Big Bass on Swimbaits
by Steven Vonbrandt

You've heard the claims that Big Hammer swimbaits are better than other swimbaits, or more specifically, they have better action than other swimbaits. While there is no better proof than simply testing the baits yourself I thought I might elaborate a bit. The baits were first tested in 1998 when I started inshore fishing for California Halibut using swimbaits. I had never fished a swimbait before and didn't know much about them. I asked a friend which one he liked the best and he said, "Buy a couple of each brand and watch what they do in the water. Pay close attention not only to the tail action but also to the body action." I did exactly what he said and from the first day I was sold on Big Hammer.

With swimbaits action must be looked at in two parts: tail and body. If someone is only interested in tail action a curl tail bait would serve their purpose just fine. The point of a swimbait is that the body actually "swim" like a fish, or "snake" through the water with a tantalizing, realistic "wiggling" motion.

I believe the body action or "swimming motion" is just as important, if not more important, than the tail action. But surprisingly, body action is often overlooked. In fact, if my friend had not told me to pay attention to both the tail and body action I am sure I would have focused on what the tail was doing and not what the body was doing during the retrieve.

There are two elements about the Big Hammer design that I believe gives them such great action. First, and probably the most obvious is the original and unique "square" tail design. The reason the "square" tail imparts such good action is simple - more surface area that the water has to push around. Another clue that the design of the Hammer tail is the best is that many other companies have begun to "square up" the shape of their tails. They haven't gone as far as copying Big Hammer's original square-tail design but they are closer than they used to be. Logically, when competitors begin to copy a lure it is a clear sign there is something special about the original design.

The second element that gives Big Hammer swimbaits such great action is the tapering of the body. From a top down view Big Hammer designs are somewhat wide at the head section and taper down quickly in the mid-section, and then straight (sides are relatively parallel) in the tail section. This design causes the water flowing along the side of the bait to speed up during the retrieve and hit the side of the bait near the tail, and the tail itself, with more force - causing more realistic action. This is a similar concept to air flowing over the wing of an airplane and causing lift (see illustrations below).

There is, however, a fine line between too much tapering and not enough tapering. Swimbaits that have "skinny" or "thin" head sections and not much tapering tend to have a more un-natural "rocking" type body motion instead of a more natural looking "swimming" or "snaking" motion. On the other hand, baits that are too thick at the head section and have too much of a taper tend to have very little or no body action at all.

Still not convinced? Do what I did - test different designs and draw your own conclusions.

Swimbait -

"Swimbait" or "Swim Bait", like crankbait, spinnerbait, jerkbait, buzzbait, ripbait, etc., is a term used to describe a certain type of lure. Swimbaits are basically plastic or rubber "fish shaped" bodies rigged on a jig head. Some swimbaits are the type where the body is separate from the jig head and must be rigged by the angler. This allows versatility in jig head size along with the ability to re-use the jig head with other baits and colors. Some types of swimbaits come either pre-rigged or with the jig head "built-in" to the body of the bait.

Swimbaits are extremely versatile, can be used in a wide variety of fishing conditions, and will catch any fish that feeds on other fish, shrimp, crabs, crawfish, etc.

Below are some basic rigging and fishing techniques along with several articles focusing on specific types of swimbait applications:

Swimbaits - The Basics

Rigging:

Rigging the bait straight is important and can be done quite easily. The most important thing is to thread the hook through the bait in one continuous movement. If you stop half way and then keep going, youíll probably wind up going a slightly different direction and the bait will run lopsided. As you thread the bait the hook should come out the back of the bait in the right position naturally. If you find yourself stretching the swimbait or bunching it up while you rig the bait, you are doing something wrong. A good idea when you are first rigging baits is to hold the bait next to the jig head and use the point of the hook to mark where the hook should come out. Aim for that spot and you should do ok.

Trap Rigging:

As the popularity of using swimbaits to catch a wide variety of fish keeps growing, the need for more rigging techniques also appears. One of these techniques is to rig the swimbait with a small "trap" hook in the tail. This method has proven deadly on species such as trout, sunfish and perch.

Colors:

Most colors will catch fish in the right conditions. A good rule of thumb to follow is dark conditions = dark colors, light conditions = light colors. Another determining factor can be what your target species is feeding on.

Size & Weight:

Under most conditions the mid-sized baits (4 and 5 inch) are the ones to start with. The weight of the jig head depends on personal preference, depth fishing, target species, type of retrieve, etc. For 4 inch baits the most popular range is 3/8 oz. - 3/4 oz. For 5 inch baits the range is 1/2 oz. - 1.5 oz. Shallow water, short strikes, shallow fish, or noticing small baitfish in the area are all good reasons to switch to a 3 inch bait. Deeper water, larger fish, larger baitfish, and aggressive fish are reasons to switch to a 6 or 7 inch bait. Another reason to switch to a larger bait may be to prevent catching small or unwanted fish.

