting the new fry.

One thing is for sure, after these two experiences I just mentioned, I’m going to have a jerkbait at the ready any time I’m going to the desert lakes.

2. Football Jig

Some of my most consistent tournament quality fish have come on a football jig. The football jig gets bit very well at all the desert lakes - Mead, Mohave, or Havasu. The smallmouth eat a football jig at all three.

Some of your better quality fish can come on a jig. The desert bass eat a lot of crawdads, so a football jig is a must. I like a more compact jig around smallmouth, so I really gravitate to the jigs I make myself with my Do-It Molds. I use a super sharp hook, that doesn’t have an overly thick wire diameter. This is key in the clear water, where you may be downsizing your line a lot.

I have caught football jig fish at Havasu in January, May, and September. I’ve caught football jig fish at Lake Mohave in February, June, and October. I’ve caught football jig fish at Lake Mead in the summer and fall, so as you can see a football jig is a year round bait in the desert.

Small Swimbait

A small swimbait is something I am going to have on my deck at all times when I’m fishing the desert. This small swimbait could be on an underspin, or just a small ball head jig. The size of the swimbait may range from around 2.7" to around 3.5". This finesse swimbait presentation is great to be able to cover water.

The desert lakes are known for having a lot of “dead water”, meaning there are areas where you won’t get bit. These areas can change day by day, so having something finesse, but also something you can cover water with is a must. This bait excels when you're fishing with a little bit of wind, but can also get bit in slack calm water that seems to happen out in the desert as well.

I recommend giving the 6th Sense Divine Swimbaits a try. They have swimbaits in 2.7” all the way up to 4.4”. 6th Sense also offers a small swimbait in the Whale line up as well. The whale is available in 3.0” all the way up to a 4.5”. These swimbaits have completely different profiles so having both can be helpful. I’d stick with natural colors that are as close to matching the hatch as possible.

6th Sense also offers swimbait jigs heads that are the perfect size for those small 2.7” and 3.0” swimbaits. They have finesse swimbait jig heads that range in weights and hook sizes. They have ⅛oz to 5/16oz, and offer 1/0 and 2/0 hook sizes.

I throw these finesse swimbaits on a spinning rod. I typically use a 6th Sense Lux Spinning Rod with a braid to fluorocarbon leader. The fluorocarbon leader is between 6 and 8lb test.

These three proven ways to catch smallmouth bass in the desert are items that get bit year round. And if you want to see some video content from my trips out to these lakes click on the link here:

Products in article


USE DISCOUNT CODE OMLUNA23JUN for June 2023 at Omnia Fishing.


6th Sense Provoke Jerkbaits -

Football Jig Mold - Weedless football Jig w/ Holder -

6th Sense Divine Swimbaits -

6th Sense Whale Swimbaits -


6th Sense Sensory 7’2 Medium -

6th Sense Unicorn 7’3 MH -

6th Sense Lux Spinning -


Seguar Smackdown -

Sunline FC Sniper -

Seaguar InvizX -



Daiwa Tatula LT Spinning -

Shimano Vanford Reel -


Daiwa Tatula SV TW 103 -

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