Maximize The Versatility Of Soft-Plastic Swimbaits

by Glenn Walker


Like the jig and buzzbait, the swimbait is considered a “big fish” bait by experienced anglers. However, the swimbait has been put on the back burner by many fishermen because of the high cost of some models—namely, hard-bodied swimbaits. But with the evolution of the soft-plastic swimbait, anglers now have a very versatile and cost-effective option to present bass with a natural presentation in variable situations.

One of the ways that soft plastic swimbaits (both solid and hollow-bodied) can be rigged is on a Texas rig. With this rig, you’re able to fish your bait through heavy cover, thus presenting a very natural-looking presentation in the thick stuff that bass live in. This presentation shines in shallow vegetation, such as eel grass flats and lily pad fields. You can fish this bait along the edge and let it just tick the vegetation, or cast it into the grass and bring it through the cover; this will look like a baitfish or bluegill fleeing a predator.

The two other areas of shallow-water cover where a Texas-rigged swimbait is a good choice are laydowns and boat docks. The bass that inhabit these areas see countless jigs, spinnerbaits and even shallow-running crankbaits. So if you can present something different to those fish, you’re likely to have some great days on the water. Docks tend to attract baitfish and bluegills, so a swimbait mimicking that forage will tempt bass to come out from underneath the dock to hit your presentation.

vegetation_swimbait_600 This shallow vegetation is a great area to throw a Texas-rigged swimbait or a swim jig with a swimbait trailer. (Photo: Greg Walker)

You’ll need the right hook to make the most of this presentation. The two options you have include a standard extra-wide-gap hook with a small tungsten weight in front of it, or a specialty swimbait hook that has a corkscrew on the hook eye and a weight on the shaft or bend of the hook. My two choices would be a Lazer TroKar Magworm (TK120) 4/0 or 5/0 hook, depending on the size of the swimbait, with a 1/16- or 1/8-ounce Lazer Sharp Tungsten weight pegged in front of the hook. I’ll use this setup when fishing in and around vegetation because it comes through the cover with ease. When fishing around docks or laydowns, I’ll opt for a swimbait hook such as the TroKar Magnum Weight Swimbait (TK170) hook.

Regardless of the rigging option I choose, I’ll use a long 7-foot, 6-inch Wright & McGill Victory Pro Carbon “SKT” Swimbait rod, as I can make long casts, feel exactly what my bait is doing, and then have the power to get that bass out of the heavy cover. For line, I’ll either use 15- or 17-pound-test Seaguar Inviz X Fluorocarbon line, as it’s very abrasion-resistant and I can make long casts with it.

When fishing a swimbait in open water situations, such as underwater points, humps, flats and sand drops, rigging a swimbait on a jighead is a good choice. This is because you make long casts with a compact presentation and you’ll get a better hookup ratio in open water. Fishing a swimbait on a lead-head jig in open water does a great job of replicating shad, which is why using it during the summer and fall, as bass are feeding heavily baitfish in open water, is a great option.

The size of your jighead will depend on the depth of water you’re fishing, and what depth the bass are sitting at. If they’re sitting close to the bottom and the bait is down there as well, you’ll want to use a heavy enough jighead that puts your bait at that same depth. Likewise, if the baitfish and bass are suspended, using a lighter jig allows you to target that depth with ease.

I’ll primarily start out with 3/8-ounce jighead for most of my applications, but will go down to a 1/4- or 5/16-ounce head if I need to keep my bait higher in the water column, or up to a 1/2- or 3/4-ounce head if the bass are holding in deeper water. Whatever size jig and brand you go with, be sure the jig has a strong, wide-gap hook in it—this will help increase your hookup and landing ratio.

The same rod and reel setup I use when fishing a Texas-rigged swimbait will work in this situation as well. It’s unlikely, however, that I would go up to 17-pound test, as I’ll be using the jighead presentation more in open-water situations.

Swimbaits can also make great trailers for several lures. Using a swimbait as a trailer on a swim jig, vibrating jig or spinnerbait is something different than a standard grub. This gives your bait a bigger profile and delivers something unique to bass, vs. the same presentation they’ve already seen from countless anglers.

The lures I mentioned above are used to replicate baitfish or bluegills, so the majority of the time, adding a swimbait as a trailer makes a lot of sense because it completes the lure package and makes it look very natural in the water.

glenn_bass_swimbait This Kentucky Lake largemouth engulfed a swimbait on a main river ledge. (Photo: Greg Walker)

Selecting colors for swimbaits as a jig trailer can go in two different directions, the first being “match the hatch.” In other words, if you’re fishing in clear water and the bass want a natural presentation, then go with a swimbait that looks like what the bass are eating. If they’re eating shad, go with a shad-colored swimbait, and if they are eating bluegills, go with bait that has more of a brown, green and blue color pattern to it.

If you’re fishing in stained water, consider going with a swimbait that stands out and brings attention to your lure. For example, when fishing a white swim jig or spinnerbait during the springtime on a stained river, use a chartreuse swimbait to really make your bait pop and catch the attention of bass.



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