Swimbaits can be incredibly effective at catching bass at critical periods throughout the year – but it is critical to make the right choices when it comes to type.
Our resident bass specialist, fishing guide Shawn Chapin, has identified the five best swimbaits for bass available today.
Shawn’s spent many hours on the water fishing these very lures in a variety of bass lakes and ponds, and below, he explains what’s special about each one.
The Arashi is a single-jointed hard-body swimbait, and in the hands of a skilled angler, a hard-bodied jointed swimbait can be absolutely devastating when used for bass.
The Arashi, while being a potent tool for catching large bass, is also very user-friendly. To be honest, the Arashi is as much of a glide bait as it is a swimbait, and you can make this thing dance and swing with a few taps of your rod.
Fished on a slow straight retrieve, it produces a very wide turning swimming motion that screams “eat me” and can be deadly during shallower water in the fall.
The Arashi was developed with the help of Bassmaster Elite Series pro-Brandon Palaniuk and came in at 7.5 inches, and it just flat-out works.
There have been many imitations of the Impact, but no one has quite matched the fish-catching abilities of this soft plastic swimbait.
The ribbed body gives off a ton of vibration in the water, and the boot-style tail gives an enticing kick at any speed. Reel it fast, slow, rip it, jig it; it’s going to kick. It will even ungulate in the fall, making it a great slow-rolling and pausing lure for the fall.
Obviously, being a soft plastic swimbait means you have various hooking options, from weedless or texas rigged, to a standard jig head setup or even on an umbrella rig.
Sizes range from 2.8, 4.8, 5.8, and 6.8 inches, so you have a variety of sizes to choose from depending on the conditions and how finicky or active the fish are on any given day.
Simplicity at its finest, the Storm Wildeye Shad is responsible for tons of fish caught of countless species, and I personally have caught more bass, crappie, pike, and musky on this thing than I could even count.
The best part about the Wildeye Shad is that it’s incredibly affordable, coming in anywhere from 1 to 2 dollars apiece. But don’t let this price fool you; they are extremely effective baits, which is why they are so popular. On the giant bass lakes of Mexico, these are often the baits for choice that guides use to hook their clients up to big bass.
For this low, cost-effective price, you will get a lure that falls straight and swims true, and it also features an integrated top hook so that you can fish it directly from the store. Don’t worry about the exposed hook, as this lure will still work through some seriously dense jungles.
While some may not consider this to be a swimbait, it actually, in design, is one. It’s a true hybrid between a crankbait, swimbait, and topwater lure all rolled up into one.
This is a trophy bass lure and is designed to target the largest and baddest fish in the lake. Think bass that is large enough to eat a rat, and you get the picture. Big baits = big fish.
You will see this is a lipped bait, and as a result, it swims similar to a crankbait on the retrieve but only does so on the surface, with a jointed body to cause the lure to roll and slither on the surface and imitate a swimming mammal.
You can wake, bulge, and pop this bait depending on what you want and, more importantly, what the fish want.
Be aware that this bait has bottom-mounted treble hooks, so you don’t want to fish the rat in heavy slop-type cover and want to keep it towards the edges of cover or fish it in lanes, cuts, and around clumps where the vegetation would foul your hooks.
Don’t overlook this bait for night fishing. This thing can crush fish after the sun goes down, and it comes in some pretty wild colors as well. If you're a bass angler that dabbles in other species, such as pike and musky, be sure you keep this thing with you for those species as well.
Savage Gear has been at the forefront of lure manufacturing techniques and technology as well as lure design. For instance, this bait was created using a 3D scan of an actual fish to create the most lifelike profiling, shape, and details possible.
The tail of the bait is a shudder or kicker tail, giving a unique and realistic action and vibration compared to a standard paddle tail, and in my opinion, is more realistic in appearance when kicking on the retrieve.
The swimbait is designed to excel in the water when using the Savage Gear swimbait hook, but it will also work with appropriately sized swimbait hooks from other brands as well.
The belly is also slotted to run swimbait hooks into the hollow body of the bait to create a truly weedless presentation in the water.
The bait comes in 4-inch and 5-inch versions and a variety of great color patterns.
Castaic Baits Sully Swimbait
Castaic baits have a pretty legendary reputation in the bass angling world, particularly in California, and the baits have been known for their super soft plastic, which creates some truly great action in the water when fished correctly.
The sully soft plastic swimbait features a built-in lead weight jig head, with a top hook that includes a weed guard, along with a bottom treble hook for ultimate hooking potential. The bottom treble hook is also removable when you need to run weedless or around timber and slop conditions.
The Sully comes in at 6 inches in length, but another Castaic soft plastic offering, the Sarge, is the same as the sully, coming in an inch shorter at 5 inches.
Due to the super soft and supple soft plastic materials featured in Castaic swimbaits, they will kick and work when fished at virtually any speed, even ultra-slow.
What Are the Different Types of Swimbait?
There are three main classes of swimbait (although some models, as we have seen above, straddle two or even three of these categories).
- Hard body swimbaits
- Soft body swimbaits
- Paddle tail swimbaits
We’ll go into a bit more detail about these different types of lures, their features, and how to fish them below.
