Swimbait bass fishing

For Numbers AND Size, Try Swimbaits

Fishing Lures
These are Pro Swimbaits. The one on the left is the color "Sure Thing Shura"
These are Pro Swimbaits. The one on the left is the color "Sure Thing Shura."

Many fishermen have two different kinds of baits, especially during a tournament. They’ll have one tied on for numbers and throw that first thing, looking to quickly get a limit in the boat. After they limit, they will throw their big fish baits and go for kickers. This is a decent strategy but unnecessary when a single bait will do both – catch limits and big fish. That bait is a swimbait.          

Many anglers immediately picture a gigantic soft plastic trout lure as big as your arm when they think of a swimbait. No doubt that is an excellent bait, especially on lakes where big bass regularly dine on stocked trout, but throwing one of those throughout an entire tournament is a risky proposition.          

Smaller swimbaits that mimic shad or small forage fish can produce both numbers and size.  Nitro pro Matt Shura has won a ton of money on small swimbaits.

“I was fishing a tournament, throwing topwater baits and jerkbaits, and I had my non-boater doing the same,” he said. “The fish surfaced everywhere, chasing shad, but we couldn’t get bit. My co-angler, a really young guy, asked me if he could throw his Little Dipper, and I told him, ‘Go ahead, they’re not eating anything fake.’” To Matt’s surprise, his partner tossed out that Little Dipper and caught ten fish on ten casts. Matt was blown away, and he was also converted. He is now one of the Little Dipper’s biggest fans.          

The Reaction Innovations Little Dipper is not the only small swimbait Shura uses. Pro Swimbaits makes dynamite lures. The company will even work with you and pour custom colors – they have a white one called Sure Thing Shura. He also likes Keitech baits but fishes them a bit differently.           

For smaller, 4-inch baits, Matt uses a medium-action spinning rod with 10-pound-test braid line. Using an Alberto knot, he ties a 6-foot leader of 8-pound-test fluorocarbon line. The leader needs to be long enough that the knot is just above that first big guide on your spinning rod when the lure is reeled up to casting position. If you make the leader too long, the knot will smack against that first guide over and over, potentially weakening the line.           

Since first getting schooled by that youngster, Matt has frequently experimented with smaller swimbaits. He has tried a variety of hooks, including weighted hooks. “A lot of guys use those weighted hooks, but I think they mess with the lure's action,” he said. With his experimenting complete, Shura chose a 2/0 Gamakatsu offset shank EWG worm hook. He thinks this hook gives the bait the perfect action.           

For fishing deeper or for long points or dropoffs, the Keitech rigged on a ball head is ideal.
For fishing deeper or for long points or dropoffs, the Keitech rigged on a ball head is ideal.

When fishing bigger swimbaits – 5- to 6-inch sizes – he uses a baitcasting reel with 14-pound fluorocarbon line and a 4/0 Superline hook. This hook is heavier and keeps the bait running right. He rigs Keitech baits on ball head jigs – ¼- or 3/8-ounce weights are perfect. He throws these on a spinning rod. Another small swimbait the angler likes is the Storm 3-inch Wild Eye Swim Shad. This one works just like a crankbait and covers the water with it.

The Little Dippers have a slot for the business end of the hook to sit in, which makes them completely weedless. They are perfect for throwing into reeds and stick-ups, and they are fantastic worked over skinny water. Matt likes to crank fast enough to keep them under the surface, leaving a V-shaped wake behind them. In the clear waters of the western reservoirs, he’s seen fish come from twenty or even thirty feet deep to take a swimbait.

It isn’t unusual when you’re fishing this bait to see fish follow it. Most people want to slow down when this happens, but Shura says that’s a mistake. The best thing to do is speed it up – he says this triggers bites because the bass thinks the bait is getting away. If speeding up doesn’t do the trick, kill it and let it fall. Often this is all it takes to make the bass suck it in and head for deeper water.

Another thing you will see when fishing this bait is other bass will be behind it, following. This, says Matt, is a sure sign that you should stay and fish the spot thoroughly, maybe even fish a Senko. He says his friend Johnny Johnson who hosts the TV show “Fishing With Johnny Johnson,” told him that they are like chickens – when a chicken finds something good to eat, she grabs it and runs off before the others can take it from her, and they all chase her. Bass do the same thing, he says.

The Reaction Innovations Skinny Dipper is the larger bait, the Little Dipper is the 4-inch.
The Reaction Innovations Skinny Dipper is the larger bait, the Little Dipper is the 4-inch.

These small swimbaits often produce when topwater baits and jerkbaits won’t. You don’t have to give them any action – the way the tail is wedged, it has the perfect amount of action on its own. It’s a subtle action that mimics a shad swimming. One of the reasons that Matt likes these little baits so much is that you can quickly cover a lot of water. He said he can make five retrieves with a Dipper in the time it would take him to throw and retrieve a Spook just once. The key to these baits is to choose the color that will match the baitfish on the lake you are fishing. Out west, that is mostly clear and shad colors, with tinges of purple, blue, or green.

The ball head jig with the Keitech Swing Impact is one of Shura’s favorite baits for smallmouth bass and steeper structure and dropoffs. He’ll also throw it if the fish aren’t chasing the Dippers. Using a medium-action spinning rod, he lets the lure sink to the bottom and then swims it back fast enough for the tail to do its thing. You can make long casts with this bait and cover a very long point all the way out. You can still fish it effectively even if it’s a bit windy.

Matt has seen these baits prove themselves over and over again. In one tournament, a buddy of his had bass crashing shad into the side of his boat, but he couldn’t catch one. The buddy gave Matt and his partner permission to fish the area. Shura and his partner got bit the first time they threw it into the boil.

On the day we were out with him at Saguaro Lake, we must have put at least three dozen bass in the boat in just two or three hours. These little swimbaits are dynamite. If you haven’t tried them, you need to grab a couple of pouches next time you’re at the tackle shop. Match the baitfish at your lake, rig them to hang perfectly straight, then let them do their thing.

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