UPCOMING EVENT: PHOENIX BASS FISHING LEAGUE - 2020 - Sam Rayburn Reservoir

Fishing 101: Soft-Plastic Swimbaits

Fishing 101: Soft-Plastic Swimbaits
Swimbaits

Swimbaits have progressed through the years.

In the old days, there was the Mister Twister Sassy Shad and a handful of others. Then bass anglers enjoyed a swimbait renaissance of sorts that began with Western hawg hunters chucking jumbo baits for double-digit-sized fish. The effectiveness of the swimbait to get big bites soon trickled down from the trophy hunters to the trophy earners – i.e., tournament anglers – who rediscovered old swimbaits and adapted new ones to the business of catching five keeper bass a day.

While all swimbaits accomplish the same thing – imitating a prey fish swimming through the water – there are now hundreds of baits from which to choose, and there are models for tackling just about any scenario.

Your first step in learning to be a better swimbait angler is to understand the categories of swimbaits on the market and some ways in which to rig them.

For the soft-plastic variety of swimbaits, this guide will get you started.


Part I: The Categories

It’s very challenging to categorize swimbaits because there’s so much variation in each category. For instance, two swimbaits might share identical design characteristics, but one might be triple the size of the other. Thus, their uses vary tremendously.

What follows is a very generalized list of categories, with further explanation provided for each.

 

Hollow Paddle Tail Swimbaits

Hollow Paddle Tail Swimbaits

Examples: Basstrix Swim Bait, Strike King Shadalicious, Yum Money Minnow, 6th Sense Core X Swimbaits

Key design features: hollow body, round paddle tail hangs below the body, narrow rear section, round head with realistic eyes, many colors available

Size range: 3 to 8 inches

Best uses: They work just about everywhere, though they aren’t ideal trailers on swim jigs and ChatterBaits because there’s no “meat” in the hollow center for holding them in place. Fish them around grass, under docks, on ledges, for schoolers, on the surface or simply for covering water just about any time of year.

Rigging variations:

Holllow swimbait rigging variations

Rigging keys: Make sure it’s straight on the hook, and match the weight to the speed and depth of retrieve. Jigheads are best for open water and slow-rolling presentations. In grass, use a weedless wide-gap hook. Some models require a belly weight to serve as a “keel” for proper swimming action.

More info: Jay Yelas used the Basstrix to win the 2007 Walmart FLW Tour Angler of the Year title, which ignited – or perhaps, more accurately, publicized – the swimbait craze among tournament anglers. More recently, hollow swimbaits up to 7 or 8 inches in length have become popular for summer ledge fishing. This is a workhorse swimbait category. Hollow paddle tails can literally do anything you want a swimbait to do. Because they’re hollow with thin walls, hook-up ratios are usually pretty high.

 

Solid Paddle Tail Swimbaits

Solid Paddle Tail Swimbaits

Examples: Gambler EZ Swimmer, Gene Larew Sweet Swimmer, Keitech Swing Impact, Reaction Innovations Skinny Dipper, Little Creeper All American Trash Fish, Scottsboro Tackle Company Swimbait, Big Hammer Swimbait, Z-Man DieZel MinnowZ, Yamamoto Swimbait

Key design features: solid body, paddle- or boot-shaped tail usually hanging beneath the body, round or pointed head on some models, flat “face” on some models to fit with a jighead, narrow body on most baits for snaking through cover, wide range of realism, hook slots on some models prevent snags and increase hookup ratio 

Size range: 2 to 9 inches

Best uses: You name it, and this category has it covered thanks to the incredible number of swimbaits that fall under its umbrella. They can be fished deep or shallow, through grass or wood, skipped under docks, or on an umbrella rig. Some can be waked on the surface.

Rigging variations:

Solid Paddle Tail Swimbaits Rigging Variations

Other rigging options: open jighead, weightless for waking, weedless with a weighted hook, umbrella rig, under-spin trailer, ChatterBait trailer

Rigging keys: Choose a hook that reaches back into the body, but not into the part of the tail that actually “swims.” Jigheads work best for open water and umbrella rigs. When using weighted hooks, adjust the weight to fish the bait anywhere from the surface to double-digit depths.

