Big bait, big fish. That’s the mantra of the legions of swimbait-chucking bass fishermen around the country. Every year, more fishermen are discovering the fun and excitement of swapping quantity for quality, and joining the movement isn’t as difficult as you might think. Here are the bare essentials you’ll need to start sticking slob bass on swimbaits.
Fishing swimbaits is simple: cast far, reel slowly, repeat … the baits do the rest. The hardest part about fishing swimbaits is sticking with it. After a couple of hours (or even a couple days) without a fish, it can be tempting to switch back to more traditional baits. If you want to catch more fish, that is exactly what you should do. If you want to catch bigger fish, keep casting that swimbait, and have the scale and camera ready to photograph your personal best.
Reel Through the Strike
Just as you would with a topwater lure, for the best hookset, wait between first feeling the strike and setting the hook. As some fishermen put it, “Reel through the strike; that is, continue the super-slow retrieve for a couple turns of the handle after feeling the hit, then drive the hook home. This gives the bass time to close its mouth and turn.
The lakes and ponds throughout the Northeast are fertile ground for throwing oversized swimbaits. Golden shiners, yellow perch, stocked trout, and sea-run herring and alewives represent a buffet of super-sized meals for our 4-pound-and-up largemouths, and if you want to catch your personal-best bass this season, you’d better match the hatch.
While some swimbaits cost as much as a decent rod, many (especially the soft baits), cost about as much as a wooden striped bass plug.
Huddleston 6-inch Trout ROF5
6 inches / 2 ounces / $24.99
For fishermen just breaking into swimbait fishing, tossing a monster lure in a freshwater pond feels ridiculous, which makes the Huddleston Deluxe 6-inch trout the perfect “gateway bait.” It’s small enough to throw on most heavy-action bass setups, yet large enough to tempt giant bass. The fact that smaller bass also take swings at it doesn’t hurt either, since switching from quantity to quality cold turkey can be a little rough.
Though the bait carries a trout profile, it’s available in a wide range of colors to match just about any baitfish. The green-silver is an excellent all-around color.
Savage Gear 8-inch 4D Pro Series Line-Thru Trout
8 inches / 3 1/3 ounces / $19.99
This swimbait is molded from a 3D scan of a trout and is then wrapped in a photo-print pattern—unmatched realism for a $20 bait.
The Line-Thru Trout has two joints and swims with a more exaggerated action than straight body swimbaits. The line-through system helps prevent fish from throwing the hook and tearing up the bait during the fight because the bait slides up the line after the fish is hooked.
Real Prey 7-inch Golden Pond Shiner
7 inches / 2½ ounces / $24.99
Just about every pond in the Northeast has a population of golden shiners, and lunker largemouths eat the big ones like potato chips. The Real Prey 7-inch Golden Pond Shiner is a good profile match and durable enough to survive slashing attacks from pickerel or pike.
A swimbait rod should be stiff, not for the bass, but for the baits, which can weigh 4 ounces, or more. Many fishermen prefer longer rods as well, both for the extra casting distance and added hook-setting power.
For fishermen just getting into swimbait fishing, the sweet spot is an 8-foot rod rated for 1- to 4-ounce lures.
You can spend as much as you want on a rod, but if you’re looking to dip your toe into the swimbait lifestyle before taking the plunge, there are several good sub-$150 rods out there.
Savage Gear Browser Swimbait
8’ / 1 to 4 ounces / $129.99
St. Croix Bass X BXC710HF
7’10” / 1 to 4 ounces / $110
Fenwick EliteTech ETB79XH-FC
7’9” / ½ to 4 ounces / $149.95
Serious swimbaiters use heavier line than striped bass surfcasters, often spooling up with 20-pound-test mono or 65-pound-test braid. Again, the line strength isn’t for the fish, but is for the baits – to limit backlashes and potential cast-offs.
There’s debate about whether monofilament or braided line is better for swimbaits. Some fishermen believe that the stretch from mono cushions against breakoffs that can happen with a braided line-to-leader setup. Whichever line you’re most comfortable casting on a baitcaster is the line you should use.
Cranking power—that’s the most important aspect of a swimbait reel, one that lets you lock down the drag and winch back big swimbaits cast after cast. A top-of-the-line reel will cost close to 5 bills, but you can find a swimbait-capable reel that will last several seasons for much less.
Lews BB2 Wide Spool
6.4:1 / $169.95
Shimano Cardiff CDF 400A
5.2:1 / $129.99
6.4:1 / $169.99