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When it comes to swimbait fishing there is one question I hear all the time… “Is there a swimbait for every occasion?”  As a student in the game of swimbait fishing, I believe the answer is yes. There have been many fishing trips I’ve taken in my life where all I could bring was a backpack. This limited what I could take and no matter what season of the year, I always pack at least one swimbait for the trip. So having a swimbait for every trip is something I have been practicing for years and I have learned that the question is not, “is there a swimbait for every occasion,” but instead what style of swimbait will work for every occasion.

Some of my Go-To Swimbaits throughout the years

Over the years, I have used many different brands of swimbaits and I always preferred a swimbait that had a slow rate of fall, that was around 6″-8″ in length, had an internal rigging system, and most of the time a hook coming out of the back. The hook out of the back is always a preference for me because of slow-rolling on the bottom. I love to cast a swimbait out in deep water ,let it sink to the bottom and slow-roll it back uphill hitting as much structure as possible along the way. But I have learned from trial and error, over the years, that not all swimbait shapes, with a hook on top, are good for slow-rolling over rocks and branches.

I look for swimbaits that have broad, round heads. Most swimbaits have a very narrow, oval shape and these shapes will hit structure and turn on their side easier letting the hook grab structure. This will either compromise your hook point or snag stucture and you lose your bait.

Broad Head Swimbaits

Most swimbaits have a distinct profile and shape, so finding a swimbait with a wide, round head can be tough. Some of the broad head baits I’ve found are built to have a hook come out the bottom, but over the years i’ve learned how to modify these swimbaits to get the hooks where we want them. So with the bottom hook design if you run a small piece of a coffee straw vertically through the middle of your swimbait, you can now run your line from the bottom, through the middle of the bait, to the top, and then tie your hook. Now you have a broad head top-hook bottom bumper.

Bottom Bumping King

Broad Head Swimmer

Another thing I’ve learned over the years is the difference between boot-tail style swimbaits. We often forget how important the tail of a swim bait is; it is the engine of the bait and dictates how much vibration the bait will put out. The larger the tail, the more kick and vibration it will put out and also how much drag the bait will have; which is important in how slow or fast you can retrieve a swimbait. And in my years of swimbait fishing and talking with others, I would say it’s safe to say that the boot-tail is the most popular tail of any swimbait ever made. What’s nice about a boot-tail is that it lifts the bait as it swims. The larger the boot tail, the more lift you will get from the rear of the bait. This is great if you’re bumping the bottom where you don’t want the swimmer to bury into the bottom structure, but rather ricochet off with just the lower jaw of the swimbait  hitting the bottom structure.

Boot Tails

The boot-tail style of swimbait is also great for burning it just under the surface where the tail will lift and V-wake the surface, while the head and mid section run just under the surface of the water. This presentation is deadly if the bait is built and balanced correctly. The boot tails can be designed in many different shapes like the few shown above. Others feature teardrop, oval, round, triangular, or figure- eight shapes, and some are even square and every style swims just a bit different, so it is very important to pay attention to what your using.

RagoBaits Boot Tail

In the picture to the right, you can see grooving on the tail. It does two things: first it gives the tail a life-like appearance in the water by simulating the rays on the trout tail and second, as the tail moves in the water, the grooves give the tail a slightly different movement action and vibration.

Over the years, I’ve really had the best success in boot-tails with an oval grooved shape tail about the size of a quarter in the a 6″-7″ baits, and the size of a half dollar in a 8″-10″ swimbaits.

Tungsten Nail Weights

In order to have a swimbait for every occasion you might need to field modify it a bit. If I have a 6″ broad head or wide-head swimmer with a hook coming out the back and it has a hook and a 1/4 ounce of weight added, this swimmer should work great for surface burning and slow rolling down to 5′ of water. But if I need to get deeper, lets say 20’plus, I need some more ballast and that’s why I always have some tungsten nail weights of 1/4 oz and 1/2 oz. in my travel bag and in the boat. This will allow me to add weight to get my swimbait deeper and also adjust the ballast to be able to get the nose of the swimmer down, which I believe is a huge key to my success while slow rolling on the bottom of the lake and bumping structure.

