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How Jay Yelas Fishes Swimbaits

How Jay Yelas Fishes Swimbaits Swimbaits trigger strikes from both numbers of bass and big fish year round. Here's how.

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Swimbaits can be fished in open water areas with an exposed hook or around cover when rigged Texas style on a belly weighted hook.

Swimbaits can be fished in open water areas with an exposed hook or around cover when rigged Texas style on a belly weighted hook.

Although multiple swimbaits trick big bass in the wintertime when attached to an Alabama rig, a standalone swimbait can be a more productive bass catcher the rest of the year.

   Bassmaster Elite Series pro Jay Yelas favors throwing soft plastic swimbaits during the shad spawn in late spring or early summer, but the tournament veteran keeps swimbaits ready for any time he thinks bass are feeding on baitfish.  “They will catch fish year round,” Yelas says. “It works any time bass are eating shad, which is pretty often.”

   The Oregon pro has tried swimbaits on various fisheries throughout the country and notices the lures produce best on certain waters.  “The water has to be fairly clear,” he says. “You can’t catch bass on swimbaits in mud.”  Yelas has caught bass on swimbaits in lakes, reservoirs and inland rivers, but he noted the lure has never produced for him on tidal rivers.

   The swimbait Yelas frequently relies on for largemouth bass is the 6-inch Basstrix Paddle Tail Swimbait.  If Yelas is targeting spotted or smallmouth bass or fishing for largemouth bass on pressured waters he opts for a 4-inch Keitech Swing Impact Swimbait.  “It is more of a finesse swimbait than the Basstrix,” he says.  His favorite swimbait colors are Tennessee shad for fishing in clear water and pearl for throwing in stained water.

   Whenever bass are shallow, Yelas attaches his swimbait to a 3/8-ounce swimbait jighead. He selects a jighead with an exposed hook for fishing in open water, but switches to a belly weighted hook that he can rig his swimbait Texas style to hide the hook point when fishing around cover such as aquatic vegetation or flooded bushes.  He also rigs his Keitech swimbait on a 1/4-ounce swimbait jighead for skipping the lure under docks.

   Yelas notices both the Basstrix and Keitech swimbaits are “pretty consistent out of the package” without any bent tails. “That leads to a nice true retrieve so it doesn’t roll to one side or the other,” he says.

   So Yelas fishes his swimbaits right out of the package without any modifications, but he will make an addition to the lure if he keeps missing fish.  “One thing I do is put a treble hook on the back,” he says.  “With a belly weighted hook I can take a size 2 treble hook and slip it on the hook and let the treble hook hang out the back. I have caught a ton of fish that way.”

   Yelas discovered this trick during an FLW tournament at Lake St. Clair when he got “umpteen bites” from smallmouth but the fish kept coming unglued from his swimbait.  That evening he decided to add the treble hook as a stinger for his swimbait.  “I had just as many bites the next day and I never missed one,” he says.  “It’s a neat deal but you will hang up on anything,” Yelas says.  He recommends throwing this setup in open water and especially avoid fishing it around grass or wood.

Jay Yelas likes to throw a swimbait almost any time bass are feeding on shad in clear water.

Jay Yelas likes to throw a swimbait almost any time bass are feeding on shad in clear water.

   A slow and steady retrieve works best for Yelas when tempting bass with either of his favorite swimbaits.  “Bass seem to bite it well when you are just winding it slowly,” he says.  “If you wind it too fast it will roll over on its side and the fish won’t bite it.”

   His swimbait tackle includes a 7-foot medium-heavy action Team Lew’s TP1 Speed Stick rod with a fast tip which provides plenty of backbone for a good hookset and is an ideal length for skipping his lures under docks.  When fishing open water, Yelas opts for the same model of rod in a length of 7 1/2 feet to make longer casts. The longer rod also gives him more leverage for setting the hook when a bite occurs at the far end of a long cast.   A high-speed baitcast reel is unnecessary for swimbait fishing so Yelas retrieves his lures with a Team Lew's Custom Pro Speed Spool with a 6.8:1 gear ratio.

   The 2002 Bassmaster Classic champion favors throwing his swimbaits on fluorocarbon line.  He opts for the following line sizes: 12-pound test for fishing in open water; 17-pound test for wood and grass; and 20-pound test for boat docks with plenty of ironwork.

   Swimbaits trigger strikes from both numbers of bass and big fish, according to Yelas.  “The bigger swimbaits especially will catch a lot of really big fish,” he says.

   The veteran of B.A.S.S. and FLW Tour tournaments suggests patience is a virtue when throwing a swimbait. The biggest mistake he sees novices make when fishing a swimbait is to give up too quickly on the lure.   “Bass don’t bite it on every cast,” Yelas says.  “Sometimes you will throw it for an hour without catching one but then you will catch a really nice one on it. So if there is a swimbait bite going on you want to keep it in your hand and keep it wet. “ 

   Yelas’ favorite lakes for throwing swimbaits are any that contain clear water.  He has caught bass on his swimbaits in deep highland reservoirs, lowland lakes in Texas, the Tennessee River chain of lakes, the Great Lakes and the Columbia River in Oregon.

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