Master Series: Art of the Swimbait - Byron Velvick (Lesson 5)

Winter is beginning to settle into many parts of our country. That means less fishing and more dreaming about next year and what you're going to need to catch them come spring. It also means your family will be asking for a gift list from you for Christmas.

Either of those tasks can be tough given the amount of fishing tackle, and the number of fishing lures, on the market. No fear, however. I'm here to help with my list of four "must-have" swimbaits.

Soft Baits

1. Berkley Hollow Belly

This soft swimbait is an excellent choice for most parts of the country. It has a narrow body — sort of a herring shape — so it'll imitate many different species of forage.

Berkley offers this lure in at least three sizes — 4, 5 and 6 inches — and in quite a few colors. Think about the local forage in your lake or river and pick the model that most closely resembles it. If you're in doubt about color go with gizzard shad. It's good almost anywhere.

2. Basstrix Swimbaits

Basstrix makes a ton of different styles of swimbaits. The ones you should take a close look at are the ones with deep bodies — they're long if you measure from the backbone straight down to the belly. Their body shape is much like that of a panfish, something that lives in almost every lake in the country.

Again, choose a size and color that matches your local forage. Remember that size isn't length. It's a package that consists of length, depth and width. If you're having trouble picking a color, bluegill or bream is a great option. They're universal and about as common as anything that swims.

Hard Baits

1. Tru-Tungsten Tru-Life Swimbaits

Their series of hard swimbaits consists of several models. You can purchase them in 4-, 5-, 7-, 8- and 9-inch sizes, and in a wide variety of colors.

Tru-Life baits are designed to have weight added to them, or removed from them, by means of small, tungsten balls that fit into the belly of the lure. They'll catch fish from top to bottom. Adjusting the weight doesn't affect their action. Heavy or light, they still have one of the most lifelike swimming motions I've ever seen on a hard bait.

If you're in doubt about color, choose tilapia. I know they don't live in very many places around the country, but they look like what a fish ought to look like. In the end that's what matters.

2. Black Dog Lunker Punker

This one's a bit controversial. Not every angler would select a topwater plug as a "must-have" lure. Nevertheless, it's on my list.

The original Lunker Punker is available in 6 ½- and 8-inch sizes. The new G2 is 6 inches in length. Throw it anywhere and anytime you're fishing shallow, or even over deep water if it's clear.

The best all-around color is probably bluegill, at least in most venues, but in other areas — notably California — rainbow trout might be a better choice. Oki Shad is not a bad choice, either.

These four lures should give you a solid start on your swimbait journey. As you gain proficiency and confidence, you can expand your selection — slowly, one lure at a time — to meet the needs of specific fishing situations.

Finally, let me remind you that small swimbaits catch more fish. If you're new to this game, you might want to think small. Nothing will increase your confidence in a lure like catching fish with it.

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