Hook, Line, & Thinker

by Steve Chaconas

Tiny 2.5-inch Sassy Shads to the 16-inch Roman Mother Chaser Swimbait, from 40 cents for small soft plastics to $1,200 for handmade wooden baits, there are various swimbait sizes, colors, weights, and materials.

Bass Cat/Yamaha Bassmaster Elite Series pro Mike “Ike” Iaconelli says swimbaits match the hatch in size and color for all seasons, water temperature, cover, and fishery. However, he says fish need to see it, so they are better fished in moderately stained to ultra-clear water.

Ike says swimbaits have drawing power, that is, usually the area’s biggest fish will come a long way and out of heavy cover, “whether they’re hungry or not.”  

The long-time pro angler’s expectations and confidence rise when stocked trout or larger baitfish are present.

Preferring solid body Berkley Powerbait Power Swimmers with Powerbait scent in various sizes, Ike says a slit on the top and bottom allows several rigging options. The boot tail thumps and wiggles, and the body rolls side to side.

When seeking minimal tail movement, smaller 3.5” Missile Bait Shockwave swimbaits run deeper and are very effective in the clearest water. Spike-It dye sticks add shad dots, orange bellies, chartreuse tail parts to further match the hatch. Berkley’s SUNGILL pattern mimics many baitfish. Clearer water and brighter sun, Iaconelli chooses translucent patterns. On darker days with lower light he prefers baits with more contrast; pure white or black. 

Open hooks aren’t weedless but hook up percentages are higher. In open water, Ike Approved VMC 90-degree jig ties keep baits horizontal and have lifelike 3D eyes, gill plates, and a flared head design with two barbs to keep baits in place, eliminating glue. Around wood, boulders, or weeds, a 60-degree tie and 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. Both head sizes vary for best fishing depths.   

When using a 3/16-oz. or lighter head with a smaller 2.75-inch smaller boot tail style bait, he casts 7’ med ABU spinning rods with 10-15 X5 braid to 1-3-foot leader of 8-12 pound Berkley 100% fluorocarbon leader for longer casts with less stretch.

With 4, 5, 6-inch baits with ¼ or heavier heads it’s 7’4” MH or 7’2” MH ABU casting rods with low profile casting 7:1 to 8:1 casting reels.

Bites come from fish being drawn, hitting viciously, and coming at you, faster ABU reels take up slack. Depending on cover he spools 14-20-pound test fluorocarbon, it’s more subtle and sinks, providing better bait action. However, 20-30-pound braid with 3 foot fluorocarbon leaders enable longer casts, fishing around heavy cover, and eliminates fluorocarbon stretch. 

Swimbait fishing is simple. “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.”

Ike 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. 

Author Capt. Steve Chaconas is Potomac bass fishing guide & freelance writer. Potomac River reports: nationalbass.com. YouTube video channel NationalBassGuide.

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