Two Heads are Better Than One
By Steve Chaconas
Swimbaits have been used in saltwater for decades and now bass fishing has brought them to the top tacklebox drawer. From tiny 2.5 inch Sassy Shads to 16 inch Roman Mother Chaser Swimbait, ranging in price from 40 cents for small soft plastics to $1200 for handmade wooden baits, there are various sizes, colors, weights, and materials being tossed around the country. The old Sassy Shad was more of a limit catcher, not a lunker lander. Swimbaits are growing in size and popularity and are being manufactured and hand poured.
Bass Cat/Yamaha Bassmaster Elite Series pro Mike “Ike” Iaconelli says they’re a year-round lure and work everywhere, matching the hatch in size and color for all seasons, water temperatures, cover, and fisheries. However he says fish need to see it, so it’s better in moderately stained to ultra-clear water. Ike says these lures have drawing power, that is, usually the biggest fish in the area will come a long way and out of heavy cover to eat it. “When fish see it from a long way, they’ll come to eat it regardless if they’re hungry or not.” Noting the size of prey, Ike’s expectations and confidence rise when knowing stocked trout or larger baitfish are present. Preferring the solid body Berkley Powerbait Power Swimmer with Powerbait scent in various sizes, Ike says slits on the top and bottom allow for several rigging options. The boot tail thumps and wiggles, and the body rolls side to side. When seeking minimal tail movement, he goes to the smaller 3.5” Missile Bait Shockwave swimbait. This bait will run deeper and is very effective in the clearest water.
Open hooks aren’t weedless but hook up percentages are higher. Ike uses two heads. One has a 90 degree line tie, the other 60. In open water, the Ike Approved VMC 90 keeps baits horizontal in the water column and has lifelike 3D eyes, gill plates, and a flared head design with two barbs to keep baits in place, eliminating the need for super glue. Around wood, boulders, or weeds, a 60 degree wider gapped hook with a hybrid bend for strength, the HSBJ Hybrid Swimbait jig comes over cover better. A wide diameter spring keeper secures baits. With both, head sizes vary for the best fishing depth.
When using a 3/16 or lighter head with a smaller 2.75 inch smaller boot tail style, he casts a 7’ med ABU spinning rod with braid to fluorocarbon leader, primarily 10-15 X5 braid to a 1-3 foot leader of 8-12 pound Berkley 100% fluorocarbon leader. This setup allows longer casts with less stretch. For 4, 5, 6 inch baits on ¼ or heavier heads he opts for longer stouter 7’4” MH or 7’2” MH ABU casting rods with low profile casting 7;1 to 8:1 casting reels. Ike says a lot of bites come from being drawn and fish hit it so viciously and come at you. Faster ABU reels take up slack to get into fish. Fluorocarbon is more subtle and sinks, providing better bait action. He spools 14-20 pound test, depending on cover. However, he will go with 20-30 pound braid with a 3 foot fluorocarbon leader for longer casts, fishing around heavy cover, and to eliminate fluorocarbon stretch.
Spike-It dye sticks add shad dots, orange on belly, chartreuse tail parts, anything to further match the hatch. He carries bait fish colors, white, pearl, translucent with silver and metal flake, sunfish, bluegill, and yellow perch. Berkley’s SUNGILL pattern mimics many baitfish patterns. Generally, clearer water and brighter sun, translucent patterns are his choice. For darker days with lower light, baits with more contrast, pure white or pure black. Black and green pumpkin work well at night! Anglers are creating their own swimbaits with a variety of swimbait molds, dyes, glitter, and liquid plastic to with supplies from lurepartsonline.com
Swimbaits are simple and fishing them is just as simple. “It’s one of the easiest to fish for me, and for those who aren’t avid fishermen…my son Vegas at 11 uses them…I taught him at an early age. You always want to reel slow to medium at the level of the fish, whether from the bank, a canoe, or boat…guess what level fish are…like a countdown and just reel it in.” He says to let the solid body bait create the action. But the pro also introduces differences, anything from a slight rod lift or drop, to a rod snap or reeling down in the grass and a slight pop of the rod…will all trigger strikes. When fishing swimbaits, remember two heads are better than one.
Potomac River Bassing in September
Grass is starting to break up and water temperatures are beginning to cool, but find fish in what’s left of thick grass with hollow bodied frogs and punching. Use 60 pound test Gamma Torque braid. Same line with a ¾-1.5 ounce tungsten weight to punch through matted grass with Texas rigged soft plastics. These techniques are best when it’s hot and sunny. For frogs, cover water over grass to locate bass for the punching method. Punch through loose grass and sticks, etc. floating around thick mats.
Small squarebill crankbaits work around sparse grass and hard cover. Spinnerbaits, ¼ ounce gold blade tandem Colorado/Indiana with a white skirt can be cast to visible targets. For both use 12 pound test Gamma Edge fluorocarbon line and engage cover, either snap from grass or glance off hard cover. Vary speeds to find the trigger. Drop shot around edges and drops as well as cover. Fish close to the bank at higher tides and move out to scattered cover as it falls.
Fish are on the move, so anglers need to move as well. Creek mouth points are a good place to ambush a few.
Author Capt. Steve Chaconas is Potomac bass fishing guide. Potomac River reports: nationalbass.com. Check out YouTube page, NationalBassGuide.