What You Need to Know About Fall Swimbaiting

with Chris Zaldain

Late in the year, as summer turns to fall, Bassmaster Elite Series pro Chris Zaldain throws a swimbait just like he does throughout the year. It's a slightly different approach with the warmer weather as he searches for the biggest bass in the area, lone fish swimming solo away from the smaller schooling fish chasing shad. Fishing for them requires a mindset switch, but Zaldain believes it's the best way to catch a big bass during the fall transition.

Going for the Big Bass Bite

Zaldain said his love of swimbait fishing comes from growing up fishing California's Clear Lake and he says fishing swimbaits there in the fall showed him their true potential.

"During the spring, you can throw a swimbait all day and maybe catch three limits of fish, but during the fall, it may be a limit's worth in a day," he began. "You are not going to catch as many, but you are not going after the 'schoolie' size bass that everyone is catching with topwaters, square bills, and lipless crankbaits. It's a way to catch a kicker fish in a fall tournament or catch the biggest bass of the day if you're just out there for fun."

What Zaldain looks for is flats and mainlake points. "I like to concentrate on big points that touch deep water but are near a mainlake flat," he said. "You can look at a map and find the three or four most obvious and biggest points on the lake and have a good place to start. These are transition areas for fish coming from deeper water and you can find the biggest largemouth, spotted, and smallmouth bass in the lake doing this. It's something that works from California to the Carolinas this time of year to find those big rogue kicker fish."

Big Bass Glide Baits 

One of the things that Zaldain feels is crucial for finding the best fish in an area is bigger baitfish, such as gizzard shad, that can be found on these large points. He likes 6- and 7-inch single-jointed baits to match them, like the Bass Pro Shops XPS Swerve or Tater Hog Hog Father.

Fishing these hefty baits requires the right gear and he connects them with 25-pound Seaguar AbrazX fluorocarbon and fishes them on an 8-foot heavy 13 Fishing Omen Black III swimbait rod with a Concept A3 reel.

"I like the heavy versus the extra heavy for baits this size, but the rod still has a lot of power," he said. "It lets you cast baits a long way and has a nice, moderate bend that allows you to hook and hold fish with treble-hooked baits."

Zaldain looks for windblown banks and says casting tight to shore is critical. "I'll always look for the windy side of the lake and cast right up next to the bank because that's where gizzard shad like to cruise," he said. "I'll swim the baits back to the boat with a half crank at a time retrieve to get the bait the best action."

His reel of choice is a larger profile, 300-size reel, the Concept A3. "I like the bigger reels because they hold enough 25-pound test and to make those long casts, which is critical with swimbait fishing," he added.

Bottom Fishing Swimbaits

The glide bait works well for getting the attention of fish looking up to feed, but Zaldain will also mix in a soft swimbait this time of year. He fishes them in the same areas that he does with the glides but crawls these baits along the bottom.

"I'll fish the same areas with a 6 or 7-inch Bass Mafia Daingerous in the top hook version," he said. "It's the same places, but I like to drag that bait along the bottom in 5 to 10 feet of water."

Fishing this way, he'll downsize to 17-pound Seaguar AbrazX fluorocarbon spooled onto the same Concept A3 reel he uses for his glides. He likes the 7-foot, 9-inch heavy 13 Fishing Muse Black for the rod.

"It has the power to fish big baits and boat flip big ones but is still short enough that you can maneuver around and make great casts," he said. "This rod is built for power fishing and works great for these swimbaits, but it's also a very good flutter spoon rod. I'll also fish oversized topwaters with it and it also works great for flipping and pitching ¾ or 1-ounce jigs; it's a great rod that can do many different things well."

Sticking to his big bait and power approach, Chris Zaldain keeps it going during the fall transition as he searches for the biggest fish in the lake. Going with the obvious structure and showing the bass a big offering is how he makes swimbaits work this time of year.