With any presentation, confidence is the key. A swimbait isn’t like a dropshot; it doesn’t catch the volume of fish. Anglers who learn to dropshot can take it to the pond and start catching fish almost instantly. You have to refine your swimbait fishing, learn the ins and outs and understand that, while the bait does produce big fish, it doesn’t produce the quantity. The greatest thing about the new PowerBait Hollow Belly is that it’s far more versatile than any of the big “tennis shoe” swimbaits we used to throw. This new generation of swimbaits increases the confidence level of anglers because of all it allows them to do. Anglers just can’t get enough! I’ve learned some valuable lessons out West and on the FLW Tour that have increased my success with the Hollow Belly.
When rigging the Hollow Belly, the most important thing to start with is the hook. For me, the best hook to use is a 6/0 screw lock hook. The screw lock hook is valuable for many reasons. First, it keeps the bait from sliding down the shank of the hook when you get bit. Second, the big hook reaches all the way back into the belly of the bait giving you more positive hook sets. Finally, it allows you to more accurately center the hook on the body for the best action.
With the 6/0 screw lock hook in place, I determine how deep and fast I want to fish. Then, I adjust my weights accordingly. On the shank of the hook, I add the clip-on weights. For deeper water and a faster rate of fall, go to heavier weights. But even in shallow water, when I want to really burn the bait all the way back to the boat, I use heavier weights. The bait needs the heavy weight as leverage to help propel the paddle tail of the Hollow Belly. Try playing with different weight sizes until you find one that works for you. I’ve even rigged the Hollow Belly on spinnerbaits, chatterbaits, and buzzbaits all with amazing success.
Rigging can take on a lot of variables depending on where you are fishing. The two most common situations would be open water and heavy cover. Around boat docks, grass and wood, I prefer to rig the bait weedless. This gives the Hollow Belly an advantage over old swimbaits because it can deflect and run through cover without picking up grass or other debris. This bait is perfect for skipping docks and fishing through grass or around trees.
I use a lot more variety when fishing open water. First, I might rig a No. 4 treble hook on the bottom or the back. Using 50- or 65-pound Spider Wire braid, I tie the treble hook to the 6/0 screw lock hook at either the eye or the bend. For smallmouth, I usually rig the treble far in the back or underneath near the tail. For largemouth, which deliver most of the strikes across the head, I rig it on the back. With the line attaching the treble to the main hook, I look to see how it will lay completely flat with one of the hook points pointed down. That hook point is used to spear the treble hook to the body.
I use another variation when getting a lot of short strikes in open water. I rig the Hollow Belly on a molded swimbait jig head, but a round ball jig could work, too. I expose the hook through the back of the bait and attach a spinnerbait trailer hook to the bend of the jig hook. Then, I expose the trailer hook on the back. The only problem with this method is that sometimes the exposed trailer hook can snag the tail and cause the bait to foul. This could be trouble in a tournament situation because every second counts, but sometimes the rewards are worth the risk. If I am smallmouth fishing or getting a lot of tail strikes, I attach the treble hook (with one hook spearing the bait) to the bottom of the bait near the tail using the Spider Wire instead of using the spinnerbait trailer hook.
Let’s say you’re trying to crank down to 14 feet and tick the bottom. You could throw a crankbait, but that’s a very inefficient way of getting to those fish because it’s only in that strike zone about a third of the time. For the first third, you’re trying to crank to that depth, a third of the time it’s on bottom and the final third the bait is coming up to the boat. That leaves a lot of fish that never got a chance to hit your bait.
With the Hollow Belly, resist the urge to start cranking when the bait hits the water. Allow the bait to sink to the bottom or count it down when going after suspended fish. With a slow, steady retrieve, the bait will be in the strike zone for at least 90 percent of the time before rising up to the boat. I fish the Hollow Belly on nothing but Trilene MAXX. The monofilament line gives the bait the right lift and lets it hold properly in the water. I spool the 17-pound Trilene MAXX on an Abu Garcia Revo STX with a 6.4:1 gear ratio. It’s easier to speed up a slow reel than it is to slow down a fast reel. Keep your rod at 10 or 11 o’clock with slack in the line and let the line drift the bait to you. For rods, I use a 7 or 7 ½ foot medium-fast rod. My Choice is a G.Loomis BCFR 893. The rod tip helps absorb the shock of big strikes and slows down my reaction, so I don’t rip so many hooks away. Even though it loads up quickly, it’s got plenty of backbone for big fish.
Finally, I’d like to share a tip which gives me more feedback than any other when it comes to the Hollow Belly. When retrieving the bait back to the boat, don’t speed up, jerk the bait out and fire off your next cast. Instead, let the bait linger in the water and stop when it comes up next to your boat. A lot of times, you will have bass following the bait looking to use your boat as an ambush point. Any forage fish cruising or being chased will stop when it sees the boat rather than speeding up and jumping out of the water. Sometimes temptation can be a challenge, but remember it’s all a part of making the bait look and act as natural as possible.
The PowerBait Hollow Belly is the next step towards versatile and easy-to-use big fish bait. Whether it’s fishing bluff walls, docks, grass or open water, it’s truly an asset to any fisherman! Practice is all it takes with this bait.