More info: There are a lot of subcategories within the solid-body category. For instance, the Skinny Dipper and EZ Swimmer are great “grass swimbaits.” The ribbed Keitech has a very thin tail and paddle, for plenty of action even at the slowest retrieve speed. Scottsboro’s swimbaits are popular for ledge fishing, and the larger sizes bridge the gap between “standard” and “jumbo,” making them perfect for Eastern big-bass haunts such as Lake Guntersville. The Trash Fish is another great clear-water bait because of its natural appearance and subtle swimming motion. Basic swimbait “tails” such as the Sweet Swimmer, Big Hammer and DieZel MinnowZ have very little detail and flat faces for fitting them to the back of a jighead. A dab of Super Glue locks the two together.

More Rigging Tips:

Bring Super Glue: A dab of Super Glue helps to secure a swimbait to the jighead.

Trim the tip: If your jighead has a flat surface on the back of its head, trim just a tiny bit off the front of the swimbait to create a matching flat surface for a better connection. Super Glue seals the deal.

Don’t fear football heads: Though not commonly sold for swimbaits, a football head will often crawl over and through rock better than a more streamlined head. A Keitech Swing Impact FAT or other small swimbait can be great for grubbing the bottom with a football head.

 

Line-Thru Swimbaits

Line Through Swimbait

Examples: Predator Swimbait Company Line Through, Optimum Baby Line Thru, Top Shelf Original, Castaic Baits Catch22

Key design features: belly hook connects directly to fishing line, tube for passing line through the body, paddle tail on many models, V-shaped or flat tails on some jointed and ultra-realistic models, some have wider bodies

Size range: 3 to 10 inches

Best uses: The line-thru feature was designed to improve hook-up ratios when using medium to large swimbaits. How it works: The line passes through the bait’s body and is tied directly to a belly hook on the underside. The hook comes free on the hookset, and the angler can battle directly with the fish. Traditionally, line-thru swimbaits have been used for shallow to mid-depth fishing and for targeting trophy bass, though smaller versions are available, and specialty designs allow for fishing in deeper water. Avoid grass where the exposed belly hook can snag.

Rigging keys: There’s not much to it, though you might consider a specialty treble hook with four points, or one designed specifically for a line-thru.

More info: Because the line-thru is pre-weighted, it’s really a simple swimbait to use. It shines when big bass are prowling the shallows. Use it for skipping docks or for general search duties in clear fisheries. Some of the smaller sizes are perfect for targeting schooling bass in open water. Schoolers tend to swipe or bash a bait, and the treble hook could improve your hook-up ratio in that scenario.

 

Top-Hook Swimbaits

Top-Hook Swimbaits

Examples: Huddleston Deluxe 68 Special, Osprey Tournament Talon Top Hook, Mattlures Ultimate Bluegill, LIVETARGET Goby Paddle Tail, Storm WildEye series

Key design features: single top hook, internal weight, wedge and paddle tailsoptional bottom hook hanger on some models, realistic profiles and finishes

Size range: 4 to 14 inches

Best uses: As this category grows, so does the number of uses. Traditionally, top-hook swimbaits have been big-bass seekers designed to be reeled at slow speeds where the hawgs live. They come through cover OK, but aren’t ideal for heavy grass or brush.

Rigging variations:

Top-Hook Swimbaits Rigging Variations

Rigging keys: Fish each bait straight out of the package if you like, though be sure to choose a model with a sink rate or depth rating that matches the target area. Otherwise, there are dozens of ways to customize top-hook swimbaits, ranging from adding hooks to shaving tails for more action to custom paint jobs.

More info: No self-respecting bass angler should be without at least one or two big top-hook swimbaits. If you’re having trouble making the jump to the jumbo models, get one in the 5- to 7-inch range. Also, if you’re having trouble hooking up with a top-hook model, and the cover allows it, there are several swimbaits on the market that swim and look just like the ones listed here, but come pre-rigged with a treble hook on the belly.


