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Okay guys, here goes....I have started fishin the swim baits as of last year. Had little to no success..only one 7 lber up in Boulder Creek from my float tube. Not bad considering, but the fact that I had gone out multiple times and that was the ONLY fish I caught on a lure the size of my forearm, I think somethin is wrong. My main concern is this: What type of rod, reel, line setup would be best suited for throwing these baits? How are they casted effectively? Underhand pitching to try and delicately lay them on the water? Overhand where you snap your pole on the backcast and the lure does a cannonball splash? Im totally new at this whole swimbait thing. Funny thing is, I tried over the summer on the rim to catch a few gay bass the size of the lure im throwing now. Ironic. Anyways...any input from some seasoned veterans of swimbait presentation and rig setup help would be appreciated. Thanks in advance!!!

Good Article

Swimbait Basics

There are a bunch of ways/times/situations to fish a swimbait and although I am not an expert at them all, I have done it enough and have talked with quite a few of the leading experts to be able to discuss quit a few of them. First off, there really is not "one" bait that will be right for all situations. Just like all other baits, some are made for the surface, some are made for the upper water column, some are mid-range baits, while others are for the deep. Likewise, some are good for slow retrieves and other are good for fast retrieves.

This article will cover the aspects mentioned above along with the equipment one needs in order to fish these oversized pieces of plastic that resemble a trout many people take home and eat rather than a fishing lure.

Baits to use vs. Depth Fishing

Lets start out with discussing which baits are right for what depth. Surface first. The best surface baits are ones that have "little or no" internal weight in them. Of course, if a fast retrieve on the surface is required, a heavily weighted bait can be used too. For mid-range depths, a moderate to heavily weighted bait is best. Then, for deep water, a heavily weighted bait is in order.

To close the topic of depth out, I must also add that the baits with little or no internal weight can also be allowed to sink before the retrieve is started. Of course, bait with no weight must have some weight added to them in order to do this. The best way of which is to get lead wire used for steelhead fishing and insert these sections internally into the head/body of the bait. Listed below is a good reference as to "what" baits are best for certain depths.

Surface (top down to a couple of feet)

The Rago Generic Trout (wood), the Whitmer/Rago 3-D Generic Swimbait, Castaic Trout, the MS Slammer, Osprey, the Mission Fish (the sidewinder), and Castaic Wood Baits (if you can find them).

Mid-Range (10-15 feet)

Whitmer/Rago 3-D Generic Swimbait, Optimum, BassTrix, Castaic Swimbait, and Mission Fish.

Deep (15 to 35 feet)

Whitmer/Rago 3-D Generic Swimbait, Optimum, BassTrix, Castaic Swimbait,and Mission Fish.

The baits above are well suited for the depths stated assuming you are just casting and retrieving with little or no waiting before you start the retrieve. Of course, in order to get anything down to 15-35 feet, you will have to wait for it to sink and the baits listed in the mid to deep ranges offer the fastest sink rate without modifying the baits. Again, if you like a certain bait that is intended or best suited for the surface, you can always weight it.

Bait Selection with respect to Retrieve Rate

Not all of the baits mentioned above are well suited for "all" retrieve speeds. For example, the heavily weighted BassTrix and Optimum's are best suited for a medium to fast retrieve in order to make the tail work properly. The Osprey, a surface bait, is not a good bait for a medium to fast retrieve due to the fact it will roll on its side. The Mission Fish Sidewinder is good for a slow to medium retrieve but will roll if retrieved too fast. The two baits that are good for all retrieves are the Whitmer/Rago 3-D Generic Swimbait and the Standard Mission Fish with the boot tail.

Patterns and Methods for Fishing Swimbaits

Swimbaits are more versatile than most people think. If I had to classify them with any other bait in an anglers arsenal, it would have to be the spinnerbait. The spinnerbait can be fished on the surface, mid-range, and deep water depending on the size of the head, blade configuration, and retrieve rate. Swimbaits are much the same way. Because of this, there can be as many patterns/methods for using them as with the spinnerbait.

To cut to the chase, the best "methodology" for using them is a surface to bottom approach. Due to the fact that most large bass use primary points as their main ambush points on lakes and rivers, they are the main target for swimbaits. The standard technique for fishing these main points is to stop the boat 50 or more yards off the point and start fan casting the point with the bait from deep water. From 50 yards out, you can hit the bank with one of these baits assuming you have the right rod and reel. The reason you start with the boat in deep water is you do not want to spook any fish that are on the bank at first. Cast the lure out towards the bank and use a steady retrieve on or near the surface all the way back to the boat. It doesn't matter if you are in 90 feet of water either. Because of the size of the bait, it produces a large silhouette (assuming you have clear water) and a lot of vibration. I have seen and heard of bass coming out of 30 feet of water to inhale a large swimbait worked on the surface. Another thing not to worry about is that these baits make a lot of commotion when they hit the water. For a large bass, this noise means the dinner bell has rung if they do not see a boat or person standing in a boat.

Once the angler has worked the shallow area of the point thoroughly, (and this can be as few as five casts on a small point), the angler should start to move in on one side of the point slowly. Generally speaking, I like to continue to stay at least 50 yards off the point and work in behind one side so when the boat finally gets to shore, I am 50 or more yards from the tip of it. Remember, you are fishing big bass and big bass did not get big by being stupid. Stealth should always be considered when tracking these fish.

