How to Catch Cruising Bass – Clear Water Smallmouth Bass Tactics

how to catch cruising bass

One of the most frustrating things as an angler, is learning how to catch cruising bass you see in the water. Most anglers will tell you if you see a bass, it can’t be caught. This isn’t always the case. There are some key things you can do to get those cruisers to bite. This post will provide you some essential tips to get those fish you detect to chomp. There is nothing more exciting than watching a cruising bass suck down your bait. Hopefully, you can experience that same excitement for yourself by applying these tactics.

How to Catch Cruising Bass in Clear Water

Nothing gets the heart pumping like seeing a bass slurp up your bait. The problem is how difficult it can be to catch those cruising bass you notice. A rule of thumb to remember is if you can see a bass, they can see you. It can be incredibly frustrating to see a fish sitting somewhere on a spawning bed, behind a bush, or cruising around without even getting so much as a sniff on your bait. Learning why bass are cruising, what baits to use, and what to do to entice strikes from the bass you see will help you “Krak” those fosj. Get yourself stoked to read this post to help you catch more of those clear water cruising bass.

Smallmouth Bass Caught Cruising
My personal best smallmouth of 5.05 lbs was caught after seeing him cruising by the boat in shallow water.

Why Bass Start Cruising

Bass will cruise around and be visible for a variety of reasons. You tend to see them cruising around more in the early spring because they are getting ready for the spawn. Bass will often cruise near shallow flats, and secondary points looking for potential good areas to spawn. Other times you will see them close to a spawning bed cruising around waiting for a female. Sometimes they may just be out looking for a meal sitting off a point, or tucked under a bush. Another reason you could spot a bass is because you probably spooked them out. Bass are curious creatures. Oftentimes, they will swim out of their ambush spots to come take a look at what all the commotion is about.

Identifying why you can see the bass in the water is a critical aspect of knowing the likely hood of getting them to bite. Those bass who are out for a cruise in the early spring warming up and looking for a spawning bed, often will take a bait. Also, those fish guarding a nest or sitting close by an ambush point are quite keen to lash out at your lure. Lastly, the bass you’ve spooked out of the cover is definitely the least likely to take your bait. Still though, you can try a few things to increase your odds of catching him.

Best Baits to Catch Cruising Bass

Here are two solid bait set ups which seem to work especially well in clear water to catch cruising bass. The first is a finesse drop shot set up with 100% flourcarbon line. Don’t use anything over 8 lbs. test for your line. Line size is critical especially if you are seeing fish. You don’t want them to spook from identifying your line in the water. The bait of choice on this drop shot set up is a green pumpkin pepper jackall 4.8 flickshake worm. The other epic bait to catch cruising bass is a megabass spark shad swimbait. Line size also plays a role in your set up for fishing a swimbait. 8 lbs. 100% flourocarbon will help you catch those bass you see with the spark shad swimbait.


Best Bait to Catch Cruising Bass
The 4.8 Jackall Flickshake Worm on a drop shot rig is a great bait to catch cruising bass in clear water.



Jackall Flick Shake Worm

The green pumpkin pepper 4.8 Jackall Flick Shake Worm is a lethal bait to catch those cruising bass you see. On one of my recent trips in the early spring this bait produced. I’ve seen several bass and thrown this flick shake in front of them resulting into stokedness. The key to this bait is to fish it on a drop shot rig with light 100% flourcarbon 6lbs test. Use small hooks and light weights to create as little disturbance as possible to the natural presentation of this bait.

Flick Shake Worm Set-Up

Green Pumpkin Pepper 4.8 Jackall Flick Shake Worm
1/8 oz Tungsten Drop Shot Weight
Gamakatsu Size 1 Drop Shot/Split Shot Hook
Spinning Rod & Reel Set Up



Catch Crusing Bass Lure
One of the best lures for catching cruising bass is the Megabass Spark Shad. It has an incredible natural profile and action to get those bass you see to bite.



Megabass Spark Shad

The Real 4.8 Megabass Spark Shad is an awesome swimbait to catch cruising bass. It has an incredibly natural profile and action to get those bass to bite. The Spark shad works well in those areas where you’ve seen fish, but the wind keeps you from fishing the drop shot effectively. Cast out past those cruisers, and swim that swimbait by them. I’ve seen a few of them suck it down. Light line is key too for this bait to be effective. Use 100% 8lbs flourcarbon fishing line on your baitcasting rod and reel, and prepare to get stoked.

