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27 Mar

Swimbaits for Bass Fishing: Comprehensive Guide

Bass Fishing Tips , How To

When you look up basic bass fishing lures, you usually hear about jigs, spinnerbaits, and soft plastics, along with all the little variations each of those have. However, there are tons of baits with more advanced designs that can perform just as well, and often better, than those common staples of the sport.

One of those is the swimbait.

If you’re not familiar with them, or you just don’t know how to leverage them effectively, here’s a comprehensive guide to using swimbaits for bass fishing, along with some of our favorite lures to try.

What is a Swimbait?

Like most fishing lures, the name of a swimbait explains it pretty well. It’s a lure that can imitate the general movement of a swimming fish. It “swims” as you reel it in and bounce it around.

In general, you can get two types of swimbaits.

The first is a soft plastic swimbait. These are made of a soft plastic material, just like trick worms and other soft plastics you’re used to, but more detail goes into imitating the form of a fish. Some are extremely life-like and almost perfectly resemble a real fish species, and some are the general profile and focus on generating a lot of action to attract bites.

Then, you have hard-body swimbaits. These are typically little "fish" formed with hard plastic segments. Each segment is on a loose joint, and as you pull it through the water, it makes a swimming motion.

Soft Body VS Hard Body Swimbaits for Bass Fishing

Since there are two main types of swimbaits, you’re probably wondering which one you should try.

Well, there’s no real way to definitively answer that. Both of them are proven to work well, and each one has its pros and cons.

We’ll break down the pros and cons of each one so you can make an informed decision.

Pros of Soft Body Swimbaits:

Soft body swimbaits are the ones you’ll usually see other anglers using. This isn’t because they’re better or anything. There are just multiple factors that make them more popular with the common man.

First, they’re far cheaper. Sure, you can find inexpensive hard bodies on weird sites that are too good to be true, but they’re typically not very good. If you take a soft body swimbait and a hard body swimbait of comparable quality levels, the hard body will almost certainly be several times the price of the soft body swimbait. This makes soft-body swimbaits a lot more accessible to the average angler, and it’s a big reason they’re more common.

Then, there’s more fluid motion. Unless you get a very high-quality hard body swimbait, the segments are going to clack or freeze up occasionally, and the overall movement can look odd. A soft body is just a molded piece of silicone. So, it can move a lot more fluidly.

Soft swimbaits can also be made with a variety of tail types. The most common type is the “paddle tail”. A paddle tail shakes violently as the swimbait moves, and this creates more action than a hard swimbait ever will.

Cons of Soft Body Swimbaits:

Soft swimbaits sound great when you look at the benefits, but they’re not perfect.

The most notable drawback is that they don’t swim naturally. Most of them have paddle tails, which are very erratic, but they don’t look like actual fish swimming. They have the profile of a fish flapping its tail like a hummingbird when you real them in. In comparison, a hard-body swimbait tends to flow through the water almost exactly like a fish does as long as its joints are working as intended.

The other main drawback is that they get torn up easily. Bass aren’t gentle when they bite, and they don’t care that you have a premium bait you spent a lot of money on. They’re trying to eat, and they will tear a soft plastic lure up. You can usually get a few good bass on one, but eventually, the tail is coming off, or it’s getting ripped off the hook entirely.

Pros of Hard Body Swimbaits:

Hard-body swimbaits have a lot of pros, as well.

First, they’re pretty durable. Bass won’t tear them up nearly as quickly, and you can usually use the same one for years. So, while they cost more, you get more out of each one.

Secondly, they move in a very life-like fashion. Cheaper ones can lock up and slide through the water very awkwardly, but if you get a good one and maintain it, you’ll get an extremely realistic-looking swimbait that isn’t hard to present well.

Finally, they tend to be a lot bigger. So, they’re typically best for larger bass. If you’re targeting a big bass or musky, these can be your ticket to success.

Cons of Hard Body Swimbaits:

Hard-body swimbaits have some fairly serious flaws.

There’s the price that we talked about already, but it goes beyond that.

First, while they’re technically a lot more durable, they tend to break extremely easily when you make mistakes with them. A bass might not tear one up, but if you cast it into some rocks on the bank, you can bet that the body will crack, and it will stop working properly.

Then, there’s the issue with the action. While hard body baits are more realistic with their movements, most of them don’t slap around and cause a big commotion. They glide through the water, and that motion just speeds up a bit if you retrieve your lure faster.

Finally, when you do lose a hard body bait, it’s a lot more impactful. If you’re relying on one life-like bluegill that costs $40, it throws a wrench in your plans if you crack it against the rocks at the beginning of your trip. 

In comparison, if you lose half a soft swimbait from a $10 pack of 6, you just tie a new one on and go about your day. It can throw you off to lose a nice hard-body swimbait. Especially since most anglers don't have several duplicates in their tackle boxes.

