Best SwimBaits for Bass (2019 Updated)
Swimbaits are widely known as big-bass baits, consistently catching fish that weigh 10 pounds or more. You won’t get as many bites with swimbaits, but the ones you get are likely to be from huge fish. Swimbait fishing is a technique that requires an all-day commitment, but it will help you haul in a double-digit bass instead of settling for smaller fish.
Due to the popularity of swim baits, lure manufacturers have given them their own category, with countless varieties being produced, and development of new products exploding in recent years. A tackle retailer who sold only swim bait gear would need a store the size of a warehouse, but they would make a lot of money. That’s because a huge number of bass fisherman have come to rely on swimbaits as their key to the world of giant bass. Those anglers need swimbaits, plus the kind of rods, reels, and other equipment needed to effectively fish with these large lures.
While you can find smaller sized swim baits, most fisherman focus on baits that measure between 6″ and 12″ in length. In addition to attracting trophy bass, such large baits still draw strikes from smaller bass too. A feeding bass will go after prey of all sizes—they’ll eat, or at least try to eat, very large baitfish, include those that equal their size.
Types of Swimbaits
You can find swimbaits that are designed to look like numerous species of forage that bass eat. They are usually intended to mimic various fish species, and those are some of the most realistic baits on the market, but manufacturers have also created swimbaits to look like rodents, ducks, and other animals.
Swimbaits are available in three general categories—hard bodied, soft bodied, and paddle tails. Subcategories exist within those groups, and some baits cross categories, such as a hard body bait that has a soft, flexible tail. Swim baits are typically constructed of wood, hard plastic, and soft plastic.
Before we jump into a discussion of each swimbait category, here is a list of each one and their subcategories.
- Glide Baits
- Full Body
- Top Hook
- Hollow Body
- Solid Body
- Full Body
HARD BODY SWIMBAITS
Modern hard body swimbaits can have an amazingly realistic appearance, with a remarkable, lifelike action in the water to match. The ultra-realistic presentation in such a large size is what big bass find so irresistible. The design costs and detailed construction methods involved in producing hard body swimbaits mean the baits can be very pricy by the time they reach the shelves of your favorite tackle retailer.
Avid fans of these high-end baits are commonly willing to shell out hundreds of dollars for hand-made models like those from Roman Made lures, for example. That doesn’t mean there aren’t more affordable options available.
Hard body models are usually rigged with treble hooks, so they aren’t very weedless at all. If you throw one into light grass cover, you can rip it through, but in thick weeds, a hard body swimbait is probably not the way to go. For as much as these lures cost, most anglers would hate to see one get snagged with no chance of recovery.
Some models of hard body swimbaits feature a lip like those found on crankbaits to drive the bait down to its running depth and create the desired swimming motion. Other designs are weighted, and shaped so they don’t require a lip to achieve the right presentation. Such baits commonly have a jointed body that adds to the swimming action during the retrieve, and they can feature one joint in the middle (single-jointed) or many joints (multi-jointed). In fact, the majority of hardbody swimbaits on the market feature at least one joint somewhere along the body of the bait.
Multi-jointed swim baits are designed with three or more body sections, all connected in a way that allows free movement. This results in a wider, smoother-looking swimming action than you get with single-jointed model. Some models of multi-jointed swimbait are available in different lengths, with the shorter versions containing fewer joints and the longer versions featuring more joints.
Most popular and effective multi-jointed models:
The body of a single-jointed swim bait is comprised of two solid parts that are connected by a hinged attachment, enabling the bait to achieve a lifelike swimming action. Some baits have the hinge in the middle of the bait, while others put the hinge near the tail.
Some of the best single-jointed models:
Original MS Slammer
Glide baits are, in general, stretched-out versions of single-jointed hard body swimbaits. The extra length gives the lure a wider, serpentine movement that is more of an “S-shaped” swimming action than found with other types of swim baits. Glide baits excel when you are trying to slow down your presentation for finicky fish, producing great results when retrieved in a stop-and-go fashion, as you would with a jerk bait.
Here are some of the best glide baits:
Gan Craft Jointed Claw
Savage Gear 3D Shine
Soft swimbaits are large, heavy, solid-rubber lures that have a more lifelike feel when eaten by bass, and that gives you additional time to set the hook. The rubber used in the construction of high-quality soft swimbaits is reinforced to hold up to the punishment it will receive when you’re fighting a huge fish.
On most soft swimbaits, the line attachment is located at the tip of the bait’s nose, but some models position the eyelet further back, on the head of the bait, which makes for a better bottom-oriented presentation.