Fishing:

As with all types of fishing experimentation is the most crucial aspect. Try new things until you find what is working. Once you find something that works vary that method/technique slightly and continue to hone your skill and knowledge. Remember that confidence plays a major role in any style of fishing - especially when using artificial lures.

Read through some of the articles in this section to get a better understanding of swimbait fishing techniques for variety of species and conditions.

Problems:

Swimbait sliding down the jig head: Occasionally the swimbait will slide off of the baitholder and down the shank of the jig head. This is usually caused by a fish pulling on the bait or will sometimes happen after pulling the bait out of a snag. Putting a drop of super glue gel or Pro's Soft Bait Glue on the baitholder of the jig head prior to rigging will eliminate this problem.

Splitting or "De-laminating" baits: One problem with multi-colored hand-poured lures is that occasionally there will be a bait that will split along the color line when rigged on a jig head. Most of the time this is caused by using a jig head that is too large for the size bait you are using or because the rigged bait was allowed to get too hot. Occasionally this will happen because of a bad production run caused by a change in the plastic or cold weather. This problem can be fixed by melting the bait back together or by putting a line of Pro's Soft Bait Glue on the inside of the split part of the bait and holding it together for a second until it sets. Melting a bait back together is much easier than it sounds.

Swimbait and Jig Head size recommendations:

Swimbait Size Jig Heads
Super Shad Darter Wedge Head
3 inch 1/4 oz. - 1/0 to 3/8 oz. - 2/0 All Sizes
4 inch 3/8 oz. - 3/0 to 3/4 oz. - 4/0 All Sizes
5 inch 3/4 oz. - 4/0 to 1.5 oz. - 5/0
5Ĺ inch 1 oz. - 5/0 to 1.5 oz. - 5/0
6 inch 3/4 oz. - 5/0 to 1.5 oz. - 6/0
7 inch 1 oz. - 5/0 to 1.5 oz. - 6/0

I have a lot of confidence in the Big Hammer bait and it has produced alot of nice fish for me. While the fish have shown a definite preference for the 5and 6Ē baits over 4" and smaller baits, the color has seemed to not matter at all. Iíve caught fish on the rainbow trout, sardine, brown bait, and smelt colors with no discernable preference demonstrated by the fish even on the same day, same spot, etc. If I had to pick one bait though, I would probably throw the #13 Baitfish colored Big Hammer. It's a great all around baitfish imitator.

There are only a few good jig heads on the market, and you are kidding yourself if you aren't fishing the Hammerhead jig heads. They use Mustad Needlepoint hooks and come painted or unpainted with the ďgoogly eyesĒ. I use either 3/4 oz or 1 oz depending on the depth that Iím fishing. Iíve caught a few fish dragging a 1.5 oz head across the bottom but this technique was only productive for a short period of time. I haven't done much on the 1/2 heads for freshwater bass although I am always experimenting depending on the conditions.

Rigging the bait straight is VERY important and comes onlywithpractice. The most important thing is to thread the hook through the bait in one continuous movement. If you stop half way and then keep going, youíll probably wind up going a slightly different direction and the bait will run lopsided. As you thread the bait the hook will come out the back of the bait in the right position naturally. If you find yourself stretching the swimbait or bunching it up while you rig the bait, you are doing something wrong. A good idea when you are first rigging baits is to hold the bait next to the jighead and mark where the hook should come out. Aim for that spot and you should do ok. I will sometimes add a little superglue to the head of the bait to keep it from sliding down the hook. This isnít critical but is a good solution if your bait is chewed up and you donít want to rig a new one.

1) During mid-summer the grass beds began forming up solidly and had a distinct outer edge. In the middle of the day the fish would hunker down there in 12-18 feet of water. It was tough to reach them with crankbaits because of the amount of grass and worming was equally frustrating, as you would be pulling grass off your bait on every cast. The swimbait presented an excellent solution. I would line up parallel casts along the outer grass lines and swim the bait slowly over the grass. Unlike a crankbait, which would either be stuck in the grass right away or only be in the strike zone for a few feet before it started coming up, I could fish the swimbait across 50 to 100 foot stretches holding it at a nearly constant depth over the weeds. Since the hook is on top of the bait, it actually slides over the grass pretty good if you do drag it too deep.

