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Swim Jig Fishing Tactics for Spring and Fall Bass Fishing

During the spring and fall, out west and on lakes across the country when the bass are shallow, TFO Ambassador Steve Lund has found that a combination of various swim jig techniques and specific jig patterns really excel. Here’s how he has found success.

 

TARGETING THE SPAWN PERIODS EFFECTIVELY

During the spring time, bass move shallow for pre-spawn, spawn, and immediate post spawn periods.  In most lakes this means fishing around some type of cover.  A weedless swim jig is a very versatile bait as it can be fished slow, fast, or even skipped, and is very forgiving by not hanging up so easily. This means more time fishing and also allows you to present your bait within the strike zone even in tight covered areas.  

Pre-Spawn > Spawn

During Pre-spawn and spawn I prefer to use a 3/8 ounce Confidence Tackle Supply swim jig in bluegill pattern paired with a Keitech Easy Shiner swimbait as bass are feeding up during pre-spawn and during the spawn they are guarding their nests from bluegill.  

Post-Spawn

Post-spawn I transition mostly to a 3/8 ounce Confidence Tackle Supply swim jig in baitfish, white, or chartreuse/white (depending on water clarity/visibility) as bass tend to push and gorge themselves on baitfish after the spawn, but I will still give the bluegill color swim jig a try as bass will still be guarding their hatched fry at this time and bluegill are usually enemy number one. 

Fall 

In the fall after the water begins to cool this sparks a feeding frenzy where bass will push bait fish shallow, so I will again throw a 3/8 ounce Confidence Tackle Supply baitfish color, white, or sometimes white/chartreuse depending on the water clarity. Most of the time I prefer to use a 3/8 ounce swim jig, since I rarely fish it deeper than a few feet this time of year and the heavier the bait the less the action.  

 

Rod Selection & Tackle

I have tried many different brands of swim jigs one of the things I like about the confidence tackle supply swim jigs is the stiffer weed guard so I can fish in and through thick cover like tulies and throw it over wood and rarely hang up.  

Since these baits have a stiffer weed guard I opt for a Temple Fork Outfitters 7’3” Heavy action rod GTS C736-1, this rod has an extra fast tip for a quick hook set and plenty of backbone to drive the hook home resulting in more fish making it into the boat.  I pair this with a Shimano Cronarch MGL 6.3:1 reel, spooled with 15# P-Line 100% Fluorocarbon line.  

 

Varying Retrieve Styles 

Swim jigs are a very easy bait to fish most of the time – just throw it out and reel it in like you would a spinnerbait with a steady retrieve. You can also vary the retrieve with intermittent pulses or twitches while you reel it in, or even burn the bait back to the boat if the fish are really active. 

What makes this bait so good is that for one, it’s a swimbait – which presents a natural swimming action and the ability to fish that kind of action in places where it’s difficult to fish most other baits. 

So next time the fish are pushing shallow, pick up a swim jig and don’t be afraid to fish beyond the open water!

 

 

