James Niggemeyer: Gaining Confidence in Swimbaits

Under the right conditions, even the most novice anglers will catch bass after bass on high-percentage baits such as spinnerbaits and small crankbaits.

James Niggemeyer

Under the right conditions, even the most novice anglers will catch bass after bass on high-percentage baits such as spinnerbaits and small crankbaits. But imagine if in your earliest bass fishing experiences you were limited to using nothing but swimbaits. Chances are that you wouldn't be as eager to go again, given the bait's low-percentage yield.

Elite Series pro and California native James Niggemeyer confirms that the West Coast-inspired baits can be intimidating to those new to the technique. However, like any other tool in an angler's belt, they have their places, and in the right circumstance they can be invaluable. "There are so many types of swimbaits on the market these days, and most everyone thinks that they're exclusively a big-fish bait," he says.

"For that reason they can be super intimidating." Learning to use a swimbait — regardless of the variety — involves nothing more than committing yourself to trying it, he explains. To develop the required amount of confidence in the bait, though, it can be critical to start your swimbait education at the right time of the year. "When you're learning to fish a swimbait — or any bait for that matter — you want to try it during the time of the year where you're most likely to get strikes," he says.

"Otherwise, it's going to be impossible for you to develop any confidence in it." Niggemeyer recommends one of two seasons for swimbaits: "Prespawn, when the water is between 58 and 64 degrees, and postspawn, when the fish are coming off of beds and beginning to feed again," he explains. "Hands down, these two seasons are the best for getting action with swimbaits." In both cases, he explains that the swimbait mimics either a potential threat or a food source; and worked near the top of the water column, bass find it hard to resist.

"That bait really starts to shine in that 1- to 5-foot range — particularly when there's a lot of clarity to the water," he suggests. "Clear water is definitely when the swimbait is at its best. You want to have around 3 feet of visibility for the best results, regardless of which time of year you're using it." Building confidence in a particular bait boils down to getting comfortable in using it. "You're going to have to commit to throwing it all day long, and you're going to have to accept getting only a handful of bites," Niggemeyer allows. "You're not typically going to get a lot of bites, but they're usually going to be quality bites." With the myriad swimbait styles available on the market today, choosing the right one presents a new set of challenges to even veteran anglers.

To combat the confusion, Niggemeyer recommends a basic approach that can be used nationwide. "The rule of thumb I try to follow is that you're going to want to limit the size of your bait to no larger than 5 inches if the biggest fish you're likely to see is a 6-pounder," he explains. "Baits larger than that would typically be good for trophy lakes, such as Amistad (Texas) or Clear Lake (California)."

Once the right bait is selected, James points out that little imagination is required to work it properly. Keep it in the 1- to 5-foot depth zone and swim it steadily and slowly, experimenting with pauses and twitches if a steady retrieve doesn't work.

The main key to learn is how to set the hook. "Regardless of whether you're fishing a 3 1/2-inch hollow-bodied bait, or a great big tennis shoe-size swimbait, you need to wait until the rod loads up before you really start to grind and set the hook. If you set the hook when you feel the first tick, nine out of 10 times you're going to miss that fish." By committing to using a swimbait in the high-percentage times of the year, James is confident that anglers can become quick studies.

To ensure initial success, he emphasizes the need to use the bait style that is the most likely to produce results. "To me, the hollow-bodied swimbaits are the easiest variety to gain confidence in," he explains. "Once you've started to believe in them, you can move on to other styles, including big, heavy baits, or even hard-body swimbaits. The key is to trying one, and committing yourself to using it until it become second-nature."


(Provided by Z3 Media)


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