Gear Swindle’s go-to winter baits Posted on January 25, 2022 Photo: Craig Lamb - It’s the middle of winter, and even so, Bassmaster Elite Series pro Gerald Swindle is busy in his shop. Photo: Craig Lamb - The two-time Bassmaster Angler of the Year is finalizing preparations for the season to come, while fishing some local tournaments to get in shape. Photo: Craig Lamb - These 13 Fishing rigs saw action during a derby fished in cold water conditions. “The baits that I lean on to get me through the winter are lightweight, tight-wobbling balsa crankbaits,” Swindle said. He also relies on sonar to see the bass and cast into their strike zone with a small jigging spoon. Photo: Craig Lamb - Swindle also favors skirted jigs, bulky for a slow fall and small finesse models. Soft plastic trailers are chosen for minimal action. “Bass metabolism and movement is slower in cold water, and you’ve got to factor in the clear and stained water conditions,” he added. Photo: Craig Lamb - “The keys are using small, compact baits and slow presentations to mimic the natural action of the bait,” Swindle said. Photo: Craig Lamb - Swindle’s first choice is a scaled-down, skirted jig with a thinner profile that gives it bulk in a small package. “It’s full, fluffy and when you hop or drag it across the bottom it imitates a crawfish,” he said. “Nothing in the action will make it move too fast and alarm the fish that it's artificial. It just looks natural in the water.” Photo: Craig Lamb - The choice is Swindle’s signature Buckeye Lures G-Man Ballin’ Out Jig, 3/8 size, Green Pumpkin, with a matching Zoom Super Chunk Jr. Built around a stout, premium Gamakatsu Hook, the banded finesse-cut skirt produces the subtle action recommended by Swindle for cold water. Photo: Craig Lamb - Swindlle’s second choice is another 3/8-ounce Buckeye Lures G-Man Ballin’ Out Jig, Black/Blue, with a Zoom Critter Craw. The first jig is for clear water; this model is for stained water. Swindle favors the livelier Critter Craw for its pulsating pinchers. “You need just a bit more action for stained water,” he said. “This full-skirted, compact jig has a light action that falls slower in the cold, stained water.” Photo: Craig Lamb - Another compact jig in the lineup is an alternative to the first two choices. “This is the jig that I rely on when the water temperature is in the mid-40s, into the low 50s,” Swindle said. Photo: Craig Lamb - The choice is another 3/8-ounce Buckeye Lures G-Man Ballin’ Out Jig, with a skirt cut for finesse applications, including the top that adds a bit of action. Swindle adds a Zoom Fat Albert Twin Tail Grub. “The grub adds bulk and is perfect for getting their attention as strikes happen on the fall.” Photo: Craig Lamb - Crankbaits come into the lineup, with these choices designed specifically for cold water. The choices are the Rapala DT 6, with a running depth of 6 feet, and the newest addition, the DT8, adding another 2 feet of depth. “The DT8 is a game changer, because now we have a crankbait of the same profile as the DT6 that expands the strike zone into 8 feet,” Swindle said. “I love a DT-6, but sometimes if I’m trying to hit a particular target, I need to throw way past it, reel the bait pretty fast to get it there and then finesse it across it.” The DT-8 allows him to make long casts, get the bait to the bottom and slow it down. He gets another 2 feet of depth using 8- or 10-pound monofilament line. Photo: Craig Lamb - Both baits are made of balsa, which is ideal for cold water, and feature a tighter wobble when a subtle action is a must to mimic the natural swimming movement of baitfish. To precisely imitate regional baitfish forage species throughout the nation, the DT-8 is available in 39 patterns. It weighs 3/8 ounce, is armed with No. 5 VMC black-nickel, round-bend hooks and features an internal baritone rattle. Photo: Craig Lamb - Swindle calls this familiar crankbait “the original cold-water killer.” It’s the Rapala Shad Rap, in the SR05 (4 to 9 feet running depth) and SRO6 (5 to 10 feet running depth) models. Swindle chooses crawfish patterns in stained water; shad patterns are the pick for clear water. Photo: Craig Lamb - The balsa bait is Swindle’s go-to crankbait when the water temperature is below 49 degrees. “Baitfish and crawfish move slower in super-cold water, and that makes this bait most effective with it mimicking the natural action of the bait.” Photo: Craig Lamb - Next is another new crankbait that Swindle said has more vibration than the Shad Rap, making it ideal when the water is between the upper 40s into the mid 50s. The bait’s profile and design make it ideal for making contact with rock and wood. Swindle suggests making an occasional pause during the retrieve, giving the rod tip a twitch, to maximize its unique action. The circuit board lip also makes a different sound when striking rock. Photo: Craig Lamb - Swindle’s next pick is the Rapala OG Tiny 4. The new bait combines the action of a Shad Rap, with the virtues of a flat-sided, finesse crankbait with a tight balsa-wood wobble and subtle action. The Tiny 4 measures 2 1/4-inches and weighs 5/16-ounces. It comes armed with No. 5 VMC black-nickel 1X-strong hybrid treble hooks. Photo: Craig Lamb - Last, and certainly not least, is a classic bait designed for the coldest water conditions. It’s Swindle’s choice for extreme cold conditions, when the bass’ metabolism and movement is at minimal. Photo: Craig Lamb - The choice is the unmistakable old timer of the lineup, the venerable Rapala Jigging Rap, designed for ice fishing but adapted long ago by bass anglers when the going gets really tough. Designed to be bottom bounced, yo-yo style off the bottom, the Jigging Rap is an ideal complement to today’s real-time side- and down-scan sonars. “You can see the bass on the screen, watch the bait fall into their strike zone, and drop it on their nose for the perfect suspended bite,” Swindle said. He also vertically jigs this lure over deep channels where the fish form schools on bottom breaks. Photo: Craig Lamb - The lineup might be small, but keeping it simple during cold water conditions when the bass are all but dormant is key. “Scale it back to these baits, all designed to be super-effective in cold water,” Swindle said.