By Capt. Bert Deener
During the last decade, swimbaits have grown from a novelty lure that just looked a lot like a real fish to a major lure in the bass fishing world. Whether you fish tournaments on huge reservoirs or just like catching lots of bass in a local pond, you can find a swimbait that fits the bill for you.
The versatility of these plastics is indisputable, but the selection can be overwhelming to a beginner. The two main styles of swimbaits that I will deal with in this article are hollow body swimbaits and solid body swimbaits. While they both resemble baitfish, they have very different properties and varied applications. To help you sort it out, bass pro Patrick Pierce and regional tournament angler Tommy Sweeney offer their swimbait tips.
Hollow body swimbaits became popular out west in the gin-clear water, and their popularity moved east following tournament wins. Star Tron pro Patrick Pierce of Jacksonville, Florida fishes the B.A.S.S. Southern Open trail and P.A.A. events and uses both hollow body and solid body swimbaits. Pierce usually picks up the hollow versions when heading outside of his home state to reservoirs where structure instead of cover is the target. He employs them to fish points, drains, and creek channels and usually opts for a six-inch Strike King Shadalicious.
“I like to fish the hollow body swimbaits in clear water and in open areas where shad school and suspend, and I fish them all the way back to the boat,” Pierce said. “A lot of times they will use the shade of the boat and follow the swimbait all the way back in and cream it right at the boat.”
In his native waters of Florida, Pierce usually gives solid body swimbaits the nod. The main reason is the cover.
“Solid body swimbaits come through cover great and hold together well. With all the vegetation in Florida and the more stained water, I’m usually throwing a solid bait,” Pierce shared.
He fishes the solid baits in places where he throws a spinnerbait or swim jig. These prime locations includes blow-down trees, grass edges, and docks. He uses the Strike King Swimming Caffeine Shad in both the four and five inch sizes and rigs them with Capt. Bert’s Swimbait Hooks and Flashy Swimbait Hooks with a light weight, often 1/16-oz. He likes the spring on the front of the hook, as it securely holds the bait, allowing him to fish it right in heavy cover and skip under docks without mangling his lure.
“I like to wake the baits, reeling them fast, but not breaking the surface,” he said. “You can reel the bait over holes in the grass and the big females will come up and trash it!”
For fishing swimbaits around cover, Pierce chooses a 7-foot heavy action Legend Extreme rod paired with a high-speed reel to allow him to take up slack quickly. He spools with 50-lb. test Vicious braided line and ties directly to his hook. In the stained water, he does not believe that you need a leader, and the fewer knots the better. This is the same setup that he uses for fishing hollow frogs over heavy vegetation.
Tommy Sweeney, a regional tournament angler from Waycross, Georgia, uses solid body Keitech Fat Swing Impact swimbaits (in the 3.8 and 4.8-inch sizes) all around the southeast to bring big sacks to the scales.
“I have not seen any other swimbaits that have such tremendous action on the fall,” he said. “I cast past a shoreline target, reel up to it, kill it for a second or two, and then pick up the retrieve, and they eat it.”
Sweeney rigs the Fat Swing Impacts on Capt. Bert’s Swimbait Hooks built around an extra wide gap Mustad hook that fits the shape of the Keitech perfectly. He has recently begun using Capt. Bert’s Flashy Swimbait Hook with a small willowleaf spinner on the bottom to give the lure a little extra flash to trigger bites. During spring while field-testing the bladed swimbait hook, he saturated a bay with a spinnerbait without a tap and then switched to the bladed swimbait rig and crushed a 6-pounder and several other bass.
Color selection is an interesting variable with swimbaits. Hollow bodies swimbaits have some tremendously detailed finishes, and western anglers fishing gin-clear water swear that subtle color changes make a difference in their catch rate . Solid bodies lures are typically not as detailed, but resemble the overall color schemes of baitfish and shad. Pierce throws shad colors, and adds a watermelon-red version frequently when fishing Florida grass. Sweeney also uses a gold flash Keitech when fishing Georgia and Florida waters with a high population of golden shiners. The key, as with most plastics, is to throw the color you have confidence in, while taking into account the baitfish you are trying to imitate and the water conditions.
Dial in the color and size swimbait that works well in your local waters, and you too will be hooked on swimbaits.
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