Three Tips For Small Swimbaits

As swimbaits migrated from the West Coast to Eastern fisheries, they shrank. However, these bitsy baits catch big-time bass

About the author

Pete Robbins

Pete Robbins

Veteran outdoor writer Pete Robbins provides a fan's perspective of B.A.S.S. complemented by an insider's knowledge of the sport. Follow him on Twitter @fishywriting

 Note: This is a special preview of Bassmaster magazine content. To read the entire issue online, and search past magazine archives, join BASS INSIDER. To receive home delivery of Bassmaster magazine, join BASS today!The swimbait revolution hit California with a vengeance more than a decade ago, but most of the country viewed the oversized trout replicas with bemused curiosity. After all, what use did the average bass angler have for lures closer in size to a tennis shoe than to the average local baitfish? But since fishermen are a resourceful lot, some of the enthusiasm for swimbaits did spread elsewhere. Simultaneously, some of the major manufacturers began to produce the same lures in more diminutive sizes.Gradually, spurred partially by the successes of the touring BASS pros, the lure family has made inroads in other regions.For the purpose of this article, we'll omit the hard baits and hard/soft combos and focus on smaller soft baits, with or without a molded lead insert. While they may appear simple at first, their uses are more varied than you might think.

1. Drag It

 Veteran BASS pro Ish Monroe hails from California, the epicenter of the swimbait craze, but traveling coast to coast he's had to adapt to other styles of fishing. And he hasn't left his West Coast roots behind. He's experienced swimbait success with a California Swimbaits Baby "E" on Eastern lakes like Okeechobee and Guntersville.

Now comes the Tiny "E," a 4-inch model that he says "will replace a crankbait or a spinnerbait in a lot of situations. The action is so lifelike that you can crank it or even slow roll it like a spinnerbait."When pressured, though, he reveals that perhaps his favorite application for the pint-sized swimbait is on the end of a Carolina rig. When he fishes water more than 20 feet deep, he often ties a swimbait behind a 1-ounce sinker and drags it through rockpiles and over creek channel drops. Why not a lizard or centipede? "The Tiny 'E' offers a lot more action than those baits," Monroe explains. It is quickly becoming his go-to lure in the prespawn period as well as when fish are leaving their deep water summer haunts.He launches the big rig on a 7-6 Team Daiwa flipping stick coupled with a Team Daiwa Advantage reel. He uses 30- to 40-pound Power Pro braid for his main line and a 15-pound Maxima fluorocarbon leader, usually about 3 feet long.His retrieve is not quite the same as with a typical Carolina rig. "I tried the normal drag," he reports, "but the hooks got stuck on the bottom too much, so instead I use a steady pull, almost a constant reeling so it swims."

His favorite color is Millennium 3, a trout imitation. "It seems to work everywhere," he says. "I used it on Clear Lake, which doesn't have trout. I could see the fish on the rockpiles and you could see them following (the lure) on the fishfinder."In addition to classic structural elements, Monroe believes that the Carolina rigged Tiny "E" will excel around aquatic vegetation. "I expect that it will be great on lakes like Lake Murray, where the grass is in the 12- to 17- foot range and you can just tick it over the grass."

