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Updated May 17, 2023 12:25 PM
The swimbait “revolution” is well over a decade old, but outside of the West and in certain pockets of the South, everyday anglers are still trying to figure out how to integrate these proven largemouth bass lures into their game plans. A big part of the resistance seems to be the terminology. Each of us has a different idea of what the term “swimbait” actually means.
So, what is a swimbait? Well, it can be a lot of things. For instance:
- A swimbait can be soft plastic or made of hard materials.
- A swimbait can be as short as 2 inches or longer than a foot.
- A swimbait can be floating, suspending, or sinking.
- A swimbait can be made to swim or to glide.
- And a swimbait can be made to replicate all sorts of easy meals—from shad to trout to rodents, and everything in between.
In other words: You can ignore bass anglers who claim that “swimbait” only refers to those 12-inch trout imitators that cost $300. Swimbaits, as you’ll see in the choices below, are available in a variety of sizes (and prices), and you should stock your tackle box full of them. Because come springtime, when bass are fat and hungry, a swimbait is the best lure you can cast to catch giant largemouths.
Here are the five best swimbaits to use this spring, plus some tips on how to fish them.
Best Swimbaits: Reviews & Recommendations
Best for Beginners: Keitech Fat Swing Impact
- Length: 2.8″, 3.3″, 4.8″
- Colors: Alewife, AYU, Arkansas Shiner, Black, Black Blue, Black Cherry, Black Shad, and more
- Price: $9.95 -$10.49
- Extremely versatile
- Produces strikes from a wide array of species
- Many colors and sizes
- May get torn up quickly by fish
The Fat Swing Impact has spawned a legion of imitators not only because it works, but because it works in so many different ways. This boot-tailed, ribbed soft plastic can be rigged on a weedless hook and dragged through or over vegetation, but it also excels on a ballhead jig or in multiples on the back of a castable umbrella rig. What makes the lure so effective is that it swims enticingly at any speed, and even when left to fall on a slack line it still undulates on the fall. Start with the 4.8-inch version, going up to 5.8 (or even 6.8) if you’re around big fish and big forage, or down to 2.8 if the fish are finicky.
Best Budget: Storm Wildeye Shad
- Length: 2″, 3″, 4″
- Colors: Olive shad, Pearl, Natural shad, Shad, Bluegill, Shiner chartreuse silver, Yellow perch
- Price: $4.79 for a pack of 3
- Variety of colors makes it effective for different species and conditions
- Three different weight options
- Extremely effective for saltwater and freshwater fishing
- Bang for your buck
For years, the guides of Mexico’s top trophy lakes have sworn by the Wildeye, which comes in clamshell packaging in small groups for a buck or two apiece. At that price you’re getting a bait that falls straight, swims true, and has a quality hook, but also one that you’re not afraid to throw in the gnarliest cover. Because they’re so wind-resistant and run straight, they’re also deadly on schooling fish in the middle water column.
Best for Anglers Who Want Speed: Mike Bucca Bull Shad
- Length: 3.75″
- Colors: Rainbow trout, Bluegill, Bumble bee, Gizzard shad, Golden shiner, Pearl bone, Threadfin shad
- Price: $14.99
- Multiple sections for increased action
- Easy to fish
Even some of the most expensive hard swimbaits will blow out on a warp-speed retrieve, but Bucca’s jointed Bull Shad (available in sizes as small as 3 inches and up to 9 inches) is made to swim true at any speed. Nothing looks more like an injured threadfin or gizzard shad than this lure, and while you can get custom-painted models, the rougher looking bone or shad paint jobs straight from the factory are proven giant killers. The Bull Shad comes in floating, slow sinking, and fast sinking models.
Best Glide Bait Swimbait (That’s Easy to Fish): Storm Arashi Glide Bait
- Length: 7.5″
- Colors: Oikawa mesu, Rainbow trout, Black silver shad, Green gill, Bluegill, Threadfin shad
- Price: $40
- Natural action
- Sinks well for good depth control
- Easy to control and fish
- Comes with replacement tail
In the hands of a highly skilled bass angler, traditional single-jointed glide baits can be made to dance. But if you’re new to this style of swimbait, it can be difficult to if you’re fishing them correctly. Enter Bassmaster Elite Series pro Brandon Palaniuk, who worked with Storm to develop a 7.5-inch glider that offers a wide glide with just simple turns of the handle. From there, you can experiment with retrieves until you have more dance moves, with an assurance that anyone can make it work right out of the package.
Best for Explosive Strikes: SPRO BBZ Rat
- Length: 3.25″
- Colors: Brown
- Price: $27
- Fun topwater bait
- Lip pushes a lot of water
- Tail gives great action
If you think that the bass on your home waters only feed on bluegills, shad, perch, and trout, well, you’re probably right. Still, even if the fish have never seen a rodent swimming across the water, the rat may be too much to resist. Retrieved slowly, the SPRO BBZ Rat swims in an “S” and makes a nails-across-the-chalkboard clacking sound. The 50 size, which has 5.25 inches of body and nearly another 5 inches of tail, might be too big for your local bass, but you’d be surprised at how often even 2-pounders will smoke this easy meal. The 25, 30, and 40 sizes are more appropriately sized lures—but err on the bigger size with this lure. The topwater strikes are unforgettable.
Q: What is the ideal size of a swimbait?
Swimbait size depends on what you are fishing for and where you are fishing. Usually, the bigger the bait, the bigger the fish you’re chasing. But a good all around size is 3-4 inches long. This will cover most fishing styles and techniques.
Q: How long do swimbaits last?
Once again, this depends on how often you use the lure and how many fish you’ve caught with it. Usually, after 4-5 fish, there’s a good chance you’ll have to swap the swimbait out for a fresh one.
Q: Should I add weight to swimbait?
Adding weight to your swimbait will alter how you fish the lure. Many anglers add swimbaits to their chatterbait or spinner lures where they ride high in the water column. You don’t want to add too much wait to your swimbait because this can affect the overall action of the lure.
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