Swim Baits - Buyer's Guide

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Swim Baits - Buyer's Guide

by Capt. Terry Rand

In the world of fishing lures, there are a number of baits out there that were realized many years ago and are still being used today. Some of these lures have remained unchanged in design throughout their history and some others have gone through countless changes. And some lure designs simply fell to the wayside by way of lack of advertising, lack of effectiveness or lack of proper lure development. The swimbait is one of those designs that have, in the past, been subjected to all of the pitfalls described above. That is, until recently.

There has been an enormous resurgence in the use of what we now call swim baits, both hard and soft bodied varieties, in the last ten years. The lure design, a multi-jointed hard bait that is retrieved at a speed that will make the jointed body bend and shimmy like a swimming fish, has been around for years as well as the soft bait version that swaps the joints for a flexible paddle tail. Success with these lures in the past had been either limited or was advertised poorly and they never took off. The success of swimbait fishing in the Southern California reservoirs for monster sized largemouth bass kicked off this renewed interest in these baits in the late 1990’s. The trick was that these large, molded soft plastic lures could be created to very closely mimic the size and body shaped of the largemouths favorite food source in these lakes: stocked rainbow trout.

Because of the lures size, easily 8” – 12” in length and often weighing in at four ounces of more, these bass anglers had to upgrade their gear to accommodate these lures but the bass that they are chasing in these lakes average in the low-teens so the heavy gear is suitable for the fish and the swimbaits. The lakes are routinely stocked with young rainbow trout and the largemouths have discovered them as a high protein diet that allows them to grow to these humongous proportions. Bass over 20lbs have been caught in these lakes on these lures.

As bass anglers across the country started to use these lures in their home waters they quickly realized that they too could land some of the biggest fish in their lakes while using swim baits. And, the lure companies realized that people would fish these lures if they were designed properly and if they were able to convince the public that they could and would catch fish with them. The popularity built by the success of these lures in the bass tournament industry quickly bled into other areas of the fishing world, including saltwater fishing.

The Sebile lure company has been one of the more notable manufacturers to tackle the swim bait market with lures like the Magic Swimmer. This lure comes in a variety of sizes but the 6.5” and the 9” sizes have been the most popular for predators like striped bass, snook, bluefish and tarpon. The smaller 5” model has also been used successfully for small tunas and bonito.  This lure has a swimming action that very closely resembles that of a baitfish and Sebiles stunning paint jobs make it easy to match your lure to local baitfish species. Other popular hard swim bait manufacturers include Strike King, Spro and Tru-Tungsten.  

Soft bodied swim baits have made it into the saltwater market as well. Their popularity really spiked when the Storm lure company introduced the Storm Wildeye Swim Shad. These lures are designed in sizes ranging from 2” – 9” and have a built in hook and weight system. The wide body and slender paddle tail proved deadly on various saltwater species up and down the East coast. Storm developed a plethora of holographic body colorations to choose from and this lure remains one of the hottest sellers for surf anglers and boat anglers alike.   

Other variations of the soft swim bait exist including the old standby of a jig head and a plastic shad body with a paddle tail. The beauty of this setup is the ability to change jig heads to alter the lures weight to allow for fishing at different depths and at different speeds.  Other companies that manufacture soft swim baits are Castaic, Berkley and DOA.

Swim baits are incredible versatile lures. Hard baits can be fished fast or slow at varying depths and soft baits can do the same as well as being further modified with different sized weights to achieve varying results. One result that will certainly be noticed after you start fishing with them….swim baits catch fish.

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