Which is Better?

Neither of these options is better than the other. The way you use each one is what matters the most.

We prefer to use larger hard bodies when the bass are moving a bit more slowly and being pickier, but soft swimbaits are our usual go-to for their cost effectiveness, variety, and easiness of replacement.

During the average fishing trip, you’ll usually see us tie on soft plastic swimbaits in whichever variety matches the hatch at any given time.

When Should You Use Swimbaits?

Swimbaits are good choices most of the year. The only time you want to stay away from them is during the summer. You need something violent to shake up the bass and make them want to bite when it’s hot enough to drive them deep into the water column.

We like to use them in the winter when we’re targeting big bass searching for a substantial meal.

The Best Swimbaits to Use

Now that we’ve gotten the general information out of the way, here are several of our favorite swimbaits to get you started.

You can find all of these at Tackle Warehouse if you’re interested.

1: Mattlures U2 Bluegill

The Mattlures U2 Bluegill is a life-like soft-body bluegill that comes in a couple of color patterns mimicking common panfish.

You might have seen something like this a few years ago if you watched fishing-related content on the internet. The big version, the Ultimate Bluegill, was a hit when it was first released. However, it was pretty expensive.

This U2 model is $20. That’s a bit expensive for a single soft plastic lure, but you have to consider how lifelike this is.

Of course, it will get ripped up fairly quickly. So, make sure you use it when it counts unless you can afford to replace $20 lures every couple of trips.

2: Z-Man Gobius Swimbait

This 3-inch soft body swimbait comes in a variety of wild colors, and it has a unique body style compared to most common swimbaits. Beyond having silly bulging eyes, it also features a multitude of thin rubber “fins” that create a lot more action as it moves through the water.

At less than $6 a pack, this is a great deal on a unique swimbait that takes a more aggressive approach to attracting bass.

However, there is one major problem we should warn you about. Some users complain about the hooks that come preinstalled. You can’t replace them, and they might bend out on larger bass. This won’t be a problem on the bass most anglers catch daily, but it would be a pretty big disappointment to start hauling in your next personal best just for it to slide right off the hook.

3: Berkley PowerBait Swim Shad

The Berkley PowerBait Swim Shad is, for all intents and purposes, a pretty standard soft plastic paddle tail. It has a built-in weight and hook, its general body shape isn’t anything special, and it kicks water around like crazy.

Two features make it stand out, though.

First, Berkley puts extra effort into making these lures look realistic via their coloring and special 3D eyes that can catch the light and shine just like natural fish eyes.

Secondly, Berkley has infused these with its renowned scent and flavor compounds to give you an extra edge.

Unfortunately, the scent compound does wear off with time. So, if you use these for multiple trips, you can expect them to start smelling just like any other lure. When that happens, they are essentially nice paddle-tail soft bodies. There's nothing wrong with that, but you should know what to expect.

A good way to help with this is to take the packaging with the lures you’re not using still in it, and then toss all that in a freezer bag before pushing the air out. This will keep that liquid scent stuck in the lures until you start using them, and it can refresh the ones you’ve used a bit.

4: Huddleston Deluxe 8-inch Trout

Huddleston Deluxe 8-inch Trout is a soft plastic swimbait that’s high on the cost and quality spectrum. It’s an 8-inch trout lure that looks, and somewhat feels, like the real deal.

This is great for bigger fish, and we’d recommend busting it out in the winter, but it’s not something you’re going to try out every time you go fishing. Also, you’ll want a much heavier rod to use with it. It's a pretty chunky lure.

With that being said, keeping one around is a good idea. However, at $35 per lure, it’s not one we’d recommend using for everything.

5: Mattlures Hard Gill Swimbait

Mattlures Hard Gill Swimbait is the only hard-body swimbait we’ll be talking about, and it’s essentially a larger, hard-body, version of the U2 we mentioned. It features a segmented body and a life-like appearance made of hard plastic.

This highly resilient swimbait is going to be a great choice year-round, and its natural movements mean you don’t have to work too hard to trick a bass with it.

The issue is the price of this one. At $85, it’s hard to recommend this to the average angler

Especially as something you’d want multiples of. However, if you can save up for a nice lure every once in a while, and you won’t have a meltdown if it gets snapped off your line, it will make a fine addition to your collection. It looks so high-end that you might want to just go ahead and mount it on a wall instead of using it.

Find Places to Use Your New Swimbaits at BassForecast

If you’re looking for somewhere to use your new collection of swimbaits for bass fishing, check out the BassForecast fishing app

You’ll find a huge selection of waterway maps, real-time weather information, a spot-on solunar, various other baits, and even more tips and tricks on how to use swimbaits.