How to Beat the Summer Heat and Catch Fish

As the first stretch of August approaches, it’s time to enjoy the last bit of summer. And if there’s a sliver of free time between time with family and friends, fishing is a great way to relax.
Below are a few summer options to help maximize success, regardless of whether you prefer spinning gear or a fly rod.
Find a Tailwater
Summer brings heat. Fish as a rule, trout, in particular, struggle with higher water temperatures. Tailwater rivers pull cooler water from the bottom of a lake. Fish like consistent water temperature, and the insect hatches tend to be more prolific. The result is big fish that like to eat year-round.
Warmer water temperatures are not as big of a factor in the West, but that’s not the case in the Southeast and East, where anglers are always searching for cooler water. Top tailwaters to try include the Watauga and South Holston in Tennessee, the Nantahala in North Carolina, the Jackson in Virginia. Outside the southeast, there’s the Bighorn in Montana, the Green in Utah, the White in Arkansas, the Farmington in Connecticut and the Arkansas in Colorado.
A good setup for bigger water is TFO’s Axiom II-X paired with a BVK SD reel. Both of these items are set to be be available in October, along with a few of our other new products. A more current big-water option is the Axiom II.
 Try Lake Fishing
River and creek fishing offer more of a definitive roadmap to find fish, assuming you can identify the current seams and structure. Lakes and ponds can be intimidating to the newcomer and therefore are often overlooked. The good thing about stillwater fishing is you can find summer fish, if you learn how to fish cooler, deeper water, which is, in general, where the fish will be holding. Try drop shotting or the countdown method to increase your odds of a quality catch.
Top TFO spin rods to try are the Tactical Bass and Tactical Elite Bass. Both are expected to be available in October. Another good option is our Pacemaker series, designed by TFO advisor and pro tournament angler Cliff Pace.
If you prefer a less technical strategy, target panfish with TFO’s Trout-Panfish rod. They’re perfect for kids and can be caught on spin or fly much of the summer.
Head for the Brine
Freshwater fishing, though doable in the summer, can be tough once July’s swelter arrives. Plan your weekend trip or vacation to your nearest southern coast. Snook, redfish and tarpon, to name a few, are warmwater species. Time the tides right and opportunities abound. The biggest obstacle with saltwater angling is finding the fish. There’s a lot of water, and the fish hold in a mere fraction of it. The best thing you can is do in this instance is hire a guide. Guides have the benefit of local knowledge and will significantly shorten your learning curve on new water.
Get Out of Your Comfort Zone
Many of us are creatures of habit. We fish a certain way when the conditions suit us. Rarely do the stars consistently align with that regimentation. This where it pays to learn a new skill. If you fly fish, pick up a spinning rod. If you spin fish, try to fling a fly. If you’re a dry-fly fisherman, maybe throw a streamer or two for deeper fish. If you love streamers, toss an afternoon grasshopper along the bank. If you like shallow-running crankbaits, try fishing a Carolina rig with a purple worm to get closer to the bottom.
Summer, without question, provides its share of challenges, but there are ample opportunities for the aspiring angler. Try one of the above approaches and let us know how your fared on one of our social media pages.

TFO Introduces the Tactical Elite Bass Rods

The Tactical Elite Bass series is our premier level fishing tool for tournament anglers.

Tactical Elite Bass rods optimize technique specific actions with performance maximizing componentry. When success equates to earning a paycheck, Tactical Elite Bass series rods do not compromise on any aspect of design, engineering or manufacturing in order to guarantee anglers performance, consistency and durability.

The foundation of the Tactical Elite Bass series are technique specific fast action blanks constructed with intermediate modulus carbon fiber. The blanks are gun metal grey with Pac Bay Titanium SV guides. The series includes 17 models: 13 casting in 6’10”-7’10” lengths in medium- lights to extra-heavy powers; and 4 spinning in 6’10”-7’3” lengths in medium-light to medium-heavy powers. Componentry includes down- locking graphite feel-through skeletal reel seats for maximum sensitivity with black anodized hoods. All rods include a custom Winn® split grip. Every Tactical Elite Bass rod is designed and manufactured to deliver uncompromising performance and proven durability, then we add the assurance of TFO’s no-fault lifetime warranty.

Tactical Bass rods retail for $199.95.

About Temple Fork Outfitters (TFO): TFO assembled the world’s most accomplished, crafty anglers to design a complete line of fishing rods priced to bring more anglers into the sport. Because we believe that anyone who has the fishing bug as bad as we do deserves the highest performance equipment available to take their game to the next level. And in our experience, when we get people connecting with fish, they connect with nature. And they join us in our mission of keeping our rivers, streams, lakes and oceans in good shape for the next generation. There’s a new breed of anglers out there. They’re smart. They’re passionate. They’re socially conscious. And they’re fishing Temple Fork. For more information, please visit: www.tforods.com

Temple Fork Outfitters
Dallas, TX 75247

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instagram.com/templeforkoutfitters
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Download a PDF version of this press release here.

TFO Introduces the Tactical Bass Rods

The Tactical Bass series of rods are precision fishing tools for serious anglers.