Fringe Swimbait Categories

Swimbaits aren’t limited to the categories listed above. There are plenty of specialty models and oddball creations. A few examples:

  • Castaic Baits Platinum Naturals Series – Each has a jointed body such as is common on hard-plastic swimbaits, but they’re soft. Species covered include bream, bass and shad. They’re big baits, too.
  • Huddleston Deluxe Weedless Shad – With the popular Huddleston vortex tail, but in a smaller weedless package featuring a sheathed hook, this pre-rigged bait was made to swim through cover.
  • Jerry Rago Live Trout Soft Bait – It’s a soft-plastic swimbait with a hard-plastic lip that helps provide the action and depth control.  
  • Jackall Swimming Ninja Swimbait – This realistic swimbait is built like a top-hook, but has a pair of belly treble hooks.
  • Yamamoto Swimming Senko – Technically, it’s a solid paddle-tail swimbait, but it looks more like a Senko and a swimming tail stuck together. The length of the body allows it to “clear” the skirt of a ChatterBait for a cool swimming combo.

Part II: 6 Must-Use Swimbait Rigs

 

 

1.The Grass Rig

  • Gambler Big EZ
  • 1/8-ounce bullet sinker, pegged
  • 7/0 wide-gap swimbait hook
  • optional punch skirt

Val Osinski adds a skirt to his swimbait to attract more bites.

 

2.The Ledge Rig

  • 6-inch Scottsboro Tackle Company Swimbait
  • 3/4-ounce, 6/0 Revenge Swimbait Hedz XL

6-inch Scottsboro Tackle Company Swimbait

 

3.The Dock Rig

  • 3:16 Minnow
  • 7/0 Gamakatsu EWG Monster Hook

3:16 Minnow

 

4.The Hawg-Hunter Rig

  • Huddleston Deluxe 68 Special
  • Owner Stinger Harness Rig (optional, not shown)

Huddleston Deluxe 68 Special

 

5.The Schooler Rig

  • 3.8-inch Keitech Swing Impact FAT
  • 1/2-ounce jighead

3.8-inch Keitech Swing Impact FAT

 

6.The Do-All Rig

  • 4 1/2-inch Strike King Shadalicious
  • 3/32-ounce, 5/0 wide-gap swimbait hook

4 1/2-inch Strike King Shadalicious

 


Part III: More Advice

Randy Haynes was having a slow start to day two. After sitting in seventh on day one, he doesn't want to come up short for the top 20 cut.

Size – Three factors should influence size choice: 1. Forage size – Try to mimic what’s naturally available in the system; 2. Bass size – At a big-bass fishery, throw a big bait, or vice versa; 3. The bite – If fishing is tough, try downsizing swimbaits.

Profile – Length isn’t the only important dimension. A swimbait’s girth, thickness and resulting profile also should be considered.

Color – Shad patterns are most popular and they certainly work, especially where bass are feeding on shad. Semi-translucent swimbaits work great in clear water. Some glitter or a little shiny paint adds the effect of scales. In the shallows, try green pumpkin or combinations of green, brown, purple and orange – the colors of bream. Also, pure white and pure black can show up in the depths or in murky water. And consider chartreuse if matching a ChatterBait or spinnerbait skirt.

Speed and action – Pay attention to how a swimbait looks when reeled at various speeds. Some baits don’t swim well at extremely slow speeds. Others roll or blow out at high speeds. Weight and rigging also affect a swimbait’s action, so if it looks a little funky at first, you might simply need to reduce or increase the weight or try a hook of a different size.

Tail and body movement – Some of the big trout imitators have very subtle action. Their tails swim side to side, but their bodies have little movement. The intent is to produce an extremely natural bait imposter in clear water. Other swimbaits have more aggressive tail movements, while some baits’ bodies roll and sway. It’s tough to say which action style is best, but if you think fish are more aggressive, try one with more action. If conditions are tough or the water is very clear, a more subtle swimbait might be better.

Hookset – Mastering a swimbait hookset can take some practice. The key is to wait to set the hook until the line has gone taut. When a fish hits, keep reeling until you feel pressure, then sweep-set.


