There are few baits that look as realistic as swimbaits. We often hear talk of what a jig, worm, beaver, or brush hog looks like to a fish and who really knows. But, we all know exactly what the swimbait is imitating. These baits took the bass fishing world by storm on the east coast in the late 90’s and have since gained extreme popularity across the country.
If I am looking for a one hitter quitter big bite, I will have a swimbait tied on. They are not typically a numbers bait and you will have to commit to them like a marriage. You can’t pick up a swimbait and throw it a few cast and say eh’ I never catch anything on swimbaits.
Let me start off by saying I am talking about 5” and up baits. I am not including swimming flukes, grass pigs and other slender minnow style baits. Here in Northeast Texas I have refined my swimbait skills and have spent a lot of time throwing them. There is a fine line between being stubborn and being persistent when throwing a swimbait. I know when I pick it up I am looking for a few big bites per day for the most part.
We will break down the baits I consistently throw into 2 categories. Hard and Soft- (no comments please) LOL
Hard Baits- These can range from Bluegill, Gizzard Shad, Herring, or Threadfin Shad. I own a lot of hard swimbaits and only have confidence in the ones pictured. From left to right and top to bottom- H20 Express- Bluegill, Bull Shad- Gizzard Shad, Reaction Strike- Crappie and 6th Sense Flo Glider- Shad. All of these baits are slow sinkers and have different actions. They all have treble hooks and can’t be thrown into heavy cover like a soft swimbait. I typically use a retrieve only fast enough to get the bait swimming, and will stop the reel a few times per cast. You will often get a big bass to follow the bait and will see it behind it. I try to either let it die motionless in front of the fish, or work it extremely erratically to try and get the fish to commit. These hard style swimbaits are typically $20 and up to $80. So be ready for sticker shock!
When it comes to tackle for hard swimbaits, you had better be packing some big equipment suited for the task at hand. I throw an IROD Jr. Swim that is 7’8” and is rated for 1-4 oz baits. I typically throw these baits on 20-25lb floro based on the cover.
Soft Baits- These are by far the most popular swimbaits on the market today and are much cheaper than their hard plastic cousins. They can be fished in the same areas you would throw a spinnerbait, crankbait or chatterbait. I typically throw 5-7” baits and size depends on the size of forage and size of fish I am after.
From left to right and top to bottom here are the soft swimbaits I normally throw. 6th Sense Core-X 5”, Lake Fork Live Magic Shad, Keitech, Mission Fish, Santone S3 Stroker, Netbait, 6th Sense 7” Core-X and Smashtech Convict 7”. I put a reel next to these baits to show the size of each and give some retrospect to how big they are. I typically throw the Santone S3 Stroker and the 6th sense 5” baits the most. The S3 is a bigger frame and is a hand poured bait that has a natural swimming action. The 6th sense is a more slender profile and has a wider wobble and a hollow body that is more buoyant. The bigger 7” models are what I reach for when I am really in trophy mode and looking for a big prespawner or summer time fish on offshore structure. I normally reel these just fast enough to get the tail action I want. However a rip stop or reel-reel-stop method can also produce some bone jarring strikes.
When it comes to tackle for soft swimbaits it will vary slightly from the hard swimbait gear. I throw most of these on an IROD Fred’s Magic Stick that is 7’5” and can handle a bait up to 2 oz. I typically throw them on 17-20lb Floro. I am not a huge fan of braid to flor combinations especially for swimbaits that the fish typically follow before they strike.
Terminal Tackle- Here are the nuts and bolts for options you have for soft swimbaits. From top to bottom. Hard head screw lock, Santone S3 Stroker Head, Owner Belly weighted swimbait hook and last is an Owner Beast 10/0. Each of these has a specific use in my opinion. I will always opt for an exposed hook if I can get away with it. If not, I like the S3 Stroker head because it is weedless and very streamlined. The owner belly weighted hook is a tried and true stand by for hollow body swimbaits. The Beast hook is used for my 7” soft swimbaits like the 6th Sense Core-X and the Smashtech Convict.
We can talk swimbaits all day long and it won’t help you until you have confidence to throw it. You can watch Brent Ehrler win the 2015 TTBC on Lake Fork throwing and exposed hook 6” hollow body swimbait. He caught a 10.11lb SLAWNCH bass that won him a brand new Toyota Tundra.
Next time your on the lake, put down your square bill or topwater and pick up a swimbait- you just might catch the biggest fish of your life.
Story and images by Shane Smith