Swimbait fishing has been around for years but the technique continues to evolve and get better. Originally swimbaits were designed to imitate large trout, but now companies are dialing it in to match the forage of everything that a bass will eat. Forrest Wood Cup champion Anthony Gagliardi is a converted swimbait fanatic and says, that for him, they have replaced baits like spinnerbaits in many instances.
#1 Keys to a Good Swimbait
Like crankbaits, swimbaits have a wide range of actions. Some have aggressive tail kicking and some are more subdued. Each has a time and place according to Gagliardi. One of the best features of the new LIVETARGET models is the natural action from the tail. “It doesn’t have that big tail kick like some paddle tail and boot tail style swimbaits. That is a good thing because it just looks more natural and is also good for both cold and warm water temps,” he believes. There are several baitfish imitators on the market, but the Threadfin Shad and Blueback Herring Swimbait are the two LIVERTARGET models that Gagliardi most often relies on when fishing around his home in South Carolina and across the country as an FLW Tour pro.
#2 Swimbait Retrieves
Generally, Gagliardi likes the fish shad and herring imitating swimbaits slowly with a “slow roll” retrieve. “They are heavy enough to get down pretty deep, so depending on how deep the fish are I will let it fall down a ways and then begin a slow and steady retrieve. As the water gets warmer I will fish it much faster and the good thing about these baits is that they won’t roll over like some do, you can burn them if that is what the fish want,” he adds.
#3 Swimbait Targets
“I throw swimbaits around docks, on points, for suspended fish and even around brush. One cool thing about the new LIVETARGET swimbaits is there is a soft dorsal fin right in front of the hook that helps deflect the bait from cover and acts like a weedguard and doesn’t affect the hookset at all,” says Gagliardi who feels they work in many situations bass anglers are faced with. “You can really throw a swimbait anywhere.”
#4 Swimbait Gear
Large swimbaits require specialty rods and reels, but for downsized versions like the LIVETARGET swimbaits, standard baitcasting gear will get the job done. However, not just any rod will do according to Gagliardi. “These baits have weight distributed throughout and cast different than a jig and the tip of this rod will help overcome that and get you better placement on a cast. The key is a rod with a good tip and the rod should also have enough backbone to set on a big fish,” says the South Carolina pro. His choice for the Blueback Herring model is a Level 7'10" medium heavy. He will downscale to a 7’ medium heavy for the Threadfin Shad model but says both baits can be fished on the longer of the two rods.
Line is another key and fluorocarbon is the choice of pros like Gagliardi to help get the bait down quicker. He sticks with 12-15-pound for the Threadfin Shad and 15-20-pound for the Blueback Herring.
#5 Shad Spawn For Swimbaits
When the shad are spawning anglers have an excellent chance at getting on a good swimbait bite. When they are aggressively feeding on shad a swimbait like the Threadfin Shad pattern is hard to beat. The key, according to Gagliardi, is knowing where to look for spawning shad.
“It is always going to be somewhere around hard cover. When I know the shad spawn might be happening, I look for riprap, bridges, and rock,” he says.
#6 Don’t Overlook Saltwater Swimbait Models
The entire line of LIVETARGET swimbaits was built to mimic specific forage fish and Gagliardi has had success with saltwater versions for freshwater bass fishing. “If you look at the Pinfish model, it looks very similar to a bluegill. The color is not an exact match, but the size, shape, and profile are right on,” he says and says it is a good choice when fishing around bluegill beds in late spring and summer.
The Mullet and Sardine models are two others that Gagliardi relies on. “There aren’t any mullet or sardines where I have been fishing, but bass will eat these baits. It comes down to the great action and profile,” he adds and says the Mullet imitates a small catfish or even a carp. “People would be surprised at all that bass eat. They are opportunistic so they won’t pass up anything that looks natural. Also, the Sardine looks very much like a threadfin shad”
Swimbaits have a well-deserved reputation for catching big bass. Swimbait fishing has hit the mainstream and the extremely lifelike offerings on the market today have created swimbait fans across the country.