A steady wind from the moment the bait splashes down is most effective in this, and pretty much every other situation. The bites were pretty subtle during this time of year. The fish would either inhale it causing your line to go slack momentarily, hit it and turn to the side, or the most frustrating bite where youíd get a tap tap tap tap and then MAYBE a solid thunk. What you learn to do is just keep reeling on these tap tap bites. The fish will usually keep hitting it until they get it. If you set on the first tap, forget about it, itís just the fish yanking on the tail. You do want to set hard on any indication that your line has gone slack though. These are usually the better fish that have the authority to inhale a 5 inch bait, and they can spit it just as quick as they can inhale it.

2) Fishing one evening on some vertical walls I discovered another application for the swimbait. My partner was worming with little success when I tied on a 5Ē Big Hammer. I flipped the bait up to the walls and let it flutter down with the reel in free spool. A few casts later it was on! The fish suspending on the walls couldnít resist the flutter of the swimbait tail. By then end of the night (an hour and 7 fish later) my partner was about ready to throw me in the water, but he was sold on the swimbait. One important thing to keep in mind here is that you never ever want to use the rod to impart action to a swimbait. Any action you impart should be done using the reel. When my bait would hit on the wall or at itís base, I just flipped the reel in to gear and started winding. Lifting your rod tip means at some point you have to lower it, creating slack and causing you to lose touch with the bait. Bad idea because if the fish grabs it, youíre likely to get an awkward hookset and farm him!

3) Another interesting application of the swimbait hit me one day as my friend Matt Peters

and I were cranking some submerged stickups in the old river channel. Matt located the old willow trees with his deep diving crank in otherwise open water and we followed the channel for a quarter mile or so. The cranks kept getting hung in the rotting willow trees but the swimbait fluttered right over them and produced three nice fish for us that first day. It was similar to fishing the outside of the grass beds in that you could keep the bait at the right depth for a long period of time without getting caught up in the structure. Something to think about if you ever come across this type of structure on your home waters.

4) As the water cooled in the fall, the fish became more active and moved up onto main lake flats where the weed beds were breaking up into loose clumps of grass and weeds in 6-14 feet of water. I think the fish were feeding on bluegill in these areas and the swimbait tail really seems to mimic this well despite the fact that the bait is not nearly as deep bodied as a bluegill. From the fishís perspective (underneath) though it probably looks just about right. I used a faster retrieve here partially because the water was shallower but also because the fish were more aggressive. The bites were pretty aggressive compared to the summer time fish and they were really doing the grab it and swim at you thing where the line would just jump or slack up. Time to swing that long rod and rip some lips!

While it is certainly true that swimbaits are just plain fishy lures, whether or not they will work at other lakes and under other conditions is probably for the most part dependant on whether there is some type of forage in the body of water that is of the approximate size and shape of the swimbait. I think they are effective bluegill imitators, and I know that they represent a golden shiner to a tee, but if youíre throwing a 5 inch bait to a fish thatís keyed in on 2 inch threadfin shad they probably arenít going to be very interested. But if youíve got some shiners, small bluegill, or perhaps even some perch in your home lake, it might be time to give Delaware tackle a call at 856-269-0188 or just stop by the online store and stock up now at www.delawaretackle.com

Positives:

Almost too many to mention: Price, action, colors available, overall effectiveness from coast to coast in rivers and lakes.

Negatives:

Tearing up at times, but well worth it in our opinion.

Rating Scale: 1-10

Rating for these baits: 9.50

Steve vonBrandt
Sponsored by: GYCB (Yamamoto),Okuma, Delaware Tackle, TTI-Blakemore, and Ambush Lures.

All the Big Hammer Baits and Jig heads are available at major discounts and no sales tax at Delaware Tackle at http://www.delawaretackle.com


http://www.anglersradio.com for live reports

Steve is the owner of Anglers Radio in Delaware and New Jersey, Reeltimeanglers, Bass Lure Review, and Delaware Tackle in Delaware. He also is a tournament angler and freelance outdoor writer. He has over 40 years of fishing experience in the Northeast, 5 years exp. in California. He has fished freshwater and saltwater since 1962, and has devoted to freshwater only since 1989. He has fished tournaments from 1990 to the present, and won the Delaware State Sportfishing Tournament multiple times, registered a Chain Pickerel in 2000, just a few ounces shy of the State Record and a Largemouth Bass caught in 1999, that was registered in the Bassmaster Lunker Club at 10.16 pounds. Just 5 ounces shy of the Delaware State Record. It also appeared in a feature article by the "News Journal" (Gannett Publications), and in all of Bass Pro Shops Master catalogs for 2003.

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