Fishing with swimbaits is a great way to catch big bass throughout a large portion of the water column. You can fish a swimbait super shallow, right along the surface of the water. You can fish a swimbait deep very effectively as well, out to about 25 feet. And there are several ways to get bit on a swimbait anywhere in between.
Today, we’re going to look at three different ways to rig a swimbait, giving you more specific options on how to approach this broad technique. We’ll also talk about the conditions and even particular bass species for which these different ways of rigging a swimbait work best. Let’s dive in.
Jig head -
One of the best ways to get bit on a swimbait is by sliding one up on a jig head. This is the most versatile way to rig a swimbait, because you have lots of options with bait size and jig head weight. You can pair a light-weight jig head (1/4- ounce or smaller) with a 3-inch swimbait for example, and fish shallow to midrange depths for spots, largemouth and smallmouth. Or, you can take a heavy 1-ounce jig head with a big 7-inch swimbait and fish this combo on ledges in 20 feet of water for huge largemouth.
You’ll want to base your lure selection on the depth you’re wanting to fish and the type and size bass you’re targeting. Smallmouth and spotted bass have smaller mouths than largemouth, so little 3-inch boot and paddle tail swimbaits and other small offerings work really well. But big largemouth often respond better to larger offerings, especially deep in the summertime. The smaller presentations work really well for all three species in the fall and through the colder months into the pre-spawn.
Belly weight -
Belly-weighted swimbaits work really well when you’re wanting to keep the bait fairly close to the surface or when fishing through vegetation. There are several different hook styles out there for this way of rigging. Many of the more popular ones will have a weight molded onto the shaft of an EWG (Extra Wide Gap) hook, and use a screwlock to attach the head of the swimbait to the hook. To rig a swimbait on this style of hook, twist the screwlock spring into the head of the bait, and then slip the hook point through the belly of the bait and straight out the back, skin tagging the point back into the back of the bait to make it weedless.
You can also rig a swimbait this way using an EWG hook and a bell weight. Simply run the hook point of a normal EWG hook through the nose of the bait and then back out the bottom of the lure as if you were rigging the bait Texas rig style without a bullet weight. Slip a bell weight onto the shaft of the hook, and then run the hook point through the belly of the bait and out the back, the same way you would have with the previous setup.
Now, you have a weight on the shaft of the hook that can rock back and forth, and this actually adds a little more oscillation to the presentation. Using a bell weight also allows you to use a hook without a screwlock, which helps get the point of the hook a little farther back towards the tail of larger baits and increases your hookup ratio.
It’s worth noting that this way of a rigging works best with bigger swimbaits (5 inches and up), and when targeting largemouth bass in particular. Largemouth bass, not surprisingly, have bigger mouths than spots and smallmouth, and are thus able to eat bigger baits completely, which is necessary for a good hookup with this way of rigging. The real benefit of this style of rigging is that it’s super weedless, providing you with a way to fish a swimbait around and through heavy cover like vegetation and brush for big fish.
Treble hook -
There’s a better way though to rig bigger baits when targeting smallmouth, spotted bass and even largemouth out in open water, and it involves a treble hook. Several swimbaits actually come with pre-rigged treble hook harnesses for this style of fishing, like the Megabass Mag Draft and Berkley CullShad. But you can also rig a swimbait with a treble hook yourself if you’d like.
Again, there are several products on the market to use with this style of rigging. One of the coolest I’ve found is from LurePartsOnline, the Bill Lowen Slip Shad Jig Head. This piece of terminal tackle consists of a lead head with a spring coming out of the bottom. There’s a channel running through the head so that you can slip it up onto your line. Once you’ve done this, tie on a treble hook and you can then screw your favorite swimbait up onto the head and insert the treble hook into the back of the bait. This works really well with small swimbaits that can be engulfed entirely by bass of all three species.
There are also several line through swimbaits that come with a channel running through the actual swimbait. You can thread one of these lures up onto you line, then tie on a treble hook and stick the hook in the belly of the bait. This works better for bigger baits that fish may come up and just take a swipe at. The hooked positioned in the belly has a better chance of hooking these fish than the one on the back of the bait would.
There’s an added advantage to these line-through swimbaits and heads as well, as opposed to swimbaits with pre-rigged treble hook harnesses or even baits rigged on jig heads or with a belly weights. When you hook into a fish with a line-through bait, the hook detaches from the bait and the lure slides up your line during the fight, taking all the leverage of the weight of the bait away from the fish. This drastically lowers the risk of the bass throwing the bait and tearing free.
Final thoughts -
All three of these styles of rigging a swimbait have their place. When fishing around vegetation and other shallow cover, the belly-weighted baits rigged weedless are ideal. When in open water though, the jig head and treble hook baits work better. The exposed hooks of these two presentations increase your hookup ratio, especially when targeting spotted and smallmouth bass. Of these two, the treble hooked baits perform best high in the water column, where the swimbaits rigged on jigheads are more effective from 8 to 25 feet.
As a general rule, use smaller baits for bass with smaller mouths, like spots and smallmouths. And reserve the belly-weighted baits for the bigger bass, though big fish can certainly be caught on swimbaits of all sizes rigged all three ways. Take one, two or all three of these swimbait setups out onto your local water and chances are at least one will work well for you.
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