 2. Jig It

 Brad Smith, a tournament angler and proprietor of River Valley Guide Service in Arkansas, often employs a 3-inch Yum Sweet Cheeks swimbait when he needs to fill out his limit. He uses a jigging technique that is geared toward catching quantities of bass whenever they are schooling and suspended on rocky banks.
"If you have a 45- to 60-degree rocky bank — not a bluff, though — this is a really good way to catch suspended fish," he says. "A lot of times they'll school 3 to 4 feet off the bottom. If you can pinpoint the specific depth, concentrate on that."He typically puts his boat in 40 to 50 feet of water and makes a long cast to the shallowest part of the bank. With his rod at 10 o'clock, he lets his lure free fall to the bottom, then slowly reels down until he makes contact and lifts it to 11 o'clock."The bait will pendulum as it swims its way down. When it stops, you've either hit bottom or a fish grabbed it. Eventually it gets to where it will no longer hit bottom, then I reel it in and repeat." If fish consistently hit at a certain depth zone, he saves time by focusing on that range.It's a technique that Smith employs year-round, and particularly when suspended fish key on shad but won't eat a crankbait.He uses a 6-6 All Star medium-action spinning rod and a Pflueger President reel spooled with 6-pound Silver Thread ­fluorocarbon line. While he has used the technique successfully on clear water lakes like Tenkiller, Ouachita, DeGray and Hamilton, he has also adapted it to waterways like the Arkansas River, where he utilizes the same technique on outside bends in the river channel.

 3. Drop It

 Lake Mead guide Vern Price believes that anglers who drop shot only with 4-inch worms and other small plastics are "missing the boat." He'll drop shot small worms and creature baits on occasion, but his favorite technique is to use small swimbaits to catch suspended fish.The key to his system is to find schools of shad. Often this is easy. "Just look for the striper boils," Price says. "The stripers feed on the shad and the bass are lazy. They eat what falls down through there."In Mead, the shad may be suspended at 20 feet to 40 feet, or they may be as deep as 60 feet. Accordingly, Price says the key is to "try to keep the lure in the strike zone and hold it there." To do so, he employs a "cheap, teardrop weight from 1/4 ounce up to 1/2 ounce."He also uses the drop shot swimbait in Mead's submerged cover. "We have bushy, thorny shrubs out here — mesquite and that type of stuff. You can flip this rig up in the brush and work it above the top of the grass."Both of his favorite lures are made by Optimum Baits: the shallow running, treble hook model and the boot-tailed version molded around a leadhead. In open water, he often uses the latter model in lieu of a drop shot weight. He is a firm believer in the need to "match the hatch." Accordingly, he favors colors that imitate threadfin shad, although he'll switch to something imitating a bluegill in the summer.He's not a fan of wimpy tackle. He prefers to employ a 7-foot Bass Pro Shops Johnny Morris Signature Series rod — a medium-heavy when fishing heavy cover and a medium action when he drop shots open water. He uses Okuma reels spooled with "nothing smaller than 10-pound Sugoi fluorocarbon line."Price believes that this is "not a limit technique, it's for when you go for a kicker fish." Evidence would seem to bear that out, as the new Japanese record bass, a 19.15-pound behemoth, was caught on a similar "bubba shot" technique. Angler Kazuya Shimada dreged up the lunker from Ikehara Dam by drop shotting a chartreuse/blue back Optimum 4-inch heavy-cover swimbait attached to a 4/0 offset hook and a 3/4-ounce weight.

 Conclusion

 In the hands of a good angler, a lure is a tool. In the hands of a creative angler, it can be a weapon good for more than just its intended technique. The swimbait revolution is far from over — in fact, we may be closer to its beginning than we might imagine. Try one on a Carolina rig, a drop shot or used as a jig-type bait on your favorite lake and you may be surprised just how well they catch bass outside of California.

Manufacturer directory

 

Berkley

 

(www.berkley-fishing.com)

 

Big Hammer

 

(www.swimbait.com)

 

California Swimbaits

 

(www.eagle swimbaits.com)

 

Castaic Soft Bait

 

(www.castaicsoftbait.com)

 

Fish Trap Lures

 

(www.fishtraplures.com)

 

Matt Lures

 

(www.mattlures.com)

 

Megabait

 

(www.megabait.net)

 

Optimum Baits

 

(www.optimumbaits.com)

 

Panther Martin

 

(www.panthermartin.com)

 

River2Sea

 

(www.river2sea.com)

 

Storm Lures

 

(www.stormlures.com)

 

Yum

 

(www.lurenet.com)

 

 

 

 

 

 

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