Preuett: Using swimbaits to target bigger bass

One of the most popular lures in all of bass fishing right now, or maybe I should say, the No. 1 most popular lure in all of fishing right now, is the swimbait.

And there’s a very good reason for it – they catch a lot of larger than average bass – and that’s led to major tournament wins the past two months on popular fisheries like Guntersville and Kentucky Lake. This in turn has led to more and more serious weekend anglers giving them a try.

I could fill five pages with information on all the varieties of swimbaits – where and when to throw each and how to rig them – but for now, let’s try to cover the very basics.

It’s important to note that swimbaits are primarily a visual lure for bass – they don’t rattle, buzz or cause a ton of vibration. Instead they trigger bites primarily in clear to slightly stained water because they look similar to baitfish. As hugely popular as they are right now, they are not great in muddy water. Bass have to see them to eat them.

One of the least complicated versions is a 5 1/2-inch Smokin Shad-colored Creme Scremer on an oversized 1/2-ounce lead darter head like you see in the center of the group of baits in the photo. It’s got a paddletail, and its fairly sleek body makes its way through aquatic vegetation pretty easily. Just cast them and retrieve slow and steady.

The second type of swimbait I use most is a jointed hard-bodied version like the Treeshaker Shaker Shad or Bucca Bull Shad. First, I’ll warn you – these lures range from $35 to $50. That’s why a recent college grad like me only has a couple of them, but man do they ever look natural in the water and get bites from big fish. I keep one handy on the deck, and anytime I see schooling activity near the surface I toss a Shaker Shad or Bull Shad to them.

I throw the Bull Shad and Shaker Shad at places like Lake Fork or Toledo Bend where bass bigger than 8-pounds are not uncommon, but that’s not to say a 3- or 4-pound bass won’t eat one too. They certainly will. I throw them on 25-pound fluorocarbon, or braided line if I’m around grass, and they swim barely beneath the surface.

The most popular swimbaits right now are those like the Basstrix or Shadalicious you see on the far left of the photo with the weighted hook. These are soft plastic, hollow-bodied, lures that most pros throw in the 4- to 7-inch size.

Hollow-bodied swimbaits are great right now when bass are located around deeper ledges in summer where underwater creek and river channels move through a reservoir. A 6/0 wide gap hook with a 1/2-ounce weight in the belly of the hook works well with most of these hollow-bodied baits, and you can go to a 3/4-ounce if you want to fish it deeper than about 10-feet.

My guess is that the size of these lures intimidated a lot of anglers, and suppressed their popularity, until recently when tournament anglers proved how many big stringers could be caught with them. They’re certainly no secret anymore, and for good reason. They’re fairly easy to cast and retrieve, and they catch a lot of above-average size bass.