Once gamefish complete their spring spawning, it’s time to eat and grow. That urge tends to make summer fishing excellent across the northern states. While walleyes, pike, and bass are known to eat numbers of crayfish and frogs at times, the bulk of their diet is preyfish of various sorts. From crappies to muskies, swimbait have become a key presentation for every species that swims.
A swimbait is one of the most versatile lures, as they’re available in sizes from two to inches to more than a foot in length. And they can be rigged to fish from just a couple feet of water down into the depths, as I’ve used them to catch lake trout more than 100 feet deep.
The reason for their effectiveness is their amazingly lifelike appearance and action. The boot-tail design of a swimbait imitates the natural swimming action of baitfish, while adding a subtle body roll that creates attractive underwater vibrations suggesting prey that’s vulnerable to attack.
Jigheads match swimbaits well, and weights from 1/16-ounce to more than an ounce are commonly available, with hook sizes to match lures from two to nine inches or more. And for thick vegetation or brushy habitat, they can be rigged weedless on a Texas rig with a weighted, wide-gap hook.
For crappies, I fish a 2-inch Big Bite Baits Crappie Thumper on a 1/16-ounce VMC Neon Mooneye Jig, retrieving it along deeper weed edges. Crappies hold there in summer, often suspended 7 to 10 feet down over 12 to 15 feet. You can spot them on a powerful sonar unit; then count the lure down to their depth. This works great during the day when they group up, since crappies move upward and spread out toward evening.
For smallmouth bass, the Storm 360 GT Searchbait is deadly and easy to use, since it comes rigged on a jighead that lets you swim the lure over rocky flats to find fish, and when they see it, they strike. To probe deeper areas, with to 3/8- or 1/2-ounce jig heads.
For largemouth bass and pike in cabbage or lily pad beds, rig a 4- to 6-inch swimbait weedless and it comes through cover cleanly and its wiggling action attracts violent attacks.
When those big predators hold deeper on reefs or ledges, rig them on heavy jigheads and make long casts to work those 15- to 25-foot structures. Count the bait down to a desired depth then retreive slowly and steady with a intermittent jerk to change lure cadence and trigger strikes.
Lately I’ve been using giant swimbaits for muskies, too, particularly the big, prerigged ones built to have a high hooking percentage. For the big toothies, try a Muskie Innovations Swimmin’ Dawg, Chao Tackle Posseidon, or WaterWolf Lures Shadzilla.
Whatever the species, it’s hard to beat a swimbait for feeding fish in summer. They combine the realistic look of live baitfish with lifelike action to ensure great days on the water. Don’t miss out on this bite.