Once the boat is on or close to the shore, start fan casting out towards deep water. You may want to continue casting with the surface type bait or switch to a medium depth lure for this. Cast the bait out and let it sink to a medium depth, with respect to the depth you are casting into, and begin a slow to moderate retrieve. By doing this, you are now showing your bait to any suspended fish off the point. Big fish spend a lot of their life suspended using the depth as their cover.

Once you have finished covering the surface and mid-depth rages, it is time to fish the deepest water on the point by letting your bait fall to the bottom. Once the bait has hit bottom, begin a slow to medium retrieve, hugging the bottom, all the way back to the boat.

The technique described above is probably the most highly used and also most productive method for fishing these baits. There are other methods but they mainly entail sight fishing, running banks, and casting at breaking fish which is pretty self explanatory. I don't know if you are interested in trolling techniques as most fishermen I talk with are trying to use big baits in a tournament situation where trolling is illegal. If you want some information on trolling though, let me know.

Proper Rigging of the Bait.

Swimbaits come "ready rigged" from the manufacturer. The most common mistake I have seen anglers do with them is take them out of the box and "unhook" the treble from the belly of the lure. This is a no-no. In order for a swimbait to swim correctly without rolling on its side, that treble hook MUST be left attached to the bottom of the bait. If the bait has a tendency to roll or come in at a 45 degree angle, you can pull out the hook and reattach it just right or left of where it was originally placed in order to make it swim with an upright attitude. Just make sire you do not have pressure on the plastic between the hook harness and where the hook is imbedded in the plastic. The split ring between the harness and the eye of the hook should have slack in it.

For plastic swimbaits, it is best to use a "quality" snap to attach the bait to the line. The snap allows for proper movement of the bait. The head on these baits moves back and forth out of phase with the tail making the bait look like it is actually swimming in the water. By tying direct, you will dampen this action.

Rods, Reels, Line

Because we are talking heavy baits and big fish (we hope), rod, reel, and line selection is very important. The baits for example weigh in from 2oz up to 8oz. Some can be more if one adds weight. The proper rod depends on the size of bait you are going to throw. But, all of the rods have relatively the same action. They all have a moderate tip, so the rod loads properly, that segues into a stiff mid-section and butt. The soft tip also serves to allow the fish to inhale the bait before the rod pulls it away from it. The stiff butt and mid-section allows the angler to move the bait in the fishes mouth in order to get a solid hookset. Remember that large fish can hold onto a bait so hard that is can be difficult to move the bait and therefore the hook. You need to set the hook hard (after pausing for the rod to load completely) with these lures. An aid that many anglers use to help move the bait and avoid it balling up is a very think scent product. They don't use it for scent purposes but as a lube. The "lube" of choice between all the people I have talked with is "Hot Sauce" (sorry Cos, but that is what they said.). Anyway, back to rods. There was a post on this page where I discussed the rods used by Mike Long. The post number is 34302 (Fishing Tactics) and I will let you use the search function to find it.

Line size for swimbaits is also important. Lines from 15lb to 30lb are mostly used. Line size is dependent on the size of the bait and action of the rod. Smaller swimbaits require smaller lines and visa versa.

Reels need to be able to accommodate the line used and therefore are larger than the reels generally used for bass fishing. Shimano Calcutta TE's are the reel of choice ranging in size from the 200 to the 400 depending on the line size used. The larger reels allow for easier casting and retrieving when chunking these baits all day. And, if you are serious about throwing big baits and doing it all day, you will need all the "creature comforts" you can use.

Little Tricks

Although most bass that chase a swimbait "commit" to it and inhale the whole thing, there are times when the fish will only come up and slap the lure. This is where the use of a stinger hook is needed. You can add a stinger hook by tying a piece of heavy braid to the wire harness and then threading it back, through the body of the lure and out the top of the lure about ½ inch in front of the tail. Don't rig it on the bottom of the lure as the hook will interfere with water movement over the tail. Then, take and add a #2 "quality" treble hook to the braid and insert one barb into the plastic. Oh, the use of an upholstery needle (up to 5 inches in length) is needed for this.


Don't be fooled by the size of these baits. Although they seem too big for normal fish, this is not the case. A three pound largemouth is just as apt to hit one of these lures as a 10lb+ fish. This is evidenced by my recent trip to Southern California where I cannot tell you how many 1.5lb to 3lb fish I caught on 9 inch baits. Talk about disappointing. J Also, smallmouth will eat them too. This was pounded into my head just the past few months by my friend in Japan who is the Big Bait Expert over there. I kept telling him that the smallies will not eat something that big. Well, he proved me wrong and sent me pics of a some 3lb to 5lb smallmouth that he caught on 7" baits. I'm pretty excited to try it this year.


In closing this, I will tell you it takes a lot of commitment to throw these baits. The action is not like when you will throw standard bass fair. You can go days without getting bit. But, people that are fishing these baits are generally looking for one bite anyway. It is also not a very "relaxing" way to fish as casting a 6oz bait all day can wear you out. if you persevere though, you may be blessed with a day that you will not forget.

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Bigger is always want to get their attention, think of it like this..........your a fish, and Catherine Zeta-Jones swims by you, your like o.k. I'm interested, then Britney Spears swims by, o.k. now your hungry, then Pamela Anderson swims by, now your ready to eat...........understand?................Franklin 8)

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