Part IV: Equipment

Swimbait Equipment

Rods – Jumbo swimbaits require specialty rods that rate as heavy or extra-heavy power, but with a moderate action that makes casting big baits easier. Most are 7 feet, 10 inches or so in length. The more common middle ground swimbaits can usually be fished on your favorite jig, Rat-L-Trap or all-purpose junk/light flipping rod – something in the neighborhood a 7-foot, 3-inch to 7-foot, 6-inch, medium-heavy or heavy rod with a moderate to fast action. Smaller swimbaits might need to be thrown on spinning rods or a lighter casting model. No matter which rod you use, if you choose to fish with low-stretch braided line, error toward a more moderate rod with some “give” to counteract the line’s lack of it. And if you’ll be driving a wide-gap hook through a swimbait body, a heavy-power rod is a good choice.

Reels – Jumbo baits require specialized reels. Many anglers prefer traditional round-bodied reels to low-profile models. These big metal-framed jobs have heavy “guts” and hold a ton of heavy line. For everything else, stick with a low-profile baitcaster with about a 6.3:1 mid-range retrieve speed.

Line – Fluorocarbon is the most popular line choice for swimbaits. Use the heaviest you can get away with based on water clarity. Usually, 12- to 17-pound test will work for mid-sized swimbaits. For jumbo baits, some anglers use 20- to 25-pound-test fluorocarbon or monofilament. Others prefer 50- to 65-pound-test braid with a clear leader of fluoro or mono.

 

Tags: swimbaits  curtis-niedermier  article 

Clear Lake Midday Update – Day 2

Clear Lake Midday Update – Day 2

The second day of the Toyota Series Western Division event on Clear Lake began with slightly cooler weather, but it has turned into a beautiful day here in the Golden State. READ MORE »

Clear Lake Midday Update – Day 1

Clear Lake Midday Update – Day 1

The first day of the Toyota Series Western Division event on Clear Lake started with calm conditions and pleasant weather. Some of the anglers surveyed today were struggling to get bites and others seem to have the fishing dialed in. It appears to be feast or famine so far, but there will be some solid bags crossing the stage starting at 3 p.m. PT this afternoon. READ MORE »

TITLE Coming to the Mississippi

TITLE Coming to the Mississippi

FLW and Explore La Crosse announced Thursday that the 2021 Tackle Warehouse TITLE, the Pro Circuit Championship, will be held Aug. 17-22, 2021, on the Mississippi River in La Crosse, Wisconsin. Although FLW’s top championship has been held on the Mississippi River once before – in Moline, Illinois in 1998 – this event marks the first time that FLW has hosted its premier event in La Crosse. READ MORE »

Fish Northern Rivers for Smallmouth

Fish Northern Rivers for Smallmouth

From the Mississippi River to the Peshtigo River, Wisconsin and the surrounding region has miles of flowing water chock full of smallmouth bass. In the recent Tackle Warehouse TITLE presented by Toyota, Matt Stefan targeted rivers flowing into Green Bay for the majority of his catch, and in doing so, he was able to tap into a skillset that he’s groomed for years on the Wisconsin River and other flowages near him. READ MORE »

2021 Toyota Series Championship Hits Pickwick

2021 Toyota Series Championship Hits Pickwick

FLW and the Hardin County Convention & Visitors Bureau announced Wednesday that Counce, Tennessee, will host the prestigious 2021 Toyota Series Championship, Oct. 28-30, 2021, on Pickwick Lake. READ MORE »

Annual Bass Fishing Hall of Fame Auction Goes Digital

Annual Bass Fishing Hall of Fame Auction Goes Digital

The Bass Fishing Hall of Fame is excited to announce its first Digital Hall of Fame Week, which will be anchored by a massive online auction offering up an incredible selection of fishing-related items not available elsewhere. READ MORE »

2021 All-American Heads to Douglas

2021 All-American Heads to Douglas

FLW announced Tuesday that the 38th annual Phoenix Bass Fishing League All-American will be held on Tennessee’s Douglas Lake in 2021. READ MORE »

2021 National Championship set for Grand

2021 National Championship set for Grand

FLW announced Monday that the 12th annual Abu Garcia College Fishing presented by YETI National Championship will be held on Oklahoma’s Grand Lake O’ the Cherokees in 2021. The tournament, slated for March 3-5, showcases the nation’s best collegiate anglers and awards the winners a $33,500 prize package, including a new Phoenix 518 Pro bass boat with a 115-horsepower Mercury outboard and automatic entry into the 2021 Toyota Series Championship where they will compete for a top prize of up to $235,000. READ MORE »

