Slinging Soft Swimbaits for Green-Backed Bass
Firing off a cast into the haze of early morning, while
slowly inching the boat along a prime shallow-water
flat, had my mind steadfastly thinking it was going to
be one of those banner days. The lure shattered the calm
surface – and after a few seconds of adjustment – I got
the reel cadence down pat. The line and rod registered
the tell tale paddle-thump of the retrieve perfectly…and
then the waiting game began. I watched the lure swim
tantalizingly toward me and readied myself as it cleared
the top of a productive-looking weed clump. The strike
was quick and aggressive. It wanted this bait bad. After
an acrobatic leap and a short tussle, the three-pound
largie was released to fight another day. And that was
just the first of many to come that morning.
The lure being tossed was a soft swimbait – a relative
newcomer on the bass fishing scene, but one I am already
a firm believer in. If truth be told, I am a
dyed-in-the-wool jig fisherman – always have been. This
lure is challenging that train of thought.
Natural As They Come
Soft swimbaits work for a number of different reasons,
but the realistic action they exhibit is as close to
Mother Nature as they come. Due to the design of the
oversized paddle tails, a thumping action is easily
achieved by way of a simple and straight retrieve. This
“thumping” gives off vibration and a visual stimulation
that is hard for a largemouth bass to resist.
The profile of a swimbait also mimics the prey that
rates high in the diet of a bass – namely perch or shad
– and is a definite triggering device. Rounding out the
attractiveness of this lure is a soft and supple
texture. It feels alive and natural and fish have a hard
time letting go.
Take Your Pick
The fishing market has been flooded with an infinite
design of soft swimbaits. Most manufacturers have a
different sampling to offer the consumer. Personally, I
have found a couple that routinely work well, and have
the look, action and durability that I desire.
The “Money Minnow” from YUM is an excellent choice. The
natural colours works well on the waters I fish, and the
tail action is very pronounced and alluring. The Berkley
Powerbait “Hollow Belly” swimbaits are also a compelling
find, and offer a slight increase in durability but
slightly less of a paddle action. Keeping both in the
boat fits the bill for me.
For chasing largemouth, sticking with a five-inch
swimbait seems to work best. The size and shape fits the
profile criteria for a bass’ prey. I generally throw
this style of bait 90-percent of the time. However, if
conditions are tough, or when fish are short striking
the lure, dropping down to a 3.5-inch version will often
lead to more strikes, and ultimately generate greater
numbers of fish in the boat.
When choosing colour, stick with natural hues for clear
water lakes, and increase the brightness the murkier the
water becomes. Foxy Shad, Blueback Herring, and Hitch
are my favourite go-to shades, although I am continually
experimenting under different conditions or seasonal
Easiest Lure to Fish?
The design of a swimbait lends itself to being one of
the easiest baits to fish. Simply put – you cast the
lure out and reel it back in. It really is that simple.
The most important part of the retrieve is getting the
speed correct. Having the bait thump it’s tail back and
forth with the correct swimming cadence is what makes
this lure work, and an angler figures that out after a
few casts on the water. It is definitely not a fast way
of fishing, but more of a medium-slow way of going.
Swimbaits seem to excel most when they are fished within
the first two feet of the water column. This is
certainly not a deep water lure, and really does its
best work in water less than 12-feet deep. The prime
depth of water for me is anything less than eight-feet.
Swimbaits are relatively weedless, so the options of
where to toss this lure are varied and wide-ranging.
Shallow-water flats, sparse pad beds, pencil reeds,
alongside docks and fallen trees, and over weed clumps
are a few places that come to mind. I think of this bait
in similar terms as a spinnerbait – a great lure to
cover water and search for actively feeding fish.
Swimbaits, however, will also attract the attention of
those neutral of negative-feeding fish, so its prowess
is even greater than that of its flashy cousin.
Largemouth will hit a swimbait in a number of varying
ways. Crushing it during the retrieve is the best
scenario, as this will often result in a positive
hookset. Other times a bass will suck in a bait and keep
swimming forward – leaving the angler none the wiser of
a fish being there. A quick game of catch-up usually
ensues, and driving the hook home when the slack has
been tightened up is paramount. Nipping at your bait or
short striking can be a common exercise when fish are
inactive. In this case, switching to a smaller bait or
adding a trailer hook (see image) is in your best
Although there are rods on the market specifically
designed for swimbaits, many are often targeting those
that throw heavier versions of the hard plastic variety.
Look for a baitcast rod with backbone but a softer tip.
I am currently using a 7”2” Medium Crankbait rod, and
have found that the longer stature and softer end allows
me to cast further and feel the lure work more
efficiently. A medium ratio (think 6.1:1) retrieve rate
will offer the best in terms of a reel choice.
As for line, straight fluorocarbon in 17-pound test has
been my favourite, and will hold up to abuse yet still
have some give for when a fish strikes. Best of both
worlds in my mind.
Soft swimbaits are a great addition to your arsenal when
targeting largemouth bass. Fish jump all over these
life-like lures…and that means more bass in the boat for
you. And like me, they may just challenge to become the
number one technique in your bag of bass tricks!