Guide clients, other fishing partners, and I have spent a good deal of time casting swimbaits this fishing season. Walleyes were the targeted species during spring and early summer, but a multi-species smorgasbord of northern pike, bass, and walleyes have come topside utilizing swimbaits lately, and swimbaits should continue producing well into fall.
Not only are swimbaits very productive multi-species and multi-season baits, but they’re also easy to fish. In fact, their ease of use and productivity make them very popular bait choices in this guide’s boat!
Fishing partners and I caught good numbers of walleyes this spring while casting and retrieving “swimmers” to shallow rock cover and over emerging shallow weeds. The productive pattern of summer, on the other hand, has revolved around deeper weeds and bigger baits.
Lately, we’ve been moving the boat with the trolling motor paralleling deep weed edges and casting shallower to what is often heavy weed growth on the adjacent flat. Allowing the bait to settle in a bit and then simply reeling the bait back with a steady retrieve is all that’s been required.
This summer pattern produces best, particularly in lakes with clear water, during early morning, evening, or on overcast days. These conditions often have fish roaming higher in the water column than they might be on a sunny day when they seem to hunker down.
Though moving along the weedline covering water is a good idea, slowing up and making multiple casts to productive spots often results in more fish being caught from that area.
Marking good spots on GPS is good advice too, as lots of times you can come back to productive areas on future outings and catch more fish from them.
The particulars of swimbait fishing are pretty simple. Smaller baits fished on lighter jig-heads work well for early season walleyes. Now, however, bigger baits and bigger jigs usually produce better.
The 3.25-inch Rage Swimmer worked well this spring, while it’s bigger 4.75-inch brother gets the nod now. The 4.5-inch Shadalicious has been another favorite in my boat lately. Both baits come in “fishy” colors and provide actions that fish seem to love.
Swimbaits typically feature darker backs and lighter underbellies to help mimic baitfish. Various color patterns will produce, with Sexy Shad being a favorite in my boat.
When casting to weedlines, rigging the baits on big, heavy duty jig heads in either 1/2 or 3/4-ounce sizes (depending on water depth fished) works well. My preference is the Squadron swimbait jig head as it has a sharp, wide-gap hook, and it comes in a variety of colors.
Swimbaits fish well on baitcasting or heavier spinning tackle. As a guide, my preference is for the ease of use and casting capability of a spinning rod and reel. A fast action, medium power rod paired with a reel loaded with braided line works very well. Lew’s has several rods and spinning reels at various price points that do a good job when tossing swimmers.
Braided line helps facilitate long casts, provides positive hooksets, and has the strength to horse fish bulldogging for the weeds to the boat. XTCB-8 Braid in 15-pound test is my choice. It’s super smooth so it casts well and has the abrasion resistance and knot strength needed when big fish in big weeds are encountered!
If your goal is to encounter big fish yet this summer and fall, head to the deep weedline and start casting swimbaits.
As always, good luck on the water and remember to include a youngster in your outdoor adventures!
Mike Frisch hosts the popular Fishing the Midwest TV series and is a co-founder of the Bass Pro Shops and Cabela’s School of Fish. Visit fishingthemidwest.com to learn more.