Going deep with swimbaits

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James Hall
Although Elite Series pro Ray Hanselman perfected this strategy on Texas’ Lake Amistad, it has applications in lakes across the country.

If your travels should take you to Lake Amistad in the next few months, make certain you pack some swimbaits with the rest of your tackle. And on your lake map, mark Burro, Box, Caballo, Tule and Zorro canyons as places to throw those swimbaits.

The only difference about using swimbaits here, however, is that you’ll be fishing them deep, maybe as far down as 25 or 30 feet, depending on the lake level and how the bass are feeling. If the water is clear, as it usually is on Amistad, and you’re anywhere around fish, you’re going to get hit by what you’ll swear was a bolt of lightning. It’s that sudden, that electrifying, that good.

It’s an experience second-year Bassmaster Elite Series pro Ray Hanselman has felt hundreds of times during his more than two decades as a guide on the famous Rio Grande River impoundment, and one he never tires of. Fishing swimbaits deep probably didn’t originate on Amistad, but it has been practiced there at least since the late 1990s, and today Hanselman doesn’t leave the dock without having several of them rigged and ready to cast.

“In clear water like we have in Amistad, you don’t have to be as close to structure or cover as you do in stained water, which is one reason swimbaits work so well here,” Hanselman explains. “If you’re within 10 feet of the fish with your bait, you’re perfect. Bass feel the lure coming through the water, and even if they don’t actually see it, they move up to investigate. Here, the larger bass feed on big gizzard shad, and that’s what our swimbaits represent.

“Personally, the prespawn and postspawn seasons are my favorite times for swimbaits, but honestly, out here they’re really a year-round lure. Some of the pros were fishing swimbaits deep with a lot of success on Lake Lanier during our second Elite event of the 2019 season, so deep swimbaiting certainly is not confined to Amistad, either.”