Designed to match optimized rod actions and powers to specific fishing techniques, this series insures success on the water. From topwater specific, to crankbaits, to various structure and finesse actions the Tactical Bass series has it covered. And most importantly, TFO’s manufacturing capabilities and quality standards guarantee rod action consistency and durability over time.

The foundation of the Tactical Bass series are technique specific fast action blanks constructed with intermediate modulus carbon fiber material. The blanks are a natural satin clear coat finish topped with Pac Bay Minima Stainless Steel SV guides. The series includes 22 models: 18 casting in 6’9”-8’0” lengths in medium-light to extra-heavy powers; and 4 spinning in 6’10”-7’3” lengths in medium-light to medium-heavy powers. Componentry includes down-locking feel-through skeletal reel seats for maximum sensitivity. All rods include premium split cork grips and black EVA foam butt caps with accent rings. Every Tactical Bass series rod is designed and manufactured to deliver uncompromising performance and proven durability, then we add the assurance of TFO’s no-fault lifetime warranty.

Tactical Bass rods retail from $149.95-$169.95.

About Temple Fork Outfitters (TFO): TFO assembled the world’s most accomplished, crafty anglers to design a complete line of fishing rods priced to bring more anglers into the sport. Because we believe that anyone who has the fishing bug as bad as we do deserves the highest performance equipment available to take their game to the next level. And in our experience, when we get people connecting with fish, they connect with nature. And they join us in our mission of keeping our rivers, streams, lakes and oceans in good shape for the next generation. There’s a new breed of anglers out there. They’re smart. They’re passionate. They’re socially conscious. And they’re fishing Temple Fork. For more information, please visit: www.tforods.com

Temple Fork Outfitters
Dallas, TX 75247

facebook.com/templeforkoutfitters
instagram.com/templeforkoutfitters
twitter.com/tforods

Download a PDF version of this press release here.

TFO Introduces the Professional Walleye Rods

With a premium on high sensitivity, the Professional Walleye series is designed specifically for pursuing this finicky and notoriously light biting fish. Beginning with the blanks, to the grips and the reel seats, everything is maximized for sensitivity and the series lengths, powers and actions are built around some of the most successful walleye techniques: jigging, rigging, cranking and trolling.

The super-fast actions, light weight and sensitivity of the WS 663-1 and WS 664-1 are perfect for anglers focused on jigging. The longer 7’0” and 7’6” rods are specifically for the sweeping hooksets of rigging. And the slower actions and light weight of the 7’0” and 7’6” casting rods make them ideal for anglers cranking and trolling.

The foundation of the Professional Walleye series are blanks designed with technique specific actions constructed with intermediate modulus carbon fiber material. The blanks are a non-glare gold fleck finish topped with Pac Bay Minima Stainless Steel SV guides. The series includes 9 models: 6 spinning in 6’0”-7’6” lengths in light to medium powers; and 3 casting in 7’0”–7’6” lengths in medium light to medium powers.

Componentry includes down-locking split graphite reel seats for maximum feel and transmission. All rods include premium cork grips and black EVA foam butt caps with accent rings. Full cork grips are provided on all casting models and split cork grips are provided on spinning models. Priced at $99.95, every Professional Walleye series rod is designed and manufactured to deliver uncompromising performance and proven durability, then we added the assurance of TFO’s no-fault lifetime warranty.

About Temple Fork Outfitters (TFO): TFO assembled the world’s most accomplished, crafty anglers to design a complete line of fishing rods priced to bring more anglers into the sport. Because we believe that anyone who has the fishing bug as bad as we do deserves the highest performance equipment available to take their game to the next level. And in our experience, when we get people connecting with fish, they connect with nature. And they join us in our mission of keeping our rivers, streams, lakes and oceans in good shape for the next generation. There’s a new breed of anglers out there. They’re smart. They’re passionate. They’re socially conscious. And they’re fishing Temple Fork. For more information, please visit: www.tforods.com

Temple Fork Outfitters
Dallas, TX 75247

facebook.com/templeforkoutfitters
instagram.com/templeforkoutfitters
twitter.com/tforods

Download a PDF version of this press release here.

