The first thing I want to say — and maybe it’s the most important thing — is that you should always be thinking about the direction and the angle of your retrieve when you’re fishing a swimbait.
It’s a rare day when I retrieve a swimbait downhill. There are two problems with pulling up on a point or an underwater hump, positioning your boat in deep water and throwing shallow. The first is that the bass have seen that approach a thousand times. Everybody does it that way, and the bass become conditioned to it.
The second has to do with the inherent design of most swimbaits. As you retrieve them back towards the boat they have a tendency to rise. If the bottom is falling and your lure is rising, you’re getting farther and farther off the bottom the closer your bait gets to the boat. The farther it gets off the bottom the fewer bass you’ll catch.
The way I fish a swimbait is to pull up into shallow water and throw deep. I let it fall all the way to the bottom and then bring it back slow enough so that it ticks something every so often. That’s a different approach but once you start doing it it’ll seem natural to you, and you’ll start catching more and bigger fish.
Something else that’s critical with swimbaits is the angle of presentation. There are times when you can bring one back on top or alongside of the structure you’re fishing and you’ll get bites. But there are more times when a 30, 45 or 60 degree angle across the structure will get you more bites.
You have to have confidence in what you’re doing if you’re going to do this day in and day out. There are times when you’ll make the first few casts and you won’t get a bite. The temptation is to go somewhere else and fish. Don’t do that. Work the area from every angle you can visualize.
The final thing I want to talk about is a technique I’ve been working on for a couple of years now. I call it the drop swim. Basically, I’m using a plastic swimbait as my lure on a conventional drop-shot rig. The idea is to show the fish something they haven’t seen before but that looks real to them.
The things I’m working on are lure selection and presentation. The lure selection part of it is simple enough — try different sizes and designs until I find the best combination for the circumstances at hand. The presentation part is much tougher.
Do I drag it or hop it? If I decide to drag it, should I do that for short distances like an inch or two? Or, do I drag it along the bottom for several feet? And, how fast should I drag it? You get better action moving a plastic swimbait fast but sometimes a slow, floating movement is better.
Hopping it along is another action I’ve been experimenting with a while. Pulling it up and letting it fall back down like some bottom-bumping lures sounds good, but I’m not sure that’s the most natural and lifelike look for a minnow looking bait. And again, there’s the question of speed.
Finding the answers to these questions will take a lot of time. I am confident, however, that when I get everything worked out I’ll have something. And when I do I promise to share it with you.
I hope that some of what I’ve said in this column will give you more swimbait options than what you’ve had in the past. I encourage you to give them a try. They’ve worked for me fishing at the highest levels of competitive bass fishing. There’s no reason they won’t work for you.