When you're fishing swimbaits you're fishing some of the most realistic, at least potentially, lures available to bass anglers today.
Real baitfish, such as shiners, shad and creek minnows and other forage like bluegill, crappie, frogs and lizards are never rejected by a bass "because they don't "look or act right". Perhaps a bass is not interested in one forage over another on any given day, just as we don't want pizza every day. However, they will always eat at least one "real" forage type when hungry.
So it's only logical to offer bass lures that look and mimic "real" forage as closely as possible. That's where one very successful lure type, "swimbaits", sometimes swim baits, come in. If you're fishing swimbait lures you're fishing a lure that walks the walk, so to speak. They look and act the part. But is that enough?
If a swimbait isn't the right size, rigged properly so it exhibits realistic action and also presented correctly old 'bucketmouth' or 'smalljaw' may take a good look, but they're likely to pass it by.
What About Swimbait Size?
Mega 8-12" Swimbait Lures
Yes, it's an established fact that large swimbait lures catch large bass. In keeping with this there are some real 10-12" monster soft and hard body swimbaits weighing as much as 8oz or more on the market, designed for catching those giant ten pound plus largemouth brutes found in California, Texas and Florida. But let's be real here, a great many of us don't fish in those states often, if at all.
If you're not expecting to catch a 10-25lb bass when fishing swimbaits don't waste your time and money with a mega swimbait.
Regular 3-7" Swimbait Lures
For purposes of this discussion on swimbaits we'll focus on those bass swimbaits that are the most practical for the rest of us. We're speaking about swimbaits, both hollow and solid, in the 3-6" length. Those which are most suitable for the greatest number of us who fish other than in California, Texas or Florida. Don't think for a minute that a 6-7" swimbait is too small to tempt a 5-10lb largemouth or smallmouth.
If you intend on fishing swimbaits, deciding on a size of swimbait to fish requires first recognizing the maximum size bass you can realistically expect, or should I say hope, to catch where you fish. In most of the country, where the greatest number of us fish and where bass rarely exceed or even get close to that magic 10 pound size (despite our prayers), a swimbait that is 3-6" in length answers the call.
Within this length category fall the group known as "hollow body" or "hollow belly", soft swimbaits and a number that are solid body and "pre-rigged" with interior weights and treble hooks. The hollow body versions closely imitate slender baitfish but what about bluegill, crappie, stocked trout and even small bass? A five, six or seven pound bass will slurp up a 5" or 6" inch trout or bluegill every chance it gets so don't limit yourself to hollow body baitfish imitations. There are some great "solid" swimbaits that are 4-6" long and "ready to fish out of the package".
Hollow Body, Paddle Tail Swimbaits
Correctly Rigging Hollow Body Swimbaits
There are many different styles of hooks for hollow swimbaits. Most are variations on the basic "weighted offset" design. I've used many and most all work well if rigged correctly.
If you're fishing swimbaits, a hollow body swimbait that does not already have a "hook slot", like the YUM Money Minnow does, it's a good idea to cut open its belly in order to create a hook slot. Creating this slot will allow for easy hook insertion and alignment and further prevents damaging the lure's head, as would occur if you pushed the hook and its attached lead weight through the head. This slot also enables better hooksets because it reduces the amount of plastic the hook must penetrate with these thicker, larger plastic fishing baits.
How To Rig A Weighted Hook In Hollow Body Soft Plastic Swimbaits "Without A Hook Slot"
1. With scissors or knife, slice open the bait's belly evenly and down the center line.
2. Next, push the point of your hook through the nose of the bait creating a path for the hook's eye to go through.
3. Take your hook and push its eye through the hole in the bait's head from inside the bait.
4. Place the hook beside the body to determine the correct location through which its point should punch through the body. This will contribute greatly to the lure running true.
5. Push the hook point through the body making sure you are exiting in the center line of the bait. This is very important! If you're off left or right the bait will not run true but leaning on its side and will not appear natural to bass.
6. Skin hook the hook point to make the bait weedless.
Solid Soft Body Swimbaits
Though these "styles" of soft plastic swimbaits are available in longer versions the 5-6" versions are the models that will be used by most of us. They are also heavier than hollow bodies and require a heavier rod/reel combo to fish than hollow body paddle tails.
The swimbait lures shown in the photograph are some I have used with success and pleasure.
The Little Creeper swimbaits on the left above require rigging with an appropriate hook while the Matt Lures Baby Bass on the right comes ready to fish right out of the package with a single dorsal hook.
These baits are effective when you're fishing swimbaits past
laydowns, grass edges, brushpiles or submerged bush.
The bluegill can be dead-sticked on the bottom as it rests nose down as if eating eggs. These lures are also good for swimming "up" or jigging "up and down" sharp breaks on points or the side of flats.
Suggested Tackle - For this category of swimbaits I use a G. Loomis SWBR904C 7'6", medium-heavy, moderate-fast swimbait rod rated for 12-25lb line and swimbaits from 1/2-3oz. I combine this with a Shimano Calctta TE 201DC reel.
Hard Body Swimbaits
The Black Dog Lunker Punker, left above, and the Sebile swimbait shown right are but a few of many brands manufactured. They are shown here simply to illustrate the differences between soft and hard body swimbaits. Hard body swimbaits are sometimes "jointed".
When fishing swimbaits like these, jointed and 5-6" in length, I use both baitcasting and spinning gear I would normally use for equivalent size and weight crankbaits. I've not found a need for a technique specific swimbait rod with these lures.
It would be great if bass were always located relating to bottom structure or cover. Just get your bait down to them in their face and there is a good chance you'll get bit. Unfortunately, this is certainly not always the case as your sonar so clearly and so often illustrates. Bass are to be found high, low and in between in the water column. So, when fishing swimbaits you must adapt your rigging and presentation accordingly.
Number one thing to do is "match the hatch" when swimbait fishing!
Fishing Swimbaits In Shallow Water, 0-15'
Fishing Swimbaits On Points, 10-20'
Fishing Swimbaits In Deep Water, Greater Than 20'
Fishing Swimbaits On Underwater Humps
Fishing Swimbaits On Flats