Different soft swimbait models can have extremely different design characteristics. This section examines the main differences.
A full body soft swim bait features a solid rubber design that incorporates treble hooks connected to the bait’s belly, not unlike the set-up of a hard swim bait. In many cases, the baits will not come with hooks, so you’ll have to purchase and attach them yourself. These lures feature an eyelet that’s connected through the body of the lure to the hook rings.
Here are the best full body soft swimbaits:
Huddleston Delux 8″ Trout
Castaic Hard Head
Mattlures Dead Twitch
A unique design that is intended to protect the lure from damage is the line-through swimbait. This configuration also helps keep fish hooked by decreasing their chance of throwing the bait, compared to full-body baits.
When you tie on a line-through swim bait, you feed the line through a hole on the bait’s nose. The line goes through a narrow tube and comes out the bottom or top of the lure’s body; you just attach a treble hook to the end of the line, and the bait is rigged. When a fish is hooked, the bait can slide freely up the line, which means the fish won’t have all that weight as momentum to throw the lure.
Here are three popular line-through swimbaits:
Savage Gear 3-D Trout
Jerry Rago BV 3D
Top hook swimbaits are designed with a standard hook that has a long shank to run through the middle of the body and exit out the top of the bait. On some models, the head of the hook is weighted, while others have an unweighted hook.
With so much of the hook exposed, top hook style swimbaits allow for fantastic hook sets, but they do not perform well in weeds. If the cover is not too heavy, this style is great for dragging very close to the bottom. Some models have an extra hook ring on the bottom part of the bait, so you can attach a treble hook if you wish.
Here are some good options for top hook models:
Savage Gear Real 3-D Trout
Huddleston Deluxe 6″ Top Hook
Mattlures Ultimate Bluegill
PADDLE TAIL SWIMBAITS
Like soft swimbaits, paddle tail swimbaits are made from soft plastic, but they are typically smaller and come packaged with multiple baits, like plastic worms. With paddle tail swimbaits, you have to provide your own hooks.
A big paddle tail bait is perfect for working heavy weeds because they can be rigged in a way that makes them almost completely weedless.
Paddle tail swimbaits all perform basically the same, but you can fine-tune the behavior with your hook selection. You can use a swimbait hook, a straight shank hook, or a jig head hook—the decision will be largely dependent on the swimbait’s body shape.
The best hooks to use with hollow body paddle tail swimbaits are swim bait hooks. They have a wide gap to accommodate bulky baits and are designed with either a screw lock to attach the head, or an offset shank.
Swimbait hooks are available unweighted or come equipped with a “belly weight” located halfway down the shank of the hook. The hollow body makes paddle tail swimbaits softer, so when fish strike, the hook can be easily driven into the fish’s mouth.
Best hollow body paddle tail swimbaits:
Strike King Shadalicious
Basstrix Paddle Tails
YUM Money Minnow
Solid body paddle tail baits are also typically rigged with a swimbait hook, but you may experience a reduced hook up ratio because the solid body makes for less effective hooksets. The main reason some anglers chose a solid body paddle tail bait is that the solid body is very durable and will typically stay rigged better than their hollow body cousins. You can rig these baits just like a top hook swimbait by using as jig head or straight shank hook.
Some great solid body paddle tail swimbaits:
Big Hammer 7″
Keitech Easy Shiner
Berkley Havoc Sick Fish
SWIMBAIT FISHING TIPS
Patience. That’s the key to swimbait fishing, and it’s one of the hardest aspects for anglers to get used to. Compared to other techniques, you can expect the action to be slow, with bites occurring much less frequently that if you were using a conventional bass lure. After what feels like hundreds of casts, you may be tempted to reach for another rod…the one with that tried and true crankbait or worm tied on. Don’t do it. The pay off, if you really commit to swimbait fishing, can be the kind of huge bass that wins the tournament or adds a couple of pounds to your personal best, giving you bragging rights for months!
Big bass got that way because they’re smart. They aren’t fooled by many lures, and that’s one reason they get caught less often than smaller fish. With swimbaits, you have the advantage of being able to present an extremely realistic imitation, and one that looks like an oversized specimen of the bass’ natural food. It’s the larger size, lifelike appearance, and lively swimming action that make these baits especially effective on giant bass.
HOW TO FISH A SWIMBAIT?
Generally speaking, you fish most swimbaits in a fashion that is very similar to how you fish a crankbait, that is, using a straight, steady retrieve. Nevertheless, as with crankbait fishing, adding a few jerks and pauses can help trigger strikes. The larger baitfish that these baits imitate tend to move more slowly than smaller ones, so you’ll want to crank at the slowest speed you can and still get the desired swimming action from the lure.
