By: Shaye Baker
Glide baits are one of the more exciting baits for me to fish with. As favorites go, I really like topwater fishing and punching thick matted vegetation. Between those two it’s a close race, but glide bait fishing is right up there too, partly because it incorporates some of the aspects of both punching and topwater fishing. Let me explain.
The thing I like most about punching thick vegetation, is that I’m typically looking for a few big bites in close-quarter situations. And with top waters, you get to see the explosions and interact with the fish sometimes when they miss the bait on the first attempt and you have to kind of talk them into eating it by working it a little different. All of that plays into throwing a glide bait as well.
You’re not typically going to get a lot of bites, but they will often be big. And there are times when you get to watch the fish eat the bait or have to work it a little to get one to finally eat it. It really is an exciting way to fish. But let’s talk a little more about the bait first.
What is a Glide Bait?
For starters, a glide bait is typically a rather large, jointed swimbait that has a wide-sweeping, side-to-side action when reeled. So basically the bait glides left and right on a steady retrieve. Glide baits are used to mimic large baitfish like bream, herring, perch, and gizzard shad. The action is meant to imitate one of these baitfish that are injured so that it appears to be an easy big meal for a bass to come up and eat.
Some of the higher-end glide baits are made of wood, with newer composite models out now that actually stack up really nicely against the old-school favorites. Where baits like the Roman Made Negotiator have a cult following and sell for $259.99, the new composite Arashi Glide Bait is basically the same size and has a very similar action for $37.99.
Now I’m sure some of you Roman Made Negotiator fans are no doubt chomping at the bit to tell me off right now about how much better the wood baits are than the composite, but what I’ll say in defense of this new era of glide bait is that it makes this style of fishing accessible to the masses. And, you get some pretty cool translucent color patterns with the composite baits that you can’t get with wood. But I’ve caught fish on both and I’m not here to argue which one is best.
When to Fish a Glide Bait
I will say that glide baits can be used throughout most of the year. Again, this is a bait that doesn’t typically get a lot of bites, but for anglers simply interested in getting big bites, this is a great bait to throw throughout the year to draw one or two monsters a trip. Some anglers are so committed to this type of fishing that they’ll even go for days on end without catching a fish, and still enjoy throwing the bait because of the constant anticipation of a big bite coming.
Though you can throw the bait throughout much of the year, one of the best times to throw it is during the pre-spawn and early post-spawn. That’s when fish are up shallow, looking for big meals to either bulk up for the spawn or recover from it. Using a glide bait this time of year, you’ll also inevitably locate a few fish still on bed with it. Though those active spawners won’t usually eat the bait, they will reveal themselves by following it or taking a swipe at it and then you can pitch a follow-up bait onto their beds to catch them.
Where to Fish a Glide Bait
If you’ve never fished with big baits, it’s good to think of a glide bait as a spinnerbait. In reality, they’re both mimicking the same thing. A glide bait just feels much more intimidating at first. But in the water, it has a similar profile and size to a half-ounce spinnerbait. So, look for places you’d throw a spinnerbait: around docks, over submerged vegetation, through laydowns and down windblown riprap.
The key difference to remember is a glide bait is more of a visual bait where a spinnerbait operates more on vibration and feel. But you can still fish a glide bait in fairly stained to even muddy water. You just want to make sure that you pick a vibrant color that the fish will still be able to see. Something like bone or chrome in those murky situations will still have a nice flash to it on the glide. Where more natural colors that closely mimic the local forage will work better in clearer water scenarios.
How to Fish a Glide Bait
Most glide baits will have a nice side-to-side action when reeled. And you can certainly catch fish by simply reeling a glide bait back to the boat a couple of feet below the surface. But to really get a wide glide out of the bait, you’ll have to vary your retrieve a bit. Some anglers do this with their rod, while others do it mostly with their reel.
You can twitch your rod tip and get a glide bait to make big swings left and right, walking it almost like you would a hollow body frog. Taking a second or two to pause between each twitch, you can quickly figure out a cadence that will allow for the bait to swing back and forth a good foot to 18-inches. You can also work the bait really fast and in a much tighter swimming action by twitching your rod tip and reeling the bait quickly.
Sometimes this is effective at getting those that are just following the bait to eat it. While other times pausing the bait will cause the fish to just kind of collide into it and eat it. Other times you’re better off continuing the same cadence and the fish will eventually eat the bait. Just have to play with this until you figure out what works best that particular day and at times on that particular fish.
You can also vary your retrieve by stopping and starting your reel. A quick half-turn of the handle followed by a pause and then another quick burst of the reel will make the bait cut to the right, glide and then cut back to the left. All of these tactics are effective at times—some more than others depending on the day.
If you’ve never done it, I highly recommend fishing a glide bait sometime. It’s an exciting way to catch a true trophy fish. And these days, there are some extremely affordable baits out there for anglers at the entry-level of this genre of fishing.
Before you fish, it’s a good idea to get yourself nice and calm. When that first big fish comes up and starts stalking your bait as it glides back and forth, you’re going to be extremely tempted to panic. Try to keep your composure and continue your cadence, that’s what piqued her interest so that’s likely going to be enough to get her to commit. If she doesn’t in a few feet, try a little something else, and then brace for impact!