All Bass Love SwimbaitsAll Bass Love Swimbaits Fishing swimbaits isn’t rocket science. But the best techniques are outlined here.
By Mike Gnatkowski gnatoutdoors.com
I didn’t have much exposure to swimbaits until I fished with Nebraska guide Steve Lytle (http://www.stevelytle.com; 308-345-1472) on Swanson Reservoir during a hot summer day. I’d caught panfish on small paddle-tailed jigs and twister tails, but never used out-sized swimbaits for larger predators. Boy, I was in for an awakening!
Our main target for the day was the abundant wipers that called the reservoir home. Lytle holds the current state record for wipers at 20 pound 1 ounce and has broken the state record three times. A cross between a white bass and a stripped bass, wipers are known for their aggressive nature and for putting up an impressive fight. Wipers can be caught on a variety of plugs, spoons and jigs, but one of Lytle’s mainstays for wipers are swimbaits. His favorite brand is a Pro Swimbaits 3-inch Pro Minnow (ProSwimBaits.com). The swimbait can be rigged with a keel-type hook or with a jig head. Either method is equally effective.
Fishing swimbaits isn’t rocket science. In fact, Lytle told me the best technique was to cast out, let the bait sink a bit and then just begin a slow, steady retrieve. The first thing noticed was I could feel the bait vibrating though my rod, like a crankbait. The rod I was using was nothing special; the paddle tail on the swimbait just caused that much vibration. I could only envision what it looked like underwater.
I didn’t take long before a wiper pounced on the swimbait. And why shouldn’t it? It had a realistic outline of a baitfish, a soft plastic natural feel and the swimming vibration to call in predators. By the end of the day we had caught 25, 8- to 10-pound wipers mainly on the swimbait. In between wipers, white bass were annihilating our baits. The trick was to let your bait sink deeper if you wanted to avoid the white bass and make contact with a wiper.
The white bass would attack just about anything you threw at them. The best lure though was the Pro Minnow in a sexy shad color. The bait had a natural translucence to it that looked like a shad the fish were feeding on. White bass would attack the swimbait in vicious schools and once one bass was hooked, several others could be seen trying to steal the lure out of the fish’s mouth. By noon we estimated we had landed close to 200 white bass.
Wanting to take a break from the white bass, we decided to hit a long line of stickups that extended along a shallow bar close to the flat we’d been fishing. Where the stickups were was probably no more than 3 to 4 feet, but it dropped off quickly into deeper water along the edge. Casting to the wood and then swimming the baitfish imitation back produced a half dozen chunky largemouths in short order and a three-man limit of walleyes.
I kidded Lytle that all we needed now was a few slab crappies. Lytle grinned, fired up the motor and took us down the reservoir near the dam where he knew the Nebraska Game & Fish Department had sunk some Christmas trees for fish cover. We located the trees on the graph, dropped some jigs down and hooked up with a couple of slabs specks almost instantly. We managed to snake a half dozen more papermouths from the structure before we pulled the plug. It was one of the most incredible days of fishing I had ever enjoyed and was a tremendous introduction to fishing swimbaits.
Swimbaits come in a myriad of shapes and sizes with all kinds of different tail configurations. Some are ultra realistic and other are more general in the appearance and shape. There are five or more pages on the Bass Pro Shops website devoted to swimbaits and that doesn’t include all the brands on the market.
A favorite swimbait of mine is Northland’s Mimic Minnow (www.northlandtackle.com). The Mimic Minnow is a soft plastic swimbait that does a great job of fooling fish. It features a lifelike "holographic" Baitfish-Image® body that swims and wiggles to mimic a soft and chewy baitfish minnow. With a Mustad® Needle-Point hook, 3-D molded eyes and highly reflective holographic Baitfish-Image, the lure produces the illusion of a live baitfish and are some of the most life-like imitations on the market. The stand-up jig head lets you hop it along the bottom or swim it. Available in 2" and 2-1/2" sizes and in six realistic baitfish colors, the Mimic Minnow also comes in new UV colors. The smaller sizes might not be of the dimensions of most bass lures, but smallies, largemouth, spots and white bass love ‘em. The bait is especially effective when finesse fishing around the beds.
A trip with guide Jason Mitchell on Devil’s Lake in North Dakota a few years ago didn’t go as planned. A family emergency prevented us getting on the water early. It was noon before we got the boat launched. It was hot, sunny and dead calm. Not the best of conditions for catching walleyes. Fortunately, Mitchell had a plan B. We sped down the lake and came to a non-descript shoreline. Mitchell handed me a rod with a gaudy, orange Mimic Minnow on it. Not my first choice of colors.
“Last time Northland sent me my order they sent me these orange Mimic Minnow by accident,” joked Mitchell. “Turns out, it been one of my best baits this summer.” Mitchell told me to cast toward the bank and slowly swim the lure back to the boat. He hadn’t made two casts when he grunted, “There one!” The fish bulldogged for bottom and turned out to be a jumbo white bass of over two pounds. The fish fought like crazy and by the end of the afternoon we’d caught a couple dozen whites on the Mimic Minnows that saved the day.
Storm is best known for its WildEye line of pre-rigged weighted swimbaits. But the company’s newest offering is a long. skinny swimbait that is subtle enough to be fished on light spinning tackle for smallies, yet can be used to dredge largemouths out of thick vegetation on casting gear. The closest thing to the new bait that anglers have seen is Keitech’s Swing Impact.
I got a package last winter with Storm’s new 360° Searchbait in it. Storm claims that the new lure is the ultimate confidence lure designed to be fished anywhere by all skill levels. That’s quite a claim. It has a rattling, life-like jig head that matches the body and a boot tail designed to be fished at any speed. The VMC Coastal Black hook has an extended leg on the line tie to enhance the action. The 60° angle keeps the lure swimming in the perfect position. The color combinations and long, slender profile could match anything from a shiner to a goby.
Unfortunately, they’re calling for five inches of snow again tomorrow. Might be a while before I get it wet.
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