My Top 5 Swimbaits And How To Catch Bass With Them.

Swimbaits have overtaken the bass fishing scene with their ability to catch big fish

Why Are Swimbaits All The Rage In Tournament Angling?

It seems that professional anglers these days have replaced crankbaits and spinnerbaits with more lifelike presentations.  After avoiding this way of fishing for as long as I could I finally gave in.  Fast forward to now and I have no idea how I went without.  I now feel like I’ve come close to mastering swimbait fishing so todays article will include My Top 5 Swimbaits And How To Catch Bass With Them.


What Are My Top 5 Choices When It Comes To Swimbaits And When Do I Use Them?

I was 33 years old and on a get away trip to Lake Guntersville in Alabama.  Skeet Reese had just won the Bassmaster Elite Series event there a few weeks earlier and fishermen were coming in from all over to see if they could mimic his winning pattern.  During the four day grind Skeet used one bait, and one bait alone to catch his fish.  Ironically his travel mate was using the exact same bait and wound up runner up and had given the eventual winner a handful of Basstrix Paddle Tail Swimbaits in one particular color, Ayu.  The locals knew that this exact bait was on fire on “The Big G” and supplies were diminished.  No bait shops could get them in and if local anglers had any at all they dare not mention it.

By the time my buddy and I arrived the fad was over.  Basstrix had caught up to demand and shops had excess supplies in all colors, especially Ayu.  I picked up a package  off the shelf in the seven inch style and wondered how big a fish would have to be to eat such a large presentation.  I threw the baits on the counter, grabbed a steak and egg biscuit and set out to catch a 20 pound sack of fish myself.  Two hours later, with only one small bass willing to follow the bait up to the boat and I was back to throwing a square bill so I wouldn’t get embarrassed on one of the best lakes in the country.


What Is A Swimbait? 

To a novice it would seem that to categorize swimbaits would be way too broad.  If you can swim it through the water then it’s a swimbait right? Wrong!  A crankbait would be considered the same but as fishermen we take common verbs and nouns, then we reorganize them to assign subcategories to baits.

Swimbaits are commonly referred to as baits that are the closest resemblance to a baitfish in both appearance and swimming action.  Some of the best artists around design swimbaits and when it comes to clear water, it’s hard to find a better fish catching bait when both size and quantity matter.  The perfect swimming action completes this bait.


Gaining Confidence In The Swimbait.

The bite had been absolutely incredible in the spring on one of my local lakes.  Everyone was weighing in limits in tournaments and the presentation never seemed to matter.  You could throw a Pop R and within the first two hours be culling.  It was at this time I determined I was going to put two rods in the boat and tie a swimbait on each and not come back until I’d figured this puzzle out.  

After stopping in a local shop I grabbed a package of five inch “Yum Magic Minnows” and a pack of 5 inch “Zoom Paddle Tails”.  I arrived on my lake to passing rain bands accompanied by slightly cooler temperatures for the season.  A short idle and I was at my normal confidence areas so that I could put the odds into my favor.


What Styles Of Swimbaits Exist Choosing My Top 5 Swimbaits And How To Catch Bass With Them?

First off I believe there are two main categories when it comes to swimbaits, soft and hard baits.  Hard baits are most popular out west because of how closely they resemble large trout in such great detail that looking down in the water you might mistake it yourself for the real thing.

Soft baits are what we will be covering in more depth in this article.  These baits can be subcategorized into straight tail and paddle tail.  Strait tails use more of a gliding action to represent either a fleeing or injured baitfish.  The first bait that comes to mind in this category would be the Zoom Fluke.

Paddle tails on the other hand look like a small spoon sits at the end of the bait and causes a near perfect swimming action.  This style is best suited for open water swimming, drawing fish in from afar to ambush.


My First Bass Off Of  A Swimbait!

I threw up against some chunk rock sitting on the bank that had a steep drop off.  Glancing down at my electronics in search of baitfish I felt a tap and looked up to see a bass come back for my Yum Money Minnow and both quickly disappeared.  Frantically I sat the hook but came up short.  

It wouldn’t be but a few yards down when my addiction would soon start.  After casting near a grass point and halfway into my retrieve I saw another fish come up and absolutely smoke the minnow.  A few seconds later and my first ever bass on a swimbait, a two pounder, was being photographed in a selfie with a giddy angler!  Another dozen bass were caught in the next two hours and I had all of a sudden developed a love of swimbait fishing.


How To Fish A Paddle Tail Swimbait?

There are three main ways I fish a swimbait. 

  • Chuck and Wind
  • Crawl
  • Erratic


Chuck and Wind is the simplest and most productive way to catch bass especially after the morning bite has fallen off.  I will make the longest cast I possibly can and reel the bait no less than a foot from the surface in a slow steady retrieve.  This pattern works best in open water.


Crawling a swimbait is used when fishing main lake flats and drop offs.  Simply let the bait fall to the bottom and then begin reeling, pausing every few rotations on the reel in order to let the bait fall back down.  Bass will pin the bait against the bottom.  Once you feel your rod load up you stick him!