Well Balanced Swimbait

As you can see in the picture to the right this is what I like in a perfectly balanced swimbait for bottom bumping. You want to add just enough weight to get your swimmer to the bottom and be able to slow retrieve it while just barely scratching and bumping, but not dredging, the bottom. Almost like the low gravity of when the man was on the moon running and jumping, this is what you’re looking for while adjusting your swimbait with tungsten nail weights. The ideal is to swim through the zone touching once in awhile, but not snagging on the structure and compromising or losing the swimbait.

When I decide I want a swimbait that I might slow roll off the bottom occasionally, I look for a bait that has very thick pectoral fins that are pointed downward. These fins help balance the bait when you let it rest on the bottom and slowly retrieve it back in. You know the fins are correct when you set the swimbait on a flat surface and sits perfectly without falling on its side.

So I believe it’s safe to say there really is no single swimbait for every occasion, but more of a style that will work for most occasions. Sometimes I clean my boat up and I’m amazed at all the different baits that accumulate over a season, but one thing I always recognize is it’s normally one style that did the best out of all the others swimbaits all year long.

Mike Long

Mike Long, is well known for monster bass, like the 20.12 oz largemouth bass taken from Dixon Lake in 2001. That fish put him at number ten on the world record list, but it wasn’t his only large fish. He is among a handful of bass fisherman with hundreds of fish over 10 lbs to his credit.

12 comments on “A swimbait for every occasion

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Justin Blackmore on October 31, 2012 8:37 pm

Hi Mike, I have tried to use coffee straws to make line thu style baits like you have said but I have alot of trouble with the straw breaking. Do you have any tips for doing this or do I just need to find stonger straws?

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Mike Long on November 1, 2012 5:28 pm

Justin, you can cut a coat hanger and get the hole started with it, sometimes you can put the straw on the hanger wire and then push it through the swimbait. Hope that helps.

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Ron Casner on October 31, 2012 10:01 pm

Great Article mike!!

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Gene Paplanus on November 2, 2012 5:57 am

Great post; always loved slow rollers! Started out swimbaiting with optimums, is that the first bait in the pics?

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Gene Paplanus on November 2, 2012 6:09 am

Mike, I use the needle of a baseball glove threader to penetrate the plastic for line-thru baits. I use shrink tubing instead of a straw because it is more flexible, less brittle, and adds a little weight .

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Ceaser on November 4, 2012 2:41 pm

A good way to do the tubing for line thru top hookers is to use the tube that holds the ink in a pen. Take the pen apart, remove the tube and cut off the tip. Blowout the ink and I like to melt one side a little to create a flange. the strength of the tube will hold up to the force of pushing it through. add some super glue and your done. I call that the K-9 special ;)

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Mike Long on November 4, 2012 3:47 pm

Ceaser, I use to always use the ink tube cheapest tube to get. Hobby stores sell small tubing also for the RC Car antennas, this also works well for when you need to run a stinger hook farther down your bait.

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Ceaser on November 4, 2012 3:58 pm

RC tubing! I like that, never thought of that one. some great information on here, especially the spot on a spot with the pictures. The visuals really painted a vivid picture, alot of small ledges and hardbottom reef areas here on the Delta that routinely get overlooked and the article reminded me of a spot I need to hit tomorrow!!! Thanks!

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Mike Long on November 4, 2012 5:29 pm

Lots more to come and have been getting some great feedback from people like yourself so it make it all worth it to share.

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Dan Lovin on November 8, 2012 1:36 pm

Hey Mike, This is a great article and provides some great insight! thank you! what is that on the bottom of the swimbaits on the 2nd picture from the top. Would you also mind sharing what swimbait that is on the far left in the same picture? (the picture titled “Broad Head Swimbaits”)

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Mike Long on November 8, 2012 5:18 pm

Thanks Dan, it is some bark to help prop up the green Optimum bait for the picture

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Arden Hanline Jr. on November 8, 2012 6:10 pm

I used to throw those Optimums a lot at Lower Otay and San V. Caught lots of fish on them. One day while pre-fishing a tourney, I caught a 8, my dad caught a 8, I dumped a DD; and we caught a bunch in the 4 and 5 pound range. All from one spot. It’s funny how new baits come out and slowly we sometimes just stop fishing baits that worked. I don’t even own any of them anymore. LOL Sometimes new isn’t always better. Nice article Mike.

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