Swimbait Gear for the BeginnerSwimbait Gear for the Beginner Swimbaits can be a fun and awesome world to step into. Here's how to gear up and get started!
By Jay Lillpop
There are many resources available to today's bass angler. When one wants to venture into the world of big baits, however, information can be scarce. In many ways, it is the nature of the beast. Knowledge gained chasing after these giant fish is held close to heart. I don't pretend to be an expert, but I would like to relay my experience thus far in this exciting facet of bass fishing.
The knowledge that will actually catch fish, I believe that you should pursue on your own, but it will help if you have suitable gear in hand when that monster does decide to bite. From here on out when I refer to swimbaits, what I am talking about will be large baits over 5 inches in length and weighing no less than 2 ounces. While there are many swimbaits smaller than this, they are not the target of my writing, nor something that I feel attracts larger fish as well as the bigger baits do. I will mention specific gear, because I am familiar with it and believe in it. I am not sponsored by any company I mention, and am not seeking to be sponsored either.
Your gear should work as a unit, not separate pieces. No one thing is more or less important than any other element of your gear. Too often, I see people costing themselves fish due to inadequate equipment. It can even be seen with anglers as high as the Elite level. Read this next sentence carefully. Your flippin stick is not a swimbait rod! Sure, it might "work" (which is a term used very loosely here) but it is in no way ideal for any swim bait other than very small baits. Which brings us to our first topic: Rods
I have many swim bait rods of varying length, power, and action. I will list three basic swim bait rod types.
Small Bait Rod
This is the rod that I will turn to for throwing smaller plastic baits that weigh up to about 2.5 ounces and hardbaits up to 8 inches in length. You are looking for a 7-foot 6-inch or 8-foot rod that is considered to be a medium-heavy power. This designation is for swimbait rods, meaning that even though it is a medium-heavy, it is still much more powerful than a medium-heavy worm/jig rod. A fast action is ideal for the soft baits and a slightly more moderate action is desirable for the hard baits, but a compromise can be found. The two rods I have experience with that I like in this class are the GLoomis BBR964C Backbounce Rod and the Okuma Big Bait Rod 7-foot 11-inch medium-heavy. These rods work well for baits like Mattlures bluegill, trout, and baby bass, and the 3:16 Mission fish (5-7 inch), 3:16 Wake Jr. and Baby Bass.
Big Bait Rod
This is the meat and potatoes rod of the swimbait sticks. You can get away with throwing the smaller baits mentioned above, the "average" size swimbaits, and even some of the monstrous 10+ inch baits. If there is one rod to get it will be this one, assuming you want the ability to throw some fairly large baits when you start out.
For this rod I prefer a 7-foot 11-inch or longer rod but there are a few 7-foot 6-inch to 7-foot 9-inch rods that perform well also. These rods have a more moderate tip that helps casting the large baits and keeping the hooks planted once you hook up. As versatile as this rod can be, it is ideally suited for 6-to 8-inch soft baits weighing up to about 6 ounces, and hardbaits up to about 10 inches is length; although the weights of hardbaits can very depending upon bulk and building material.
I will throw a 12 inch wood bait on this rod but it is not ideal for large polyurethane baits larger than about 9 inches. I use the Shimano Crucial Swimbait Cast Rod 7-foot 11-inch heavy the most out of this group. I have also used and recommend the Okuma Big Bait Rod 7-foot 11-inch heavy and 7-foot 6-inch heavy. These are great rods for the price along with another backbounce rod by Redington, the 7911 a 7-foot 9-inch rod.
Giant Bait Rod
This is for the big dogs, the 10+ inch baits. It is a broomstick with a reel seat. I use the 7-foot 6-inch Okuma extra heavy big bait rod. The Shimano Crucial 7-foot 11-inch extra heavy performs well also. When I want to throw a 3:16 Armageddon or Wake Bait, this is the rod I use. Also useful for the giant plastics like the 10 inch Castaic SBT or 12 inch Castaic Hardhead baits, and the 10 inch Stocker Trout. This is a 5-inch Senko compared to one of my 3:16 Armageddons. That is a big bait that weighs almost 8 ounces; you need a real stout rod!
That takes care of the rods, now onto reels. Too often people just use a low profile baitcaster that they have laying around and are shocked when the anti reverse breaks or the gears themselves get trashed from all of the stress of big baits and big fish. That typically means reels initially designed for inshore and saltwater applications.
For the small bait rod a 300 series round reel is great. Something like a Shimano Calcutta TE 300, Shimano Cardiff 300, or Daiwa Luna 300. On these reels 20 pound mono or flourocarbon works great with a tight, but not buttoned down drag.
For all other swimbaiting I prefer a 400 size reel. The Shimano Calcutta TE 400, Shimano Calcutta 400B, or Shimano Cardiff 400A are all great. These are all durable reels and you should be comfortable using whichever one you can afford. The more expensive reels are surely nice, but aren't necessarily required. I have the relatively inexpensive Cardiff and it has lasted through thousands of casts and many fish over the last year and a half with no complaints. I also own the other two and they are excellent reels, that if properly maintained, will last a very long time. I prefer to fish these reels with 25- to 30-pound test mono with the drag very tight. Which brings us to the last piece of our machine.
There are people that prefer to use braid for swimbaits, and I am just not one of them. I believe that the stretch of monofilament is actually quite beneficial and the abrasion resistance is unmatched. I use P-Line CXX X-TRA STRONG on all my rigs, in the weights listed above. To me this is the perfect swimbait line. Great abrasion resistance, amazing breaking strength, and the stretch that I like.
For the people that are tired of doing the same old thing and catching the same little fish, swimbaits can be an awesome world to step into. Frustrating most of the time, heartbreaking sometimes, and every once in awhile the most exhilarating experience in bass fishing. If you have the desire to pursue these big fish and the determination to stick to your guns without a bite for many trips, you just may be rewarded with that fish of a lifetime. Hopefully you will have the right gear at hand.
Jay Lillpop is a purely recreational 22 year old bass fisherman living in Northern California.
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