Dardanelle Midday Update – Day 3

Dardanelle Midday Update – Day 3

Championship Saturday of the Toyota Series Plains Division opener at Lake Dardanelle presented by Fish-Intel followed its pattern of the week with anglers failing to capitalize on sparse opportunities. READ MORE »

Detroit River Midday Update – Day 3

Detroit River Midday Update – Day 3

With the wind laying down a bit, the top 10 anglers in the Toyota Series Northern Division event on the Detroit River have been able to go wherever they pleased today. With crisp morning temperatures, plenty of sun and a north wind, the conditions have largely been quite good, with mixed results from the anglers. READ MORE »

Dardanelle Midday Update – Day 2

Dardanelle Midday Update – Day 2

Anglers said Thursday that current didn’t matter during the first round of the Toyota Series Plains Division opener presented by Fish-Intel at Lake Dardanelle, but apparently it matters more than they thought. READ MORE »

Detroit River Midday Update – Day 2

Detroit River Midday Update – Day 2

With strong wind from the north again, the Toyota Series Northern Division field was again confined to the actual Detroit River. On day one, the fishing was quite good, and several pros crossed the 20-pound mark and plenty of limits hit the scales. Today, things seem a little tougher. READ MORE »

Tommy Skarlis, 1965-2020

Tommy Skarlis, 1965-2020

FLW learned today that former FLW Walleye pro Tommy Skarlis of Denver, Iowa, passed away after a battle with brain cancer. He was 55. READ MORE »

Smith Wins Southeastern AOY

Smith Wins Southeastern AOY

Originally from Wisconsin and sometimes wearing a Green Bay Packers hoodie on stage, Dustin Smith doesn’t fit the mold of Toyota Series Southeastern Division Strike King Angler of the Year. Still, Smith hammered out a pair of top 10s and a 27th-place showing en route to the title, and his style of fishing was simply perfect for this season in the Southeastern Division. READ MORE »

Potomac Midday Update – Day 3

Potomac Midday Update – Day 3

Clouds have lingered throughout the morning, which most of the top 10 were thankful for as the bite has been better than it was during practice when conditions were calm and sunny. READ MORE »

Potomac Midday Update – Day 2

Potomac Midday Update – Day 2

Clouds once again greeted the field for day two of the Toyota Series Eastern Division event on the Potomac River and the fish were biting this morning. With low tide this morning around 8:40 a.m. ET – about an hour and a half later than yesterday – more anglers had time to capitalize on the strong bite revolving around that window today. READ MORE »

Potomac Midday Update – Day 1

Potomac Midday Update – Day 1

It was a gloomy start to the first day of competition for the Toyota Series Eastern Division event on the Potomac River, and though it seems like a fishy day, so far the fish don’t seem to think so. READ MORE »

2021 Tackle Warehouse Pro Circuit Schedule

2021 Tackle Warehouse Pro Circuit Schedule

The 26th season of FLW’s top professional circuit will feature six regular-season tournaments showcasing the best 150 anglers in the world competing for as much as $135,000 in a five-biggest-fish format on top bass fisheries at peak times. The 2020 season culminates in the Tackle Warehouse Pro Circuit TITLE presented by Toyota, where the top 50 pros will compete for as much as $235,000 in a catch, weigh, immediate-release format. READ MORE »

Wheeler's Wheelhouse

Wheeler's Wheelhouse

The past 20 months of Jacob Wheeler’s fishing career have been nothing less than incredible. In 2020 alone, the MLF pro notched a Bass Pro Tour win on Lake Eufaula, an FLW Toyota Series victory on Pickwick Lake, and dominated the first-ever FLW Tackle Warehouse Pro Circuit Super Tournament on Lake Chickamauga. READ MORE »

Ft. Gibson Midday Update – Day 3

Ft. Gibson Midday Update – Day 3

Cameron Foster began the final day of the 2020 FLW Toyota Series Southwest Division event at Fort Gibson Lake with an 11-pound lead. By 8:00 a.m., Foster had returned to the honey hole that brought him to pole position with $27,070 on the line for crossing the finish line. Thanks to a hot, early bite, Foster is now nursing a four fish total with at least one 4-pounder in the boat. READ MORE »