Swimming Into Swim Baits
Fishing in Ontario has never given anglers a better chance to benefit from a variety of lures and baits to choose from. Our diverse fish species allow many lures to excel at catching multiple species on any given lake on any given day. Anglers can be a fickle bunch and many stay true to certain types of lures for certain types of fish. For example northern pike anglers will commonly use flashy coloured spoons, buck tail spinners and large crank baits while walleye anglers seem content with pickerel rigs baited with minnows, grubs and leeches as well as the time tested jig head and soft plastic grubs. Lake trout anglers find that large spoons in a variety of colours produce trophies consistently. Historically it is a proven fact that many anglers will only use one specific lure for one specific type of game fish . This was my philosophy for many years but has changed recently and has increased my success rate fishing in Ontario lakes with multiple species of fish.
One of the newest lure technologies to hit the market and are making a splash in the angling community is the swim bait. Available in two primary types; the first laden with internal weights that produce lifelike swimming action and the second a jig head type with soft plastic tails. Many different sizes make the swim bait an attractive bait for many Ontario anglers and sizes range from 2 inches all the way up to 11 inches. Highly overlooked by the bass community we’ve found over the last 2 seasons that the swim bait really produces some amazing large and smallmouth bass action. First impressions by many anglers are that they would never use such baits for these types of fish species. With colours and actions so lifelike in some of these newer baits bass anglers have warmed up to them at an alarming rate and you’ll find them in thousands of tackle boxes now. Swim baits can be one of your most versatile lures in your tackle box.
Having a decent selection of sizes will allow you to fish different lakes and conditions. Larger swim baits typically seem more effective when fished in deeper and bigger lakes where there is a good supply of bait fish and matching the hatch definitely increases hookups. Smaller swim baits fished in smaller backwater lakes and rivers prove just as effective as many soft plastic rigs and because of the weight balance of many of these lures they are great for pitching and flipping for bass off lily pads and around structure with their single hooks lessening the snag factor. We’ve found in our research that swim baits provoke reaction and sight strikes. With this in mind they are extremely productive in clear water or lightly stained water with 3 to 4 feet of visibility.
Because of the weight of some of the larger lifelike swimming baits marking fish over points or drop offs will allow you to get your lure down into the strike zone. With the lifelike swimming action in many cases it is more than enough to drive bass crazy. Northern Ontario lakes are also a great location to experiment with swim baits. Recently I discovered a bargain bin at my local tackle shop with literally hundreds of swim bait packs on sale for less than 2 bucks each. It was a no brainer for me after hearing reports of their multi species effectiveness and I literally stocked a box just with swim baits. Choosing a variety of 3-7 inch paddle tails, 6 inch minnows, 7-9 inch twister tails and 3-4 hard body baits I left one satisfied customer knowing that I just increased my multispecies catching capability at a reasonable price.
After field testing a few of them so far this season I’ve found that the single hook varieties work great for northern pike and walleye in shallow water conditions. I’ve also found that by altering your retrieve from a steady swimming motion to a dying baitfish twitch and retrieve style really drives northern pike crazy. Some of the newer larger lifelike swimming lures were best used in deeper waters and weed bed transition areas. Because of multiple treble hooks on many of these lures they should be fished away from heavy structure and used at depth for fish suspending near points of drop offs. Using a typical shad colour not only did we land a few good sized northern pikes put also managed a couple of ‘out of the slot’ sized walleye that eventually made the dinner table. What a pleasant surprise to have the chance at landing a voracious northern yet have the subtle ability to tempt a finicky walleye all within a few casts of each other.
Seemingly up to the task the swim bait has a bright future for many Ontario anglers who not only want to land multiple fish species but also want to save a little space in the tackle box with multi use lures.
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