As I dive further and further into the abyss of throwing swimbaits and the popularity of the technique grows greater and greater, it seems that swimbait prices are skyrocketing at an unprecedented rate. With a new bait coming to market almost every other week, I’ve noticed a growing phenomenon over the past couple years that I refer to as “The Cure". It’s kind of like that aha moment for big bait enthusiast. You’ve been out there struggling, it didn’t seem like the fish were paying any attention to what you were serving them and in the few instances they did, they wouldn’t commit. Don’t worry though, the solution is just a few short clicks away and before you know it you’re staring down the barrel of a $500 credit card receipt, waiting for your straight shot to success to arrive in the mail three days later. We’ve all been there at one point or another. That moment of weakness when despite all logical reason, we fork out hundreds, if not thousands of dollars towards the idea that this new bait, amongst countless others will be the answer to all our prayers.
While the ability of swimbaits to catch big sacks has been remarkable when used properly, their ability to catch anglers has yielded some even bigger sacks of cash. Aside from a few advancements in materials, not much has changed over the past decade besides the availability on a much grander scale. Regardless, the price of your average swimbait has slowly but surely climbed higher and higher. Why is that? Is it a sign of the times and everything just flat-out cost more? Personally, I lean towards capitalism at its finest and that as the consumers, we have shown the manufacturer we are willing to pay whatever the cost to obtain the cure. How often do we see crediting of an impressive catch go to the bait and not the knowledgable angler holding the fish? You see, in reality there is no cure at all, no miracle bait. There is a time and place for every bait, but it takes a knowledgeable angler to determine when and where that is. I admit, some baits are better than others and hold a higher value because of that. But when will we as fisherman start focusing on our own fishing abilities to produce instead of relying on a chunk of plastic to be our savior? As appealing as that new bait looks and as much drawing power as it may have, it's not really gonna have the profound impact you were hoping for if you spend ninety-five percent of your time fishing unproductive water. Being able to identify productive spots as they change throughout the seasons is vital in every fisherman’s success. Every day on the water should be a learning experience with endless visual cues pointing you in the right direction, you just have to be willing to open your eyes and see it. Below is a basic guide that I recommend to anyone wanting to see a change in their fishing or that is just starting out with swimbaits.
1. A HOME LAKE: Choose a lake that is within your means to fish consistently, once or twice a week, that has a healthy population of bass and most importantly you enjoy fishing. Focus on that lake exclusively for a year, spending as much time covering water, locating cover/structure and how the bigger fish are relating to those areas. Over the course of the year, by slowly eliminating all unproductive water, you will now only be targeting high percentage areas.
2. LESS IS MORE. Bring only a handful of proven baits that cover the entire water column allowing you to provide different presentations in changing conditions. Literally leave everything else at home. You should get to know these 5 different baits better than anything. (Examples: Slow Sink and Fast Sink Soft bait, Glide Bait, Multi-Piece Hard bait and Surface Bait)
3. MENTALLY PREPARED. There are zero guarantees but as you discover new things about your lake and the baits your fishing, there will most definitely be times that you won’t get a bite or catch fish. It will be extremely discouraging but if you can go the distance you will have a far greater understanding of your lake and how to fish it in all conditions.
4. NOTES, NOTES AND MORE NOTES. Information is key in long term success and ability to determine a true pattern. Keep track of sun and moon rise and set times, water temp, air temp, wind direction along with how the fish seem to react to changing conditions throughout the day and year. Keep additional notes and mark way points for specific locations of big fish and hidden cover.
5. ESTABLISH A MILK RUN. Once you have isolated several spots that consistently hold fish, start strategically hitting those spots at different times of day, from different boat positions, at different retrieve speeds to see what gets the best reaction. Over time, you should be able to predict fairly accurately when, where and what bait you are most likely to catch a fish on according to your on the water experience and notes.
6. GEARED FOR SUCCESS. Make sure you have the right tools for the job. Invest in some good line, a rod that can handle a wide range baits you want to throw and a reel that is geared for big baits. Make it a habit to practice netting smaller fish until you have perfected the craft and make sure that you have a working livewell, digital scale and a decent enough camera to capture the moment.
Once you are confident in your abilities to catch fish on your home lake try challenging yourself by expanding to a new body of water and applying those same techniques. Some will cross over and others will not, but its all building on the idea of you being a more knowledgable angler with a greater ability to catch big fish. You have to be the change you want to see in your fishing and the next time you’re staring at the add to cart button or waiting to make the next bid, ask yourself, what makes this bait so special? Does it fill a niche I don’t already have covered? Can I be just as successful of a fisherman without this bait now that I understand the basic fundamentals of my water?