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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.