It’s Time for ICAST

It’s closing in on mid July and ICAST 2019 is here. Temple Fork Outfitters will be among the vendors at the world’s largest sportfishing tradeshow.
This will TFO’s be 25th  appearance at ICAST, an annual event the company looks forward to every summer as it releases a handful of new products.
On the fly side, TFO will unveil a new saltwater rod, a revamped NXT series and an upgraded BVK reel. As far as spinning gear, we have new walleye rods and bass rods. Make sure to check out next week’s TFO blog for more detail on each of these products once ICAST has concluded.
The four-day, Orlando, Fla. event allows companies in the fishing industry to personalize their products while meeting a wide-range of anglers, from those who design the gear to those who run the companies. All share the same passion for the outdoors.
Feel free to stop by the TFO booth. You can try out rods and talk to members of our staff about the Axiom II Switch, the Pro-II two-handed series, Finesse Trout Glass rods, Bluewater SG fly rods, the Seahunter spinning/casting series and the TFO Inshore spinning/casting series. Among the TFO national advisory staffers expected to be on hand are Major League Fishing Stage 8 winner Cliff Pace, Seahunter host Rob Fordyceand North Carolina saltwater specialist Gary Dubiel.
Thoughts on ICAST? Questions for TFO? Feel free to reach out on one of our social media pages.
Cliff Pace Major League fishing win

Pace Sets the Standard with Major League Fishing (MLF) Victory

Cliff Pace strung together a strong Sunday finish to win the MLF Bass Pro Evinrude Stage 8 Championship, and the TFO National Advisory Staff member had a little help from two of his favorite rods.

The TFO 6’10” ML Tactical Spinning rod and the 7’0” M Tactical Casting CB rod were Pace’s rods of choice last weekend. Both helped him compete and win Sunday.

The reason: Very few, if any, breakoffs or lost fish.

“The SP 6103 fits me,” Pace said. “At the Table Rock event, I caught 179 bass over the course of four days, and I caught the majority of them with the SP 6103.  I never broke a single fish off. And carrying that forward, the other rod I used the last several events is the CB 704. I used it at Table Rock throwing jerk-baits and top-water baits. And that’s the rod I used championship Sunday to win. In any format, any lost fish makes a big difference. In the MLF format, any lost fish makes a huge difference. If you lose a giant in a five-fish tournament, that could be a problem. If you lose two or three smaller fish in the MLF format, that’s a huge problem. Over at Green Lake, smallmouth are notoriously difficult to land. I credit .the rod’s design and its parabolic bend that I worked so hard with TFO to build for my success.”

Each rod has a functionality

“I personally saw to that.  Working with TFO is unique.  They listen to my needs as an angler, not just a face.  The final prototype on the CB 704, the day that I got it, I took it to a body of water and caught 30 or 40 bass on it to see what my landing percentage would be,” Pace said. “Before I signed off on it, I did that with every rod in the TFO Family.”

The SP 6103 and CB 704 helped Pace wrap up the victory in the MLF Bass Pro Tour’s final inaugural season’s event; it can also help the recreational angler on any given day.

“Anybody who goes fishing wants to be successful,” Pace said. “It doesn’t matter if they’re a weekend angler or it’s your career. When every fish counts, you can’t miss opportunities. Our rods enabled me to maximize opportunities and bring fish to hand.  Their action is definitive to my success. It makes a huge difference. I won by 10.12 pounds. If I had lost a few bass out of my 47, I would not have won the tournament.”

Pace,  the 2013 Bassmaster Classic Champion, bagged 47 bass for a total weight of 81.9 pounds to surpass all others in the 80-angler field in Neenah, WI.  The victory earned Pace $100,000 and moved him closer to $2 million in career earnings.

Pace now has four major career wins and 31 top 10 finishes.

Thoughts on Cliff’s performance? Feel free to weigh in on one of our social media pages.

Squarebills for Smallmouth

Editor’s Note: This submission comes from TFO ambassador Burnie Haney, who offers some interesting strategy for smallmouth bass.

