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By Margie Anderson
Outdoors Editor 

Ten Best Swimbait Tips

Swimbaits Are Dynamite Lures!


John and our buddy Matt Shura caught these toads at Hidden Lake using big Yamamoto plastics as swimbaits.

"Swimbait" is a broad term – it can mean anything from a grub to a 15-inch trout imitation. They are distinct from crankbaits in design and usually in material – swimbaits tend to be made of softer stuff than crankbaits, but they are all designed to imitate some kind of baitfish. Spring is the perfect time to get acquainted with these baits if you aren't already a fan, so here are some tips to help you improve your swimbait techniques.

D-Shad And Fluke Baits

These little baits are all the rage out West right now and they have been putting fish in the boat all year long. Little Dippers, D-Shad, flukes – they come in a huge variety of colors, and the tails can be split, straight, paddle – you name it. Seems like no matter what kind you use, they flat-out catch fish. When the bass are up shallow and active, all you have to do is put a swimbait on a hook (rig it weedless), then throw it to shore and twitch it. But there are several things you can do to increase your catch ratio and save some money, whether you fish flukes or giants.

1. Use a trailer hook. When you rig a fluke on a big worm hook, slip a large treble hook onto the hook before you push it back into the lure. Make sure that the treble is rigged correctly so that one of the hooks is pointing right back at the bait. You can insert this into the bait and have the other two hooks exposed. When you're twitching over open water, these aren't going to snag on anything, but they make a difference in your catching, especially if the fish are short-striking.

2. Put a bit of weight in front of it. If the fish are a bit deeper, then you need to add weight to the lure to put it in front of them. A D-Shad is naturally a little heavier, but even a D-Shad may need to be deeper. Gary Dobyns got tired of jig heads that didn't have decent barb systems, and when you're fishing an A-rig or even a single bait, it gets expensive when they keep falling off. So he invented one himself. The Dobyns jighead has a 4-barb system that requires no super glue and makes the bait swim naturally but holds it on tight. Put it on straight the first time or you'll rip it up taking it off. It's "stupid simple", Gary says.

3. Use braided line. If you're fishing a small fluke bait, you need to be able to throw it, and you need to be able to set the hook hard and fast when the time comes. Braided line is perfect for this. If you're fishing clear water, use a fluorocarbon leader and join them up with a double uni.

4. Match the hatch. Like a fly fisherman, you need to be aware of just what the fish are eating in the lake you're fishing. In some of our clear-water reservoirs out West, the Game and Fish Department stocks catchable rainbow trout. These tasty morsels make the bass grow big and fat. Throwing a trout swimbait is a dynamite way to tempt one of the really big bass into biting. Shad are the main prey on other lakes out West, like Pleasant and Mead. We went to a new lake called Hidden Lake near Buckeye, Arizona (, which is being managed as a trophy bass lake. It just opened in January. The owner told me that when the big orange dragonflies are out, the bass will jump out of the water and grab them out of the air. I'm thinking an orange twitch bait would be perfect right about then.

5. Put it where the fish are. If you're too worried about losing your bait, you shouldn't be fishing it at all. Matt Shura ( told me that he tries to throw his baits into stuff that worries him. He knows that bass love to hang out in the thick stuff, so that's where to go after them. At Hidden Lake he was casting into branches and submerged trees that you would swear he'd never get out of. But that's where he caught the big fish.

6. Don't be afraid to change it up. If you think the tail on your swimbait could use a little more action, take a knife to it and carve away until the tail wiggles like you want it to. Try a little dye if you have a little sunfish bait that doesn't seem quite right. Out here our sunfish have a definite chartreuse tint to their tails, and lots of guys dip their baits in chartreuse dye. You can also use a waterproof marker to add red to the gills. Do whatever it takes to make that bait look like lunch.

7. Study the prey. Many years ago, the late great Aaron Martens told me that he spent a lot of time learning about what big bass eat. He studied how trout swim, where they hang out, and how they behave. You can bet that the bass in a lake know just where to find their prey, and they are also intimately acquainted with how they move. Learn to make your swimbait act like the prey. Watch videos, read some studies, then practice throwing your baits in a swimming pool where you can watch them and perfect your technique.

8. Keep the hooks sharp. Hook sharpeners are cheap, so get one and use it. If it's been a while since you threw that bait, make sure you check the hooks and replace them if necessary. We fish around a lot of rocks out west, and hooks take a real beating. Hooks can get dull or even broken. Make it a habit to at least look at the hooks every time you go to make a cast.

A big Yamamoto Senko is one of John's favorite swimbaits.

9. Use the right rod. For flukes, you may be using a spinning rod, while for the big swimbait you'll be using a casting rod, but make sure you get a rod that is designed for swimbaits – limber enough to throw a lure even without a weight, but with enough backbone to set the hook. My buddy Gary Dobyns has decades of experience fishing every kind of bass bait imaginable, and he was one of the first guys ever to reach the million-dollar mark in tournament winnings. He knows what kind of rod you need no matter what you are throwing. Check out Even if you don't end up buying one from him, you'll learn what to look for in a good swimbait rod.

10. Fish backwards. Decades ago, John Murray told me that he often positions his boat close to shore so he can fish uphill. Last January Tai Au showed me the same thing at Lake Pleasant with an A-rig. He stayed close to shore and threw the rig out toward the channel, let it sink, and then fished it back toward shore. The bass were slamming it. You can do this same thing no matter what kind of swimbait you are fishing. Try something different – you may be surprised at the result.

No matter where you live and fish, there is a swimbait that will mimic the baitfish and put bass in the boat for you. Swimbaits are dynamite lures – hopefully, these tips will help you catch even more fish with them.


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