How Bass Fishing Swimbaits Work

By: Sam Tyler
Fishing Image Gallery Largemouth Bass diving for lure. See more fishing pictures.
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It's easy to see why angling with a lure that looks like a fish, smells like a fish and moves like a fish will catch more fish. That's exactly why soft-plas­tic fodder that imitates lures, commonly referred to as swimbaits, is becoming so popular among bass fishers.

So why use swimbaits over live bait? For one thing, swimbaits offer a great deal of control, unlike live bait, which literally have minds of their own. The more obvious reason to choose swimbaits is, of course, that they work.


Swimbaits have been all the rage on the West Coast for a while, but their popularity is rapidly migrating eastward [source: Bolton]. Many anglers choose swimbaits for their size because big baits catch big fish. Typically, swimbaits are 4 to 8 inches (10.2 to 20.3 centimeters) long, making them the perfect choice if you're trying to land a bass worthy of a trophy.

Most swimbaits are constructed of molded plastic and are made either in one solid piece or sectioned so that they produce a more lifelike side-to-side motion when being pulled through the water. But modern swimbaits have much more going for them than just the way they swim.

Swimbaits are made by pouring heated plastic into molds. As the plastic in the molds begins to cool, various flavors, scents, dyes and reflective materials are added to the mix. This makes these lures not only move like live bait but look, shine and smell like them, too!

Now that you know what bass fishing swimbaits are, read on to learn when to use them.



When To Use Bass Fishing Swimbaits

­Ask a ­fisherman what the most effective lure is, and he'll most likely name whichever bait he used to land his last big catch. This is why many bass fishers swear by swimbaits, while others have been unwilling to move away from the lures that have given them success in the past.

Because of their size, swimbaits are best suited to catch lunkers. And while for many years they were mostly used for off-coast fishing, swimbaits are garnering a reputation for snagging big bass in lakes as well.


Swimbait enthusiasts insist that these lures can be used anywhere, anytime. What's more, manufacturers offer a wide variety of swimbaits for use in different conditions. Knowing what and where the bass that you're trying to catch eat, will help you choose the appropriate lure.

So if you're going after largemouth bass, you'll want a rainbow trout swimbait. If you're fishing during high-grass season, you may want to use a hollow swimbait and float it above the weeds.

Some anglers prefer using swimbaits during the colder months when fish swim in shallow waters, on windy days or during the summer when they're fishing closer to the bottom.

You may find that swimbaits work well on their own. Other bass fishers switch between plastic lures and live bait. Even so, more and more bass fishermen are realizing that when other baits fail, swimbaits can fool the smarter bass.

Swimbaits are designed to imitate the prey of various fish living in a variety of conditions. Can you guess how many different swimbaits are made? Read on to find out how many types of swimbaits exist.


Types of Bass Fishing Swimbaits

The number of different sw­imbaits­ has grown steadily with the rising popularity of plastic lures. There may be fewer types of swimbaits than types of fish in the water, but there are certainly enough to help you make the catch. Below are some of the more commonly used swimbaits:

  • Crawfish lures have pincers, antennae, legs and a tail, which move freely to provide maximum visual stimuli. They're best suited for use on rocky bottoms.
  • Creature lures mix and match various parts of different fish and are used to catch the attention of bass that are too smart to fall for standard lures.
  • Frogs and tadpoles are floating lures that are used for top-water fishing or for fishing above the weeds to try to lure bass out of hiding.
  • Grubs and shads are simple lures that have tubular bodies, which are either ribbed or smooth and come with single- or double-twisted tails.
  • Jerkbaits are tube shaped with tapered tails and range in size from 4 to 8 inches (10.2 to 20.3 centimeters). They're often used with a twitching retrieve when fishing close to the surface.
  • Lizards are often used in the early part of the season. Lizard lures are good for use as floaters when fishing close to the bottom.
  • Tube lures are hollow and have tentaclelike ends, which can be stuffed with scents. Tube lures are typically dragged along the bottom.
  • Worm lures have tails that flap and vibrate and are most often weighted at the nose.

­It's one thing to have an arsenal of swimbaits in your tackle box, but it's another to know how best to use them. Read on to learn the various techniques for fishing with swimbaits.­


Techniques for Bass Fishing Swimbaits

­The basic technique for using swimbaits is to cast you line as long­ as possible and reel it in as slowly as possible to create more lifelike movements. It's also important to use a large diameter line, since thinner lines tend to sink too quickly. Some bass fishers have found it necessary to adjust the tail size on some of their swimbaits in order to get the tail to more closely match the motion of a live fish.

The most important technique for swimbaits is the retrieve, and there are different methods for different situations:


  • The key to the stop-and-go retrieve is to pause as you reel to let the bait sink slightly, thus imitating the motions of an injured fish.
  • The twitch retrieve is used with jerkbait lures. Twitching the line on the retrieve causes the bait to move from side to side and show more profile.
  • For top fishing, the drift retrieve can be quite effective. Once you cast your line, let your bait flow with the current.
  • A suspended retrieve isn't really a retrieve at all, since it entails letting the swimbait float just above the weeds to lure the bass out of hiding.
  • Deadsticking is usually done when fishing for black bass and involves letting your bait drop to the bottom where an unsuspected bass will hopefully suck it up. Deadstick has the added advantage allowing you to perform other retrieves while you let your bait sit.

Now that you're well versed in the different techniques for bass fishing swimbaits, you're ready to roll. Don't forget your tackle box!


Lots More Information

Relate­d HowStuffWorks Articles

  • Branch, Tom, Jr. " Swimbaits work in the South!" 2008. (Accessed 11/01/08)
  • Bolton, Mike. " Wise bass fall for swimbaits." The Birmingham News. 09/07/08. (Accessed 11/02/08)
  • Duke, Ken. "Stick It To 'Em With Swimbaits." 01/11/2008. (Accessed 11/01/08)
  • Haut, Greg. "Catching Bass, Walleye, Northern Pike, Crappie and Muskie with Greg Haut." (Accessed 10/29/08)
  • Reddington, Tom. " Bass Fishing Report #145409 for Lake Fork, Texas." 06/14/08. (Accessed 11/04/08)
  • Russbassdozer "The Swimbait - How to Fish with Bass Fishing Lures." eBay Guides. 09/15/07. (Accessed 11/03/08)
  • Schaefer, Bill. "Saltwater Big Bass Hunters Welcome Spring too!" (Accessed 11/02/08)
  • SgtMike. "Fall Fishing With Swimbaits."
  • Sorum, Alan. "Ecological Impact Of Plastic Lures." 08/03/08. (Accessed 11/03/08)
  • "Swimbaits--The Basics." (Accessed 11/01/08)
  • "Swimbaits." (Accessed 11/02/08)