Oftentimes in our conversations about smallies the topic of topwater plugs, jerkbaits or the drop shot get the most attention, and yes, they all catch fish. However, one technique that isn’t talked about as much is casting squarebill crankbaits for smallies. In many regions of the country bass anglers are well-versed in casting squarebills in and around wood or over rock rubble for largemouth, but there are also many anglers who have yet to pick up a squarebill when they’re specifically targeting smallies. Below are a few squarebill presentations I’ve used over the past 15 years when I’m out chasing Great Lakes smallies and clear-water smallies in general.

Safety Considerations

Smallies are a fish with big attitude, and they get pissed off when you hook em, which is why I like them so much. And once you get them in the net or in the boat, they’ll show you just how sassy they can be. For this very reason I have a couple recommendations that can better prepare you for this close encounter. Wear a quality pair of polarized sunglasses; this allows you to see where and how well the fish is hooked as you get it near the boat, and should the fish throw the lure as you attempt to land it, the glasses prevent a treble hook from hitting you in the eye.

Another handy item is a good set of needle nose pliers or a hook-out device. Trust me, there’s nothing worse than trying to pop out a treble hook and it finds the flesh on your thumb or finger with a pissed off smallie still attached to the other end. Now I realize that may sound weird to some folks and you could be thinking if treble hooked baits are that dangerous why throw them at all? I can only say I throw them because they flat out catch fish and that’s what I’m all about. So being prepared for a hook in the hand should the unthinkable occur isn’t all together a bad thing, either. Now having said that, if you use the needle nose pliers, you’ll greatly reduce your odds of getting hooked in the hand.

Rigging Up & The Presentation

I do most of my squarebill fishing with the TPM CB 7105-1, 7-10 MH power rod. I keep two of these rods rigged, one with a 6.3:1 reel and the other with a 5.1:1 reel. Both reels are spooled with 8-pound. Cortland Master Braid (Moss Green). I set the drag so the line slips just a tad on the hookset. What I most enjoy about this setup is it lets me make 35 yard casts or longer which is super important whenever I’m chasing clear-water smallies and the rods moderate action doubles as a good shock absorber on the strike while the braided line provides rock-solid, long-distance hooksets.

As for the two different retrieve speeds, during low light conditions I’ll use the 5.1:1 reel and once the sun gets up good I prefer the 6.3:1. If I notice multiple fish are chasing the hooked fish back to the boat, then I may pull out an 8.3:1 reel and turn-on-the-burn. I’ve found with clear-water smallies you can use speed as a trigger, especially so when you’re around a bunch of actively feeding fish. It seems to make them more aggressive as they race each other to get to the bait first.

Most of my clear-water squarebill fishing for smallies is focused in 3 to 7 feet of water in and around slate shoals or rock rubble areas. And if the area has some scattered vertical vegetation near it, that’s even better. What works for me is firing a cast out employing a steady retrieve trying to contact the hardbottom area. When the lure contacts the tops of any perimeter vegetation, the braided line is great because a hard snap of the rod tip will make the lure explode out into open water, which can stimulate a strike from a following fish.

Early in the season when the water temps are 58-65 degrees, I usually start with a 1.5 squarebill. As the summer progresses and the water warms into the mid-70s to 80-degree range and the bait (baitfish and crayfish) get bigger, I’ll use the 2.5 squarebill more, but even then I usually start my day with the 1.5 and I’ll let the fish tell me what size they prefer.

I use Lucky Craft squarebills; keep in mind there are many brands available and for this style of fishing getting the bait to deflect off the hard-bottom area is what triggers the most strikes. I recommend you find a squarebill bait that you like best then try it out on different size lines and retrieve speeds until you find it regularly bumping bottom. Once you get that dialed in then it’s just a matter of locating what areas of your lake or river are holding the actively feeding smallies.

I try to keep my color choices simple. I’ll use a Mad Craw (Red Craw) early in the spring, switch up to a Chameleon Brown Craw in the warmer summer months and mix in a Perch or Shad imitator as the season progresses. Day in and day out those four colors will usually get you bit anywhere you go.