Erratic fishing is when I try to make the bait look oblivious to pending danger.  Bass will set up on structure in certain ways to ambush unsuspecting fish that feel they are fleeing into the exact same structure for safety.  I pause the bait, then reel quickly and shit my rod, sometimes violently from side to side.  When it comes to catching fish this way I get my most vicious bites!


Catching Larger Bass On the Swimbait After Building Confidence!

I had accomplished one goal which was to finally be confident enough to pick up a swim bait to catch fish but now I wanted to catch big fish!  I grabbed the larger Zoom Paddle Tail and made my first cast up against a long retaining wall.  I came within ten foot of the only cover, a dock and began my retrieve.  I noticed almost immediately that I couldn’t feel my bait swimming and finally realized a bass had come up from behind and inhaled it.  I set the hook and pulled in a nice four pounder!


Why Do Large Bass Fall For Swimbaits?

The Zoom Swimmer is my top pick when it comes to swimbait fishing for bass.
The Zoom Swimmer is my top pick when it comes to swimbait fishing for bass.

Now that I have a few years of swimbait fishing under my belt I’ve come to realize that they catch larger bass on average.  I think there are two main reasons.

  1. Bass can be drawn out farther due to the lifelike action of a swimbait
  2. Bass are lazy

When throwing swimbaits, always choose to do it in stained to clear water and make long casts.  Fish are drawn in by the visual appeal and the vibration and will swim up from behind to investigate so don’t be ripping it away from them.

Bass also would prefer to eat a big meal as opposed to a small one.  They are like us, they want the most bang for their buck!  If a fish is willing to swim several yards for a meal obviously it would prefer a gizzard shad instead of a minnow.

A Day I will Always Remember Fishing With A Swimbait!

Even now  I have no idea how many fish I caught that day.  My best guess would be between 30 and 40!  I know it was enough to influence me to keep a swimbait tied on every tournament.  It is also my go to bait when I’m in search of a kicker fish!  Next I will be discussing my top 5 swimbaits and when to use them…



5.) Keitech Swing Impact


After a devastating cold front or in the fall when Bass are keyed on small threadfin shad the Keitech Swing Impact in the three inch model is my go to.  While I always want to fish with a larger swimbait, there are times when it just won’t work.  Concentrate this bait around marinas and docks.   Either fish it on a drop shot or couple it with an Owner American Ultrahead Inshore Jighead in 1/8oz.



4.) Berkley PBHB5-SYSSD PowerBait Hollow Belly Swimbait Fishing Bait, 5″


Of course Berkley makes a paddle tail swimbait and of course it catches fish!  This would be my go to bait in darker water conditions whether that mean cloudy, windy days, or that the water is a little more stained.  Sexy shad is my favorite color here. I stick to igheads in particular the Baby Squadron in 3/16oz


3.) Strike King Shadalicious


Like with the Berkley Hollow Belly the Shadalicious is a go to in darker water.  Strike King earns the bronze metal due to the fact I usually get more bites and catch more fish per bait before it’s damaged beyond repair.  Sexy shad is nearly impossible to beat under the right conditions.  Once again the Baby Squadron is my go to jig head.


2.) YUM Money Minnow Original

The silver medal goes to the bait that started it all!  I always have a box of these in the boat and “Hitch” is my go to color.  I don’t bother with any other size besides the 5″ model.  I have all the confidence in the world in Yum when it comes to catching numbers of bass on a swimbait!  Did I mention I love the Baby Squadron Jig head for a pairing?


1.) Zoom Swimmer 5″

Easily my favorite Swimbait on the market, the Zoom Swimmer works on all fronts.  It catches fish in the open, under docks, around rocks, grass, logs, heck I DON’T CARE where you throw it…It catches Fish! Color you ask? Simple….SHAD.

It’s the most simplistic color pattern but if I was stuck with only one bait in a tournament then it’s this exact bait right here rigged on a jig head.

When To Throw My Top 5 Swimbaits

Spring: This is the simplest time to get bit on a big swimbait.  I will swim the largest profile I can just outside of spawning pockets around grass, logs, or any other staging areas female bass will use.

Summer: As soon as bass leave their spawning grounds and head to deeper water swimbaits will shine in open water.  The big females will be looking for a larger meal and are more willing to bite especially in the early summer.

Fall: Bass anglers know to catch fish in the fall you have to search.  A swimbait will check all the boxes here.  The Keitech 3″ and any smaller styles would be where I would start.  Check the backs of creeks to locate schooling fish.

Winter: Time to crawl!  Find shallow banks that butt up against steep drop offs.  Cast a 4″ paddle tail and let it sink to the bottom.  Slowly wind keeping contact with the bottom.  Bites can come at anytime but most will happen when the depth transitions to deep.

My Final Thoughts On My Top 5 Swimbaits And How To Catch Bass With Them.

I know one thing…As long as I bass fish I will rely on swimbaits.  They are one of the most adaptable presentations available in our toolbox as anglers, and the quicker you master them, the more success you’ll have in tournaments.  Please don’t wait 34 years to learn them!

If you’re looking to see what Rod and Reel Pairs well with Swimbaits check out My Top 5 Reels Article.  In it you will find the best combo!



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