I can remember a time, not too long ago when the thought of a swimbait had no appeal to me. Even as anglers, especially on the west coast, were weighing in large stringers on bass the idea just never struck me. I guess, at the time, I had considered it a West Coast tactic best utilized when chasing the next world record, or at least, double-digit largemouth bass. Swimbaits, to me, seemed gimmicky and highly situational. Fast forward to the year 2020, when all else in this world has been “wonky”, and you will rarely see me in my boat without some sort of soft swimbait ready to go. More likely than not you will see 2-3 on my deck at any given moment. So, to kick off this series, I am going to give you three reasons why YOU should be using soft swimbaits.
Swimbaits are not just for trophy bass (though they do increase your odds)!
What I failed to realize a few years ago was the versatility of a swimbait. Sure, at that time, most of your quality swimmers were a minimum of 4-5 inches and were likely hand-poured in some West Coast garage. But, now with today's technology, most major soft plastic brands are producing high-quality baits for a lower cost and can manufacture them in a vast range of sizes! My preferred poison is a Strike King Rage Swimmer, and that bait alone is offered anywhere from 2.75 inches up to a large 5.75-inch version.
What this allows for is the ability to match a realistic lure offering to your exact conditions, whether that be species of bass you are targeting, the baitfish, the activity level of the fish, and so on. For example, when I know that I will be around larger than normal largemouth bass, I tend to opt for the 4.75 or 5.75 sizes. It still gets attacked by the occasional dinker, but by and large, it offers me a higher probability of showing mama a nutritious meal worth using her energy to come get. On the other hand, when targeting Spotted Bass or even Northern Smallmouth, you can rig a 3.25 or 3.75 on a smaller jig head and absolutely wreak havoc on them with spinning gear. The smaller size absolutely comes into play for me this time of year when it’s hot, the bass have become finnicky, and I need to downsize to a more finessed presentation.
Swimbaits are the new spinnerbait!
“Ah, but swimbaits are for mopping up the larger fish in an area once they’ve been located!”
Not so fast my friend! I have come to absolutely adore the 4.25 sized Rage Swimmer rigged weedless on an Owner Flashy hook. The beauty of this rig when fishing shallow is that I can put it in the same places (or MORE places) as my spinnerbait and show the fish and slightly more decadent offering while still covering water. Unlike a spinnerbait, this rig casts and SKIPS well allowing me to place it deep under docks, under overhanging bushes, and in or around thick cover while keeping snags to a minimum.
When fishing shallow I like to keep my retrieve slow and steady while keeping my rod tip up and the bait within the first couple feet of the water column. And, I’ve come to learn, that even if the fish aren’t fully committing to the bait, they will at the very least reveal themselves by swiping at or following the bait. This is when I will make a follow up cast and let the bait get a little deeper, or I will return fire with something like a Texas rigged worm or a stick bait. Either way, swimbaits are a very valid replacement for other shallow water search lures and could possibly be the difference you need to stand out from everyone else.
The Filet Mignon of the Sea (erm, lake).
The biggest factor as to why swimbaits are so successful and eliciting larger fish is the baits realistic and enticing profile. With all the baits that catch our eye when we are dropping bucks and filling our tackle boxes, the swimbait is simply designed to look exactly what fish like to eat. That being, other fish. Whether the local forage may be shad, shiners, perch, bluegill, herring, or any other swimmy critter; the swimbait is there to mimic just that.
My most common way to rig my swimbait when targeting more spot-oriented fish, especially in deeper water, is on a standard 3/8 to ¾ ounce swimbait head. Unlike a deep crankbait that’s going to run at a specified depth, this allows me to fish to depths of 20, 30, 40 feet or deeper and keep that bait where I want it. It allows me to target fish that are feeding on the bottom on ledges by slow-rolling the bait at just steady enough of a clip to kick up dust, to target fish suspended in standing timber or over other offshore structure, or to cast to schooling bass that are feeding on the surface.
I say all this to ask, do not be like me. There is no telling how many good days on the water I forfeited just because I “didn’t really like swimbaits”. I have come to learn that they are fun, efficient, and most of all they are effective!