March 18, 2015
Soft-plastic swimbaits are top options for bass and a variety of other gamefish. Their lifelike profiles, actions, and fish-attracting vibrations excel in a variety of situations. Whether you're ticking the tops of thick vegetation, plying the base of a weedline, or targeting fish suspended in open water, a host of baits offer options for matching environmental conditions and the mood of the fish. Thanks to enterprising manufacturers, our choices range from slim swimmers to deep-bodied baits, armed with a wide variety of tail designs from supersize paddles to knob-tipped wisps. Likewise, choices include a broad palette of color patterns and flavorings, along with solid- and hollow-belly options, with the latter offering a bit more buoyancy. To help you sort through the options, we present the following selection of some of the best swimbaits sure to boost your catch rates this season.
Berkley Gulp! DoubleTail Minnow Grub
- Promoted as a walleye bait, the DoubleTail Minnow Grub slays predators from bass to pike. Its wispy twin tails flutter erratically even on slow retrieves, offering fish a different look and action from classic grubs and standard swimbaits. Added amenities include serrated fish-scale patterns on the body, plus it's literally oozing with water-soluble Gulp! and Gulp! Alive! attractants. The Minnow Grub is 3 inches long, but the same design is also available in the 4-inch DoubleTail Swimming Mullet. Both come in four colors.
Berkley Havoc Grass Pig
- Designed by decorated touring ace Bobby Lane, the Grass Pig belongs to Berkley's pro-inspired Havoc series, which includes a variety of exciting shapes and actions. Though the lineup lacks the scent and flavor of the company's PowerBait and Gulp! families, Havoc baits still hold an olfactory edge over standard unscented softbaits, since they're poured from more palatable plastic. A versatile performer fit for a variety of swimbait duties on a jighead, swimbait hook, or Florida rigged, the 5-inch Grass Pig yields a tantalizing wiggle even on ultra-slow retrieves. The 3½-inch Junior version shines where diminutive baitfish or skittish bass dictate down-sizing, and excels on umbrella setups like the Berkley Schooling Rig. Available in a range of colors including Black Violet Fog, Watermelon (shown), and Swamp Gas.
Berkley PowerBait Ripple Shad
- You have to fish a Ripple Shad to fully appreciate the swimming action, water displacement, and vibration the bait's ribbed body and distinctive boot tail bring to the table. Plus, it's infused with a bass-busting cocktail of flavors and scents that have been scientifically proven to make fish hold on longer once they bite, which can be a game-changer on pressured lakes where gun-shy bass peck and poke the bait. Available in 2- to 5-inch sizes, in 11 custom colors including Racy Shad and Holographic Gold Black Back (shown).
Cabela's Hand-Pour Shad
- Available in 2½- and 3½-inch options, this slick little hand-poured sofbait offers a realistic shad profile, complimented by a supple body and hard-thumping tail that combine to create a fine swimming action with ample vibration. Though it comes in only five colors, the shades span the spectrum, from a clear body with black back and red highlight (shown), which shines in clear water and full sun, to a gaudy chartreuse with a red tail that's perfect in low-vis conditions.
Keitech Swing Impact FAT
- As its name implies, this bait sports portly profile that mimics shad and other girthy baitfish. The large paddle tail fuels a distinctive swing-style swimming action, while the ringed body boosts the bait's water displacement powers and helps hide hook points. Another plus, Keitech's dual-injection molding process blends a pair of different salted plastics. Designers also added a brace of belly holes for inserting small nail sinkers, and a slight line centered on the lower side of the head to aid in accurate rigging. Available in four sizes from 2.8 to 5.8 inches and a dozen colors, all juiced with a shot of squid scent for added attraction.
Missile Baits Shockwave
- In-Fisherman Senior Editor and resident bass fiend Steve Quinn is stoked about the Shockwave, sized at 4¼ and 3½ inches. 'It has a super-slender caudal peduncle to ensure a nice tail beat no matter how slow the retrieve or how cold the water, ' he explains. 'It's deadly on its own with a jighead or rigged en masse on an umbrella rig. ' In a victory for versatility, the split belly creates a deep hook pocket for weedless riggings. Available in 10 hard-hitting colors, including Bombshell and Shrapnel.
Northland Tackle Paddle Shad
- Arguably one of the hottest new designs from the 2015 year-class, the Paddle Shad blends the strike-triggering action and profile of a deep-bodied crankbait with the fatal attraction of a flavored softbait. The supple body's burly profile mimics shad, panfish, and other stout forage species, and is laced with the scientifically proven, baked-in microplankton formula of Northland's IMPULSE Instinctual Attractant. We also like the dual tail hinges, which let the super-size paddle tail throb with a vengeance. Available in 3- and 3½-inch sizes and eight time-tested crankbait colors including Brown Crawdad (shown).
Sebile Magic Swimmer Soft
- A supple version of the company's wildly popular Magic Swimmer, this jointed, sinking softbait is a great pick for weeds or open water. Its hump-backed head and tapered nose slice water, while the segmented body undulates even in low gear. The Magic Swimmer Soft comes pre-rigged with Sebile's tungsten-filled rubber weighting system, which can be tweaked to tailor its attitude on the fall, or removed altogether. Available in a variety of colors in 4- to 8-inch sizes at various retailers, and 4- and 5-inch versions on the company website.
Strike King Shad-A-Licious
- This tournament-tested, hollow-bodied swimbait has fueled countless money finishes for pros including living legend Kevin VanDam. Deadly on an open jighead or weighted hook, it sports paintjobs matching some of the company's most popular crankbait patterns, such as Sexy Shad. Available in four sizes from 3½ to 6½ inches.
Trigger X Slop Hopper
- A favorite of In-Fisherman ally and top tournament contender Scott Bonnema, this elongated swimmer features a large, hard-pounding tail that yields a unique rolling, hopping action whether buzzing over slop or swimming subsurface in open water.
Not to be outdone, the ribbed back increases water displacement and aids the dispersal of Ultrabite Aggression Pheromones. Available in 3½-, 4½-, and 5½-inch sizes and 14 colors, the phthalate-free plastic body is also flush with bio-salt formulas for optimum density and action.
YUM Money Minnow
- A tried and true performer, the Money Minnow is available in 2½-, 3½-, 5-, and 6½-inch sizes and 14 colors to match most any bass or multispecies fishing situation. A perennial threat in clear water, it's amazingly versatile — able to be rigged and fished in countless ways. Money Minnows excel on a variety of jigheads and umbrella rigs, but my favorite setup for fishing around weedbeds, woody cover, and docks is rigging it on a weighted swimbait hook with a screw-in keeper.
Gene Larew Rally Grub
- Who doesn't need a rally once in awhile? To spark spirited comebacks, Larew looked beyond traditional curlytail grub designs with this 3½-inch softie, which features a beefy body, ribbed belly, and action-boosting, flattened bulb on the tip of its slender tail. It's worth noting that while the Rally Grub is a standout swimbait, it also excels in other applications, such as tipping a spinnerbait or drop-shotting. Available in 16 colors.
Megabass Spark Shad
- Japanese big-bass guru Tetsuya Nakamura collaborated with Megabass to create this heavily salted, hand-poured swimbait stoked with tantalizing baitfish and shellfish flavorings. Stabilizing fins help manage the stout, boat-like body's subtle rolling action, while the hard-thumping tail kicks into gear at a crawl. Besides swimbait duties, the Spark Shad works well on umbrella rigs and in a number of other presentations. Choose from 3-, 4-, and 5-inch sizes and 11 colors.