Remember with squarebills seeking hard-bottom areas that provide deflection opportunities with a steady retrieve is usually the best option, but on some days, they’ll also work along the weed lines with a stop-and-go retrieve. Let the fish tell you how they want it and don’t forget speed as a trigger anytime you’re around a group of feeding smallies because their competitive nature can get the better of them resulting in more hook ups for you.

Good luck and be sure to post photos of those catches. Comments, questions about fishing for smallmouth? Feel free to comment on one of our social media pages.

Looking For More Versatility And Fish? Try Drop Shotting

Editor’s Note: This post comes from TFO Ambassador Steve Lund, who provides insight on drop shotting for bass.

Drop shotting is a technique that any serious or novice angler shouldn’t overlook. Some will say that they only catch small fish with this technique and rarely catch quality fish. In some cases this may be true; however, there are times when drop shotting seems to outperform other baits in catching not only quantity but quality bass as well. I personally would rather catch fish other ways and often will only resort to drop shotting when other techniques aren’t getting the job done, but I’ll never rule it out. In fact this is one bait that I almost always have tied on and ready to go. I used to be one of the guys that would snub his nose at the thought of drop shotting or as some refer to using the “fairy wand.”  After moving to back to Arizona, an area with many clear-water canyon lakes, I quickly learned that drop shotting can be a valuable technique in helping to not only fill out a limit, but also win tournaments. There are certain lakes that big fish just seem to eat the drop shot really well.

Drop shot is a versatile technique that can be fished in a wide range of water column depths, from right next to the bank to the deepest part of the lake. For those that are unfamiliar or new to drop shotting, there are several videos on the Internet that can help you get started with the basic setup.

The Right Setup

My main drop shot setup that I use 90 percent of the time is a Temple Fork Outfitters Gary’s Tactical Series 6’9″ ML Spinning Rod (GTS DSS693-1), paired with a Shimano Stradic Ci4+ 2500 Spinning Reel, spooled with 10-pound P-LineTCB8 Braid with 8-pound P-Line Tactical Fluorocarbon 10-foot leader. I will use this set up when I’m fishing anywhere from about 1-30 feet, as I am usually throwing a 3/16 or 1/4-ounce weight.  When I fish deeper than 30 feet, I will use heavier weights —- 3/8 or 1/2 ounce —- and also upsize my rod to the Temple Fork Outfitters Gary’s Tactical Series 7’3″ M Spinning Rod (GTS – S734-1). Increasing the rod power is necessary when fishing deeper so the rod sensitivity doesn’t feel as sluggish and provides more backbone for setting the hook with the heavier weights and more line out. I will fish the same line set up 10-pound braid to 8-pound fluorocarbon leader.  On rare instances I may drop to a 6-pound fluorocarbon leader when the bite is finicky in super clear water.

For hooks, I vary the type of hook I use depending on the lake I’m fishing. If I’m fishing a lake with brush trees or other snags, I will use a Gamakatsu Rebarb hook that I can rig a bait texposed, where if I’m fishing relatively open water I will use an Aaron Martens TGW Drop Shot hook and nose hook or wacky hook the worm. Most of the time I will fish with around a 12″ length line from bait to weight. Sometimes it may be necessary to adjust to a shorter length when the fish are lethargic and sitting on the bottom or a longer length to ensure your bait is above vegetation or when targeting suspended fish that are off the bottom.

What to Fish and How to Fish It

Try different types and sizes of baits; sometimes switching it up can make a big difference. I will usually start with a standard straight tail finesse worm in 4.5 – 6″ which works for most conditions. I have had success with curly tail worms also and sometimes prefer to throw curly tail worms when there is more wind or when the fish are more aggressive, the curly tail worm slows down the fall and provides action on the fall attracting active fish that will travel greater distances to your bait. I also like to try bigger baits like a 6-7″ fat worm or baby brush hog that provides a little more visibility in stained, deep water, or fishing at night.

For action I let the fish tell me how they want it. I vary between twitching, dragging, shaking, or even dead sticking until I can determine what seems to be working best. Dead sticking is so hard for me to do, but sometimes the fish just want it that way.

When it comes to colors, there are so many choices and I like to try all kinds of new colors and different color combinations, but some of my favorite colors that always seem to work are Morning Dawn, Aarons Magic, Oxblood/Red Flake, and Margarita Mutilator.

