In this lesson we're going to review some of the things I've talked about in the preceding eight lessons and discuss how all the parts fit together to form the whole of swimbait bassin'. We'll do it in the context of my Elite Series win on Clear Lake a couple of weeks ago.
1. Matching the hatch
This is one of the most important concepts of swimbait fishing. A swimbait is not a reaction bait. Bass attack them because they think they're the real thing. Never forget that.
Hitch are the local forage on Clear Lake. The first morning of the tournament, I saw hitch skipping along the surface of the water. They were being chased by bass. I immediately started throwing a hitch-looking lure — a Rago BV 3D.
It's about 7 inches long, shaped like a hitch (they look like carp) and has a finish that perfectly matches their color at this time of the year. This lure was developed by Jerry Rago, a local angler and swimbait expert from California, with a little input from me.
I guarantee you that every bass I caught during the tournament thought it was eating the real thing. The Rago BV 3D matched the hatch perfectly.
2. Rod and reel
My tackle was selected to meet the conditions I was fishing and the bait I was using. The Rago BV 3D is a fairly heavy bait, and Clear Lake is full of giant bass, so my tackle was on the heavy side.
I fished with a 7-10 medium-action Duckett Fishing Micro Magic rod. (This particular rod is still in the development stage. It should be available shortly.) It was big and strong enough to throw my lure, with enough backbone to handle the size bass I was catching.
My reel was a low gear ratio (5.4:1) Revo Toro. I selected that gear ratio because my bite was coming from a very slow retrieve right along the bottom of the lake. I didn't want to have to think about slowing down. The reel did that for me.
I put line in a special category because I did something at Clear Lake that I don't normally do and almost never recommend. I fished with fluorocarbon line (20-pound-test Trilene 100 %). This was the exception that proves the rule.
Clear Lake was behind the calendar. The fish were deeper and more lethargic than most of us expected. To catch my bass I was forced to fish deep and slow. Basically, I was working my swimbait as slow as I possibly could and still keep the tail vibrating.
I needed to feel every blade of grass, every rock and every bite, no matter how subtle. It was almost like fishing a Texas rigged plastic worm. Conditions like that call for fluorocarbon line. There's no other way to get the sensitivity you need.
Note, however, that my rod was a medium action. Frankly, I would have preferred something closer to heavy, but I needed the give in the rod. It replaced the stretch that I would normally get from monofilament. It's all about compensating for the shock of the strike of a big fish.
4. Other factors
We need to briefly consider a couple of other things. First, let's look at the design of my bait. The line and hooking system allows the bait to move on the line. Big bass can't get leverage when they shake their head, nor can they use the weight of the bait to their advantage.
Secondly, I used an Owner harness to put a stinger hook in the back of the bait. This let me get good hook sets when the fish were short-striking.
Both of these things were critically important. If you review the interviews from Clear Lake, you'll notice a lot of the guys saying they lost fish at the boat. That didn't happen to me. I didn't lose more than a couple of fish during the entire event.
5. Putting it all together
The overall design of the bait, along with the hooking system I installed, made for efficient fishing even under tough conditions. The flexible rod allowed me to switch to fluorocarbon line. And the low-speed reel made it easier to keep the bait down.
Swimbait fishing is a system. If I had been short any one piece of tackle at Clear Lake, my fishing would have been very different. That's a polite way of saying I probably wouldn't have won.