Hard Body Swimbaits
Hard body swimbaits for bass are made from wood or plastic blanks and are usually painted in lifelike patterns and are one of the most popular lure choices for bass fishing.
These solid body baits are crafted to generate a seductive movement in the water when retrieved. Most have a multi-section body with one or more joints to enhance the lure’s swimming action. A single-jointed swimbait has two sections, whereas a double-jointed swimbait will have three sections.
Most are fitted with two sets of treble hooks hanging off the belly of the lure. Larger hard-bodied swim baits are sometimes known as glide baits. Glide baits are known for having a wide swimming action that can produce some big bass.
Soft Body Swimbaits
Soft body swimbaits have soft bodies that provide a more realistic feel when eaten by a bass. This generally gives the angler a little bit more time to set the hook – good when you are fishing at depth or after a long cast.
Soft body swimbaits for bass are usually equipped with two sets of treble hooks on the underside of the lure. So-called “line through” versions are designed without the trebles and instead have a tube through the middle running lengthways. You feed the line through that tube and attach your own treble at the back. The thinking with these is they are less likely to be dislodged when the bass jumps or ploughs into weed or other structure.
Soft Plastic Paddle Tail Swimbaits
Like soft plastic lures, paddle tails tend to come in packs of five or 10, and you need to rig them yourself. There are ones with a solid and ones with a hollow body that you can rig with a swimbait hook and conceal the point.
Depending on the type of weighted hooks or jig heads you choose, you can fish these weedless, making them a great choice for fishing in heavy structure such as weed beds or fallen trees.
Anglers should resist the temptation to use a heavy jig head with paddle tail baits. A lightweight jig head or swimbait hook makes for a slower sink rate and a more lifelike swimming action.
Using these is really ultralight bass fishing and is made much easier with the right gear – a good ultralight rod paired with a great ultralight spinning reel. This is one lure type that’s better to cast with a spinning setup rather than a baitcasting setup.
Why Do Swimbaits Work Well?
Swimbaits are exceptional at mimicking baitfish such as shad in a very realistic way. For this very reason alone, they can be very effective, but it also has some other tricks up their sleeve.
The following major triggering characteristic of a swimbait could be the paddle tails on the soft plastic versions. These can come in many shapes and types, like the shudder tail, which is very different from a boot-style paddle tail. These tails pulse and create tons of vibration, thumping, and pulsing when you retrieve them.
Swimbaits can also work at virtually any depth, and this makes them incredibly versatile the more areas you can fish a lure in, the more effective it will be at catching fish.
When Should I Use a Swimbait Over Other Baits Like Crankbaits?
Swimbaits can be great when you need a more subtle presentation at slower speeds, with soft plastic swimbaits working great in heavy cover and hard body swimbaits around cover or over open water.
In these instances, crankbaits might not be the best option due to fouling on the cover or just not being the preferred presentation for the fish at that given time.
Swimbaits and glide baits also make great searching lures and allow anglers to cover water quickly and find areas with a large number of bass, and them allowing them to slow down the retrieve and thoroughly fish a targeted area.
Are Swimbaits Cost-Effective Lures?
This very much depends on the type. Hard-body swimbaits can be very expensive due to the time and craftsmanship put into them. It’s not unusual for these to cost $10 right up to $30 or more. That’s enough to make you wince if you cast into a snag and have to break the lure off.
Soft body swimbaits are generally more cost-effective and soft plastic swimbaits are the cheapest of all. They are also the most weed resistant, so they are your first choice of lure to tie on when fishing heavy weed or structure.
Should You Put Scent on Swimbaits?
You can if you want. Many lure companies add scent or salt to their lures when packaged. But if you feel it’s necessary, it’s not a terrible idea to add a slight scent as you fish; who knows, it might make the difference during a tough bite and improve your catch rate. There is a wide range of natural attractants you can add to your lures. Soft body baits retain the scent better in the water, but it can sometimes be worth putting it on solid body baits too.
What Size Lures Should I Use for Bass Fishing?
Generally speaking, the fish should dictate to you what size to use, but a good place to start would be to use smaller swimbaits in tough conditions like cold fronts or in spring. As the open water season progresses, you can start fishing large swimbaits, and in fall you may be using the biggest swimbait out there to catch the trophy fall monsters.
What Kind of Gear Should I Use to Cast Swimbaits?
Swimbait rods should be between 7 and 8 feet in length, and fast-action rods are better for detecting bites quickly. Some of these swimbaits weigh quite a bit, so we prefer a rod with a power rating of medium to heavy. See our article on the best swimbait rods for some ideas on good choices.
As discussed earlier, some of the paddle tail swimbaits involve a bit more finesse, and this is where an ultralight fast action spinning rod is the best choice of tackle.
In terms of line, braided line is a good choice for fishing swimbaits because the low stretch aids in bite detection and allows for good casting distance. Obviously use fluoro line for your leader! There is nothing with using straight mono line or fluoro straight through – it just depends on your fishing preferences.
Swimbaits are something that all serious bass anglers must have in their tackle box in many of the various types and designs. You never know what time they are going to be a game-changer on the water, and it could be something as subtle as a paddle tail swimbait design being different than others, with a unique vibration in the water that seals the deal and lands you that big bass on your favorite lake.