Swimbaits: a simple bass lure for everyone

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Alan McGuckin

From my little sister Deandra to an older buddy of mine — one of the things I’ve enjoyed most about the past two months is the chance to share time in the turkey woods and on local bass fishing lakes like Table Rock and Bull Shoals with a few select close friends and family members.

I think these uniquely challenging times we’ve been living in have brought a lot of people closer to one another and closer to the outdoors. But it’s also made me realize people who don’t fish a ton really need a lure that’s affordable, easy to use and truly gives them a chance to catch fish.

Few lures satisfy all those needs better than a swimbait. 

Now look, when I say “swimbait” that covers a wide variety of shapes and sizes. Some look exactly like a trout, are as long as your tennis shoe and sell for $80 or $100. Obviously, those aren’t the swimbaits I’m talking about. 

I’m talking about the style of swimbait you see me casting around shallow flooded bushes in the photo. This style typically ranges from 3 to 7 inches. Maybe the best news is the bait you see in the photo cost less than $2. A pack of four of them sells for $7 — and man do they catch fish.

Tons of brands make a ribbed, boot tail version just like the one you see in the photo. Google “ribbed boot tail swimbait,” and I promise you’ll have plenty to choose from.

You can rig it “line thru style” with a treble hook like I’ve got it rigged here. Or you can spend a little more money and buy the pre-rigged Optimum Boom Boom line thru, or Big Bite B5 line thru swimbaits. But the simplest and most inexpensive way to rig a boot tail swimbait is simply to slide it on a 3/16- to 1/2-ounce jig head.

They are also super simple to use. It’s literally a lure a teenage girl or an elderly man can cast toward the shoreline and retrieve by turning the reel handle at a slow and steady pace. This is a lure that doesn’t require an experienced angler to impart any special action or cadence on the lure’s behavior — just cast it and slowly wind it back.

The other thing that is so cool about beginning anglers using swimbaits is it’s a lure that’s fun to watch. What I mean by that is, as you wind them along in clear water — and fairly clear water is essential — you can visually see the tail of the lure swimming to look like a real baitfish. You literally watch fish swim up behind it before they smash it.

I like to throw the larger 5- to 7-inch models on 20-pound Sufix fluorocarbon line for largemouth. I go to college at Bethel University near Kentucky Lake where bass make their living eating big gizzard shad, and seeing 2- to 4-pound bass routinely eat 6-inch gizzard shad taught what aggressive killers largemouth can be. To the point, I’ve had days when largemouth eat a 7-inch swimbait faster than they’ll take a 4-inch Senko. 

But versatility is another admirable quality of swimbaits, so if you’re chasing smallmouth, or maybe even white bass, and prefer using spinning tackle, that’s cool too. Try reeling a 3-inch swimbait on a 1/4-ounce jig head nice and slow on 8-pound line, and there’s no telling how many, and what a variety of species you might catch.

Fact is, that’s the best thing about this lure — it catches fish. Plus, it’s easy to use, affordable, and fun to watch swim along – but the best part is watching a bass swim out and hammer it.

Try one and let me know how ya do.