By Tom Redington
May in Texas marks the end of the bass spawn and ushers in a month-long feeding spree. Panfish move towards the bank to mate, as do the shad. In addition, the last of the bass spawners are still guarding fry, and young-of-the-year fish of all species abound. Spinnerbaits, crankbaits, topwaters, and plastics all work well during this period but fish become conditioned to them. Recently, two categories of baits have really become productive during the post spawn—swimbaits and wakebaits. Swimbaits are realistic soft- or hard-bodied baits that swim and look just like real prey. Wakebaits, sometimes a swimbait and sometimes a crankbait, are simply lures that stay on the surface and bulge the water, hence the name “wakebait”. Bass are almost bigger suckers for new lures than fishermen, so check out some of the latest baits on the market and take advantage of this active feeding time.
Just like soft plastics come in a craws, worms, minnows, grubs, and creatures in a variety of colors; swimbaits come in all shapes and sizes. From one day to the next, you’ll need to experiment with what works best. For instance, if bass are keying on bluegill, a brightly colored fatter bait will probably work well. On the other hand, if they are eating spawning shad, a longer and thinner bait that resembles a shad and with a white or chrome color scheme will probably work better. On Lake Fork, swimming a Live Magic Shad on a weighted Ultimate Swimbait Hook has caught fish each spring for several years now. The 3.5” and 4.5” sizes work well for numbers of fish, or upgrade to the 5.5” or even 8” size and go for a lunker. 4, 5, and 6 inch Hyper Worms, with their segmented body and hard-throbbing tail, also work great when buzzed around the shallows on swimbait hooks. Of course, hollow bodied swimbaits and boot tailed swimbaits from 4 to 10 inches catch some big ones as well, so try a bit of each. Hard swimbaits do better some days too, and Lucky Craft’s Lipless Pointers, 3 Jointed Pointer, and Real California series are a few great ones to try out. One tip to keep in mind: with almost all of these swimbaits, the slower you retrieve them, the better you’ll do.
Wakebaits, whether a waking swimbait or a waking crankbait, shine when fished over shallow grass that is growing near the surface in late spring. The bulge of these baits will call fish in from a distance, especially in clear water. By going with a slightly quicker retrieve or less weight on your hook, you can wake a Live Magic Shad or a Hyper Worm, a great technique in grass that is starting to mat up. As a matter of fact, Scott Martin used these baits to help win the 2010 FLW Series tournament on Lake Okeechobee by swimming them across and over vegetation. When you have a bit more room on the surface, waking crankbaits will work all day and generate awesome topwater strikes even when the sun is bright and bass won’t touch a regular topwater. Lucky Craft RC 1.5, 2.5, and 3.5 Wake Action crankbaits will stay on top of the water no matter how slow or fast you reel them. For all day visually explosive strikes, it’s hard to beat a wakebait this time of year—both for productivity and for the fun of it.
Unlike so many new techniques, swimbaits and wakebaits are easy to rig and easy to determine where to throw them. Since you want to keep most of these lures near the surface, I use 20 lb or larger PowerSilk mono line on them, up to 25 lb. The floating mono properties and large diameter line keeps baits high in the water column, plus the limpness of PowerSilk allows me to cast even light baits on such big line. Depending on the weight of the lure, medium and medium heavy baitcasting rods will cast all but the largest baits well. For example, 7’3” Dobyns Champion rods in a 3 or 4 power, like the 733C or 734C cast Hyper Worms and Live Magic Shads very well, yet have enough power to bring in big fish. For heavier swimbaits, true swimbait rods like the Dobyns Mike Long swimbait rod lineup will allow you to throw 2 to 8 oz lures without fatigue. Finally, waking crankbaits work best with fiberglass rods, so I use the Dobyns 704CB GLASS or 705CB GLASS to allow fish to take the bait deeply and keep them buttoned up.
Once you’re rigged, simply look for areas where shad and bluegill are spawning or where the bass are finishing up their spawn. Large grass flats in the backs of creeks and grassy or rocky points at the mouths of these same creeks are excellent places to start. With all of the activity this time of year, you’ll see bait and bass swimming around in productive areas. If you don’t see a bunch of bait or bass occasionally swirling on prey, you’re probably in the wrong place.
So there you have it, a few basics on some of my favorites in the swimbait and wakebait category. I encourage you to give them a try and you’ll probably find a number of these baits will be your new favorites, too. If I can be of assistance, please contact me at 214-683-9572 or e-mail me through my website, www.LakeForkGuideTrips.com.
Tom Redington is a full time bass guide on Lake Fork & a FLW Tour pro. He is sponsored by Lake Fork Trophy Lures, Dobyns Rods, Ranger Boats, Evinrude, Diamond Sports Marine, Lucky Craft, Costa Sunglasses, & Minn Kota.