The main thing I would say to keep in mind is change things up and try different things until you figure out the best drop-shot combination for the conditions. Drop shot is not always the best technique, but there are times when it can be, and it is one of many highly effective tools to keep in your box.

Suggestions, comments about drop shotting for bass? Feel free to comment on one of our social media pages.

Swimbaits 101: How and Why You Should Fish Them

Editor’s Note: This submission comes from TFO amabassador Will Dykstra, who is dialed in swimbaits. Enjoy.

When it comes to targeting large predator fish, few presentations match the subtlety of swimbaits. Technology has benefited this lure category as much as any on the market today. A big reason for the effectiveness of swimbaits is the ability to not only match the forage of large predators perfectly, but to be able to present these lures in a finesse manner that coaxes fish to strike in highly pressured waters.

The Setup

In order to fish swimbaits effectively, it is imperative that you have the proper setup, or equipment. One of the biggest challenges for anglers throwing these heavy lures all day is the toll it can take on the body. For this reason, TFO offers several options that can accommodate just about any swimbait and any angler out there. The GTS Swimbait Rod, for example, is specifically designed to allow the angler to cast larger and heavier baits with ease due to the fact that the rod has a softer tip. This feature results in a better lure launch and provides a higher sensitivity that equips the angler to execute a more precise finesse approach. This means even the most subtle take from a large predator can be detected, leading to greater success. The bottom portion of the rod, however, is built with strength and power in mind. The long stout butt of the rod allows for maximum power for the cast, retrieval, and equally important, the hook-set.

Heavy braided line is essential for large predator swimbaits. In order to handle big baits and large fish, the line weight should be in the 65-80-pound range. The braided line has proven to be more effective than a copolymer in this application because it maximizes sensitivity for lure control and hook-setting power. Often times, muskies, pike, or even a big mackinaw, will bite down so hard on these large soft plastic baits that the lure won’t even move on a hook set without stout gear. This is largely due to the gauntlet of teeth in these predators’ mouths as well as the soft nature of the bait. Therefore, having very little stretch in the line is imperative.

Finally, a reel with a larger line capacity is critical to accommodate the heavier braid. Typically, this will require a 300 series or bigger. The gear ratios can range anywhere from a 5:2:1 to 6:4:1, and will be adequate in any situation for these large fish.

The Presentation

When targeting these large predators, choosing a bait that matches color and profile of the forage is key. In many western waters the trout profile and color is king, while in the midwest and farther north into Canada the forage is much more diverse, ranging from suckers, ciscoes, and walleye, to even small pike.

Typically, swimbaits have “Rate of Fall” (ROF) options that include slow, moderate, or fast-sinking. Simply put, the ROF indicates the sink rates of the lure, allowing accurate target zones for desired depths to fish. The bait packaging normally lists the feet-per-second that the baits will sink. The depth that you run a swimbait is vital to fishing success; most of these targeted predators are ambush feeders. Therefore, fishing adjacent to weed lines, or even through the weeds, is extremely effective. The same goes for other forms of cover like rock ledges and stacked timber. Getting the bait at the right depth and in the right position is absolutely critical and can mean the difference between triggering a strike and missing your target altogether.

The finesse aspect of these swimbaits allows them to be fished extremely slow while still achieving a realistic profile and action that mimics exactly what the forage fish look like in their natural habitat. Fishing these baits slow with occasional pauses followed by very short bursts with the crank of the reel can generate some bone-jarring strikes, while the slow and steady retrieves tend to provoke a lighter, softer take.

Paying attention to the line and rod tip is crucial when it comes to this finesse approach, as often times these large fish will grab the bait and swim with it at the exact speed the bait is being retrieved. Once the take has occurred it is imperative to reel through the hook-set to maximize leverage followed with a second hook-set to drive the hooks home.

Regardless of the time of year, a swimbait can be a producer of some of the largest predators day in and day out. With the right tackle, the right presentation, and a little finesse, your chances of landing that fish of a lifetime can become a knee-knocking, arm-wrenching reality.