QUICK GUIDE TO USING SWIMBAITS EFFECTIVELY
Despite being home to perfect swimbait conditions, the method was relatively niched until recently. I knew a select group of swimbait enthusiasts and had heard their name whispered in the shadows at tackle shops, but had not tried my hand at using swimbaits until late 2017. By this time, the swimbait craze was well underway.
But this is one craze that is here to stay. Swimbaits are ideal for taking many of Australia’s predatory species. Murray Cod, Barras and Australian Snapper are just as likely to smash a swimbait as are Yellowbellies, Flatties and many other species.
WHAT CONSTITUTES A SWIMBAIT?
Classifying a swimbait is not straightforward. I have heard the swimbait label applied to hard-bodied lures which swim below the surface with multi-jointed or single-jointed plugs. I have also heard the term used to describe soft plastic lures with a long paddle tail which will move under the surface to imitate baitfish.
WHY USE A SWIMBAIT?
When I first started using swimbaits, I was drawn in by the size. I thought because I was fishing with a bigger lure, I was sure to take bigger fish. I quickly realised that this prophecy wasn’t entirely accurate. However, there is something to be said for the size. While it might not necessarily lead to bigger fish, the biggest advantage I have noticed using swimbaits is that they draw in strikes no matter what mood the fish are in. Even when the predatory species are in a passive mood, the size and presence of the swimbait tempts them into striking. It is just too big to ignore. Swimbaits play on the territorial nature of predatory species and deliver fish even when they are ignoring smaller lures.
THE PERFECT SWIMBAIT SETUP
To effectively fish with swimbaits, you want a tackle setup that is going to lend itself to this ultra-specific style of fishing.
Your rod should have the capabilities of throwing waited lures. Because swimbaits move beneath the surface, they contain weights inside the lure body. You will have to look for a rod with specifications which match the lure weights you will be using. Personally, for lighter swimbaits, between 25 and 150 grams in weight, I use a medium/light 7-foot rod with a fast action. For lures over this size, I use a heavier, 8-foot model.
Just like the rod, the reel needs to be up to the challenge. Using the same reel for heavier swimbaits as you use for crankbaits or soft plastics will ruin your reel over time. For bigger swimbaits, you need a slower reel. I use a 400 with 10kg of drag and a 6:2:1 retrieve ratio. A low-profile baitcaster reel should handle most swimbaits but if you are going really big, you might want to consider a barrel reel.
Most often, you will be casting swimbaits around structure, so I opt for a heavy line. I use a 50lb braid line with a 40-60lb fluorocarbon leader, but I know plenty of fishos are using 40lb braid for their lighter swimbaits.
Braid is the line of choice among Australian swimbait fishos, however, I recently met a group of Japanese tourists heading out on fishing charter. We got talking about swimbaits and they told me that in Japan, their fishos are using 20-30lb fluorocarbon lines. Over in Japan, swimbaits have been a staple part of mainstream fishing for years, and if they are using mono, then I see no reason why it won’t do as good a job. Plus it’s cheaper.
Swimbaits are so versatile and can be used in a seemingly infinite variety of applications and situations with differing techniques. As a result, it is difficult to talk about one single swimbait technique.
I will mention a couple of situations where I will always go for a swimbait. If the fish are totally keyed in on a specific baitfish, if there is a school of baitfish or the season is offering a specific baitfish species, most of your hard work has been done. Choose a swimbait that matches the presentation of the baitfish and you can go ahead and fish the entire column with it.
I will also use single-joint swimbaits in floating grass. They seem to snag less making them highly effective in both areas of grass and over water with varying depths. Also if the fish are feeding on the surface, a swimbait thrown in the midst of the feeding with a jerky retrieve should entice the fish into striking.
In reality, swimbaits are one of the most versatile types of lures on the market. Each fisho will find his or her own niche and situation where they excel. Part of the fun is exploring technique and finding how swimbaits can add to your game. Pick some up next time you’re shopping tackle and start exploring for yourself.
Do you have anything to add to this article? When do you like to use swimbaits? Let us know in the comments section below.