I love swimbaits. I know they're not the answer to every fishing situation, but they're definitely one of my favorite bait types, especially when I'm looking for bigger bass.
A lot of anglers look at swimbaits, and particularly big, hard-bodied swimbaits, as one-dimensional lures to be fished only at certain times of the year or with just one retrieve. That's simply not true. Hard-bodied swimbaits are very versatile lures that can catch bass at just about any time of the year, and their use is limited only by your imagination and the fishing situations you use them in.
Here are three of my best tips for getting more out of hard-bodied swimbaits. For this article, I'm talking specifically about my personal favorite, the CL8 Bait Clacker Swimbait, but you can apply a lot of these tips to other lures, too.
I like to burn the CL8 Bait Clacker Swimbait so that it makes its signature “clacking” noise as it's passing visible cover, like a rock, laydown, dock or weed edge. When you fish the bait fast like that, it makes a different sound than other lures, and that can draw bass that otherwise might not come check it out.
Another reason I like to fish my swimbaits fast is to generate a reaction strike. Swimbaits are great at appealing to big fish when they're hungry and looking for a big meal, but when you fish them fast, you turn them into reaction baits —like lipless crankbaits, spinnerbaits or other lures that trigger strikes through movement. Just because a bait is big doesn't mean it can't be a reaction lure.
If the water's clear, you need to be making long casts with your swimbaits —and quite possibly with all your other baits, too. Bass can easily be spooked in clear water, so get as much distance as you can between your bait and your boat.
Last year, I was practicing near the "Mile" roads on the St. Clair Shores for the Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Northern Open on the Detroit River and was getting frustrated when the smallmouth followed the Clacker without committing. I decided to scale down my line size from 15- to 10-pound-test and switched to a 7 1/2-foot casting rod to help increase my casting distance. The light line and extra rod length enabled me to cast 10 to 15 yards further than before, which proved to be the proper adjustment on that particular day.
I started catching fish within a few cranks after my casts. That extra distance was everything!
I throw matte finish Clackers rather than the glossy ones. I can tell you exactly why, but I catch more fish on the matte Clackers. My favorite is matte bluegill.
I'm sure that the glossy finishes have more flash than the matte models, and I know that flash sometimes get the bass' attention and draws strikes. Nevertheless, I'm a big believer in matte finishes now. Maybe the bass prefer them because they've become conditioned to glossy baits. Maybe the matte finishes look more natural underwater. I have no idea what the deal is, but it's developed into a confidence thing for me, so I stick with it.
Find what works for you, and go with that!