Megabass Spark Shad Set Up

Real 4.8 Megabass Spark Shad
1/4 oz. Gamakatsu Swimbait Jig Head


What To Do When You See Cruising Bass

It is super exciting when you see a bass cruising around in the water. The best thing to do is take a deep breath to calm yourself, and then take note of the bass’s body language. There are 4 different styles of cruising bass you might spot. Knowing what type of behavior is going on with the bass you see will help you know how you can get them to bite. Here is a description of those 4 different styles of cruising bass you will come across, and the likelihood of you catching them.

One more thing to keep in mind before you identify the different body languages with the bass you see cruising. Don’t forget to take note of the spots where you see fish. You can usually find a pattern as to what areas they like to hold in, and start targeting those types of places. Whether it’s a certain type of brush, grass, or even different types of banks. When you see a bass consider yourself lucky, because it should give you a huge clue as to where to find them.

The Booker

The booker is the bass you see “Booking” out of cover, or swimming really fast as if it had been spooked. This type of bass can be extremely hard to catch. One good trick is to take note of his location as to where he came from, and get out of the area. After about 20 minutes, go back in the spot on stealth mode. The bass will typically move back into his home, and then you can cast around with one of the baits mentioned above. Watch your line close for the stoking bite!

The Cruiser

The “cruiser” bass is the bass you see swimming steadily along just out cruising at a slow speed. You can tell a cruiser because they aren’t in any hurry to get anywhere. When you see a cruiser bass your percentages for a bite are pretty good. The key is to target your cast way out in front of the direction the bass is heading. Dangle your bait in the spot he is going, and watch your line and bait for the epicness of a strike.

The Sitter

The “sitter” bass is the fish just chilling in one spot. They could be sitting in some cover, or chilling at the bottom of a fanned out nest. Sitters are often high percentage bass to catch. The key to catching the sitter is to not cast directly on top of them. Cast past them, and drag your bait right to where they are sitting. If they don’t bite immediately, pull away from the area and come back. He will still be there, and with a bass’s pee sized brain he won’t remember you from before. Especially, if he doesn’t see you coming the second time.

The Protector

Bass are ambush predators, and the “protector” bass usually will guard is feeding areas, or he may be guarding some babies or eggs on a nest. The protector is the easiest of all bass to catch once you’ve spotted them. Just cast you little drop shot bait as mentioned before past them, and drag it into thier layer. Then get stoked to fight that bass you caught!

Catch Cruising Smallmouth Bass
This 4lbs. Smallmouth bass was caught cruising a shallow sand flat. Made a cast out past him to where he was heading, and he swam down and sucked the bait right up!

How To Entice Strikes & Catch Cruising Bass

Their are a couple things to help you entice strikes from cruising bass. First, don’t make a ton of commotion or make sudden movements. Bass are kings at noticing movement. They can see it with their eyes, and feel it in the water. Second, cast past the bass and bring your bait toward them. Too many times I’ve seen people cast right at the fish, and the splash of the bait on the water spooks the fish off. Third, if at first you don’t succeed try try again. Leaving the area and coming back later is a solid way to help the bass settle down, and be more prone to strike your bait. Sitting in one spot, and milking the area were you saw fish can help you dial in how the bass want the bait presented.

Seeing & Catching Smallmouth Bass
Both of these bass were seen before they were caught. Casting past the bass and not at the bass enabled me to catch this 2 lbs. and 4 lbs. smallmouth.

Catch Cruising Bass In Clear Water Video

Here’s a clip of me out fishing on Lake Mohave catching some giant Smallmouth bass you could see out cruising. Many of the hook ups weren’t caught on film, but hopefully this video will still you give you a taste of the things mentioned here in this post.



Thank you for your support! Please subscribe to my Youtube channel, and my blog to get notifited of any new posts via email. My goal is to help you spend more time catching fish, and less time wondering what to do. Being outdoors with my family has been one of the greatest blessings of my life. It has given me some rock solid memories, and deepened my relationships.

The links in here are affiliate links were you can pick up baits, rod’s, reels, line, and anything else I use to “Krak” those cruising bass. receives a small percentage of the sales through these links. I only use links to baits, and gear I personally trust and know work. The links are here to be helpful for you, and not for the small amount made on the sale of the products. I hope these things can help you “krak” some bass like they have for me.

As Always,

Stay Stoked!!

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