Best Baits for Midwest Bank Fishing (Top 3 List)

best baits for midwest bass bank fishing

Good morning brothers!

Have you ever stopped to think about the baits you would pack to fish from the bank if you had to limit yourself to just your top 3? We could talk to 10 different anglers… and we’d probably get 10 different combinations!

Meme 10 a lot context
I mean 10 x 3 = 30… so this could get nuts…

That said, allow me to share My Top 3 Midwest Bank Fishing Baits… and explain why they made the cut.

Pack ’em up and catch more fish!

1. The Z-Man Goat

Illinois has a lot of warm water areas where I tend to run into my good friend: Mr. Muck.

Mr. Muck is a pain. He stinks. He’s slimy. Everything he touches gets dirty. He makes it hard to fish baits with any sort of exposed hook.


Out of the question.

But my other friend, Mr. Largemouthhe freakin’ loves Mr. Muck.

Follows him around like a lost puppy, actually. Spends a lot of time with him. They’re two peas in a disgusting mucky pod.

early morning suburban pond city fishing bank fishing muck
Mr. Muck is visible. Mr. Largemouth is not… but I assure you, he’s nearby…

Knowing this, selecting a topwater presentation for fishing over and around the muck is a no-brainer. Obviously a lot of anglers would reach for a frog. This is not a bad choice by any means – but it can be somewhat limiting. Frogs are great for pads, muck, and heavy overhead cover – some can be walked in open water – but that can be tricky.

Personally, in these situations I like to fish a Z-Man Goat weightless on a standard KVD Mustad Grip-Pin EWG hook (not the 2X fine wire version). The 4/0 size usually get the nod. They penetrate the bait (and the fish) easily on the hookset, and they’re light – making it easy for the Goat to float. (Cool rhyme bro.)

z-man goat topwater soft plastic minimalist fishing green pumpkin
The Z-Man Goat in green pumpkin is always a solid choice…
z-man goat topwater soft plastic minimalist fishing hot snakes
… and “Hot Snakes” is a combination I like for water with really low visibility.

The versatility of this plastic is really what allows it to outperform the frog:

It can be skipped under overhangs, it can be worked over pads and muck like a frog, or you can cast & retrieve like a buzzbait.

When I’m working from the bank I’ll make a long cast and buzz it back to the outside edge of the muck, then start to work it like a frog, continuing to bring it all the way up to shore. If I come across bushes and laydowns, I won’t hesitate to skip it right into the thick of it. Hookups are rock solid with the single EWG, and even though I’m not using a heavy hook – I have yet to bend out a Mustad Grip-Pin to the point of losing a fish. However, when I notice they’re starting to bend, I swap them out immediately.

Overall, it’s a super versatile bait, and currently my first choice for topwater from the bank.

big illinois largemouth bass snakebite rig bank fishing
Big Illinois largemouth bass from the bank.

Bonus Tip: The Goat is even more effective for kayak fisherman. You can often position yourself better and skip in closer to shore under the best-looking cover without the bass feeling your footsteps and gettin’ spooked. Fire it shallow. If it doesn’t get mauled immediately, work the bait back with twitches or a straight buzzing retrieve.


aj hauser midwest bass minimalist fishing muck bass largemouth
Fat bass from the ‘yak buzzin’ a Goat.

2. Weedless Swim Jigs

Now that we’ve covered the top of the water column, it’s time to move to mid-depth. When you’re fishing from the bank, mid-depth might mean 2 feet deep, or 8 feet deep – it all depends where you’re fishing. Whatever “below the surface” is, that’s what we’re talkin’ about.

As much as I love to throw crankbaits and jerkbaits – neither is really an option when Mr. Muck is around. Jerkbaits in particular are a visual presentation, so they require a certain amount of water clarity to work at their best. But even if you’re fishing an area with muck and clear water (which is not uncommon) the trebles make these baits too sticky.

We need to select a lure that can be fished in both clear and dirty water. It needs to give off thump to help Mr. Largemouth find it – and it needs to be weedless enough that it can be worked around the thick stuff: muck, weeds, laydowns and otherwise.

That’s why my second must-have bait for Midwest bank fishin is a weedless swim jig.

swim jigs swim baits wisconsin minocqua fishing minimalist
A handful of weedless swim jigs to choose from.

I love casting a swim jig out and working it through the semi-clear paths in and around muck. Swim jigs are also great for running along laydowns and underwater tree trunks. The skirt adds bulk, too, which is nice when you want to get the attention of Mrs. Largemouth.

(She’s a pig. I mean, please don’t tell her I said this, but she’s WAY fatter than Mr. Largemouth.)

Pair your favorite swim jig with a Strike King Swim-N-Shiner, and don’t be afraid to work this presentation in both clear and dirty water!

2020 Fishing (Resized for Gallery)
A nice fat bass on a swim jig early in the season (sparse cover).

Finally, let’s talk about #3…

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3. Stickbaits

Since we’ve hit topwater and mid-depth, it’s time to go deep… but wait… why select a bait that can ONLY be fished deep, when you can go with something that can work the entire water column?

When it comes to bass fishing from the bank, this is ‘ol faithful. She’ll never let you down, and if I had to select just ONE of these 3 baits for bank fishing the Midwest – this would be it!

Xcite Baits Xtreme Stix Product Photo stickbait
Stickbaits resemble an easy meal and can be rigged every way you can think of…

You can throw a stickbait on an EWG (weightless) and twitch it over the top of the pads or muck. You can put ’em on a Texas Rig or a shaky head and fish deep. Cut one in half and make a Ned Rig (finesse jig worm), or put together a Carolina Rig and bomb it far from shore. A weightless stickbait with a weedless wacky hook works all over the country and can be thrown into heavy cover – or, if it’s clear water and the fish are spooky, go with a light wire wacky hook and hide your weight by creating a Neko Rig.

Xcite Baits Xtreme Stix Product Photo stickbait
One of my favorite weedless hooks for grass & sparse cover.

The combinations are endless.

Is the stickbait the best bait in every situation?


Is it a must-have item at all times for largemouth bass fishing?


In certain situations the Topwater Goat or the Mid-Depth Swim Jig will catch more fish – bigger fish – but the stickbait is a great option for both novice and pro anglers alike. You really never know what you’re going to catch…

Just Under 4 Pounds Largemouth Bass Illinois Snapping Turtle Pond Wacky Rig
Big fat Illinois largemouth bass on a stickbait below the reeds – right next to shore!

4. One More Important Bank Fishing Tip

Whenever you are making casts from the bank, be very aware of your surroundings! That’s good advice for casting in general, but this is especially the case when you are surrounded by trees, tall grass, bushes, other people, stray cats… anything you could get your bait snagged on.

Example of Stream Bank Erosion
Banks like this are snag city…

I mentioned avoiding treble hooks above. This is because my top 3 bank fishing baits need to be ultra-versatile. You can fish a weedless EWG hook anywhere, but that is not true for treble hooks. By fishing with “hidden hooks,” or weedless hooks, or even single hooks (if they must be exposed) you’ll have a better chance of avoiding snags behind or around you. If a treble even touches a leaf or a root or a reed when you draw back that pole right before launching your cast – you’re looking at a backlash.

Couldn’t you avoid backlashes altogether by fishing exclusively with spinning gear from the bank?

Sure… but that’s a conversation for another day…

If you’d like more tips for catching largemouth bass in the muck, make sure to check out my Muck Base Box, or take a peek at some Bank Fishing for Monster Bass at Snapping Turtle Pond.

Tight Lines & Godspeed, Patriots.

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