The versatile swimbait

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Kevin VanDam

Kevin VanDam

In the world of professional bass fishing, Kevin VanDam is at the pinnacle and arguably the best in the world.

The days of the swimbait being a one-dimensional lure presentation are behind us. They are far more versatile than we imagined originally, due largely to the different shapes, actions, styles and rigging methods available to bass anglers today.

You can fish them deep or shallow, at various speeds, in cover or open water, or in clear or stained water. In many respects, they’re a lot like a spinnerbait but a different type of presentation.

So versatile, in fact, that I have one tied onto a rod every time I go out. While I still have a lot to learn about these amazing lures, I gained a lot more appreciation and knowledge about them this past season.

My lure sponsor (Strike King) now offers three different styles in multiple sizes, and I’m learning the subtleties of each and when to fish them.

For example, I was at a Kentucky Lake writer conference last week and fishing in the back of a creek when I saw huge pods of shad shallow and bass were chasing them. It was easy to get bit on a Sexy Dawg topwater, but once we caught a couple, the action shut down.

So, we rigged 4-inch Swimming Shiners (ghost minnow color) on 1/8-ounce shaky jig heads and a spinning rod. We made long casts to the shad schools that were in inches of water and caught the fire out of the bass roaming around them. The same fish that grew wary of the topwaters were gobbling the finesse swimbait.

The Swimming Shiner has a little more subtle action than Strike King’s Shadalicious hollow body bait and the Caffeine Shad which has a little more active tail.

They all have their time and place. It boils down to having the right presentation to match the conditions you’re facing.

Bass often are attracted to swimbaits but sometimes only follow or bump them. That’s when you have to make an adjustment in style, action color or speed to get them to bite.

The bulkier, hollow body swimbaits are best suited when fish want a slower presentation. Those baits rock from side to side and have a thumping tail action which is excellent through the prespawn period. They also can be good in summer and fall in stained water because of the extra vibration.

But sometimes the fish need to be finessed, which is where the Swimming Shiner comes into play. It is ideal for clear water and on those high, bright sky days when there is a tough bite and you need a more subtle presentation. You can fish it on a jig head, on a weedless belly hook for winding through grass or on umbrella rigs.

The Caffeine Shad falls somewhere in between and is my all-round favorite. It’s really well balanced and great for a weedless presentation around grassbeds and brush. I will use it on a Mustad Screw-lock Swimbait Hook and work it through cover. If I want the bait close to the surface I’ll put it on a 1/8 ounce, but if I’m fishing deeper or need a faster retrieve, I’ll use 1/4or 3/8 ounce. I’ve also had success rigging it on heavy jig heads and fishing deep along ledges.

So, if you’re not using swimbaits, take time to get to know the little nuances of each one and try fishing them in a variety of situations. When you get the right set-up for the conditions, you’re going to catch more fish!

Remember, it’s all about the attitude!

Kevin VanDam's column appears weekly on Bassmaster.com. You can also find him on Facebook and Twitter.

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