A swimbait’s buoyancy, or lack thereof, can greatly impact how you retrieve it. Many floating models excel when used as a topwater lure, or one that runs just under the surface. This type of bait can look like a dying fish that is struggling to stay alive near the surface.
Fluttering near the surface is exactly what real dying baitfish do, so bass are used to seeing such an easy target, and often it’s the larger bass that get to it first. Using a swimbait on top is most effective when the water is calm, in the early part of the day, or at dusk.
The sinking and diving types of swimbaits are intended for presentations deeper in the water column, perhaps even being dragged across fish-holding bottom structure. If there is a hump or drop-off for example, maybe with some grass growing on it, that would be an excellent place to try a sinking swimbait.
Swimming the bait past dock or bridge pilings or along a weed line is a good way to attract ambushing predators. When a big bass is enticed into leaving the comfort of cover to attack prey, it happens quick. Once on the move, they’re committed and will not spend much time scrutinizing your lure. Many swimbaits are so lifelike that they look real even after inspection, but when you work the lure near cover to trick a bass into an ambush attack, fish tend hit the bait without hesitation.
Choosing Size & Color
Choosing the best size and color are very important factors when selecting a swimbait. How the bait looks is a critical element in its ability to attract bass, and in clear or lightly stained water, it’s best to use the most highly-detailed, realistic looking bait you can find.
In a fishery that contains trout and bluegill, swimbaits that imitate those fish are very effective. It’s always smart to “match the hatch”, which means presenting a lure that looks just like what your local bass are eating. If you’re not sure what species of forage the bass are chasing, you can never go wrong with a swimbait that’s designed to look like a small bass. After all, big bass will eat any small fish that swims, including their own kind!
If you’re fishing in stained water, the colors of your swimbait will appear dull or muted compared to how they would look in a clear water scenario. For this reason, matching the local forage is not as critical in stained water. The bait might be harder for the fish to see, so it’s smart to choose something with colors that are more bright than natural. In this case, ultra-realistic details are not called for. When the water is stained, it’s a good time to use your swimbait as a topwater bait because it will create more noise and splash on the surface, attracting the attention of nearby lunkers.
You can have moderate success throwing smaller swimbaits with convention casting gear, but when you get up to about 8″ in length, the 1 oz (or more) bait is going to be hard to handle on a normal size rod. A powerful baitcastng reel spooled with high-quality line will be important, but it’s the rod that will likely need to be specialized for effective swimbait fishing.
Most lure categories work best with a particular type of rod, but fishing with very large swimbaits is unique in that it can only really be done properly with a specific kind of rod. If you try to fish giant swimbaits with a rod that is lacking the backbone to handle it, you’ll get poor performance, or worse, break your rod.
Due to the popularity of swimbait fishing, nearly every rod manufacturer has designed a special swimbait rod. Swimbait rods are longer and stiffer than most, so they can heave weighty swimbaits a long distance and have the rigidity to enable a solid hookset. The larger bass that hit these baits have tough mouths that are harder to penetrate than those of smaller fish, so you need additional hook-setting power.
The size of your bait will determine the best swimbait rod to use, and if your swimbait collection includes a wide range of weights, you’ll need multiple rods. For most anglers, a rod that’s capable of handling a bait weighing up to 1 1/2 oz will provide the versatility needed to fish with a reasonable variety of swimbaits.
When you’re dealing with large, heavy lures, don’t even consider spinning tackle. It’s baitcasting gear you’ll need, and while a standard reel will do, a heavy-duty baitcaster will perform better when using swimbaits.
Between the taxing wear on the gears caused by these heavy baits, to the punishment dished out by thrashing lunkers, the reel you use for swimbait fishing has to be tough enough to handle the job. Be sure to select a reel that’s rated for the weight you’re throwing and the line you plan to load onto it.
Swimbait fishing calls for heavier line than most techniques. An abrasion resistant, 17 lb test monofilament line will work for some applications, but many swimbait experts go with 20-25 lb test line.
The need for enhanced line strength has pushed some swimbait enthusiasts to use braided line, but mono is less visible underwater than braid, which helps with swimbait presentation. Furthermore, mono stretches better than braid, which can be an asset when you’re battling a huge fish. The fact that monofilament line floats makes it the better choice when you’re using a swimbait as a topwater lure, while you may want to use fluorocarbon for presenting a sinking swimbait. If you plan to rely on a single swimbait rig, go with mono, as it is the most versatile line choice.