Swimbaits and the Delta, Part 1
The past couple of years, we have seen a number of baits, like the Reaction Innovation's Beaver and Yamamoto's Senko, over flow the tackle boxes of anglers chasing bass on this great fishery. In an ever evolving sport to find the next hot lure, I don't think we've seen a bait as successful at attracting bites, especially those big bites, the kicker fish, which are so common here, than the assortment and arsenals now being bestowed bass fishermen by the swimbait craze.
The Swimbait craze, that has swept across the United States, has it's roots right here in California. And it was only a matter of time, before a group of savvy and die hard big bass chasers here on the Delta, found ways to exploit the use of these baits, in attracting the big Florida bass, roaming these fertile waters of this river system. And as is the case with many a variety of techniques used on this River, with the vast number of anglers fishing here, both recreationally and within the tournament communities, the success of a few, spreads quickly here.
Over the past 10 years, specific baits have found their way into that "must have on board" mentality by Delta fishermen. Pull up to any ramp on any given day on this River, look at the decks of each and every boat, yer sure to see several tools repeated by each and every angler here. Red crankbaits, whether it be a 7A Bomber, Speed Trap, LV 500 or Bill Lewis Rattle trap, we've all got one tied on and ready to go year round. The flippen jig, no angler should ever drop his boat onto this fishery without one. The jig is not only a numbers bait year round, it will catch you that double digit fish of a life time on any given cast. Frogs in the spring through summer, a bait that has a cult following here that some anglers just can't put down. The Yamamoto Senko, this bait is by far the easiest and fish catchinest bait we've ever seen. It has taken the below average fishermen and made em look like studs. It's taken the studs, and made em superstars. These are typically the four must have baits you'll see anglers relying on year round here, ya just don't come to the Delta without em.
Well, the time has come to make room for yet another tool. If you don't have a swimbait of some sorts tied on, you are missing out on some great fish catching opportunities on this river. You are very likely, not going to win that next tournament. It's a year round bait that attracts strikes from some of the biggest fish this river estuary has to offer. With the vast array of forage here, toss in the endless and ever presence of cover and shallow depths, these big baits just flat out work. The big, and small alike, bass of this system, will chase down and smack one of these big baits in a heartbeat. It's that big, easy, slow moving meal they just can't resist eating. The versatility of the swimbait seems endless. With the variety of baits available today, I find myself replacing other rods on my deck, at certain times of the year, for a more productive swimbait that better suits the situation. There are several categories of swimbaits that work here, each presenting their own unique niche working best under specific conditions. It's sick, I now own 5 swimbaits rods, and they are in the boat at all times. As a long time jig fisherman, it's hard to imagine I'd have more swimbait rods on the deck than jig rods. But it's true. And it's a must here now. Who would have thunk, we could replace so many bait options with just one lure type.
This Delta is renowned for it's topwater fishing. Frogs, spooks, buzzbaits and poppers have been standard baits of choice for many years. In today's swimbait world, the new wooden and replica plastic wake baits, will outperform these baits with regularity from early spring through the summer. If you think fishing a frog up in the shallows during this time is exciting, you should try tossing an MS Slammer, AC Minnow or 3:16 Baby Wake. Where we toss big spooks, chuggers and propbaits at post spawn fish from May through August, you should try tossing one of two Black Dog Bait's phenoms, The Lunker Punker and Shell Cracker. There are many more available, but stick to these 5, you'll experience some of the greatest topwater strikes imaginable.
In that period from March through June, when these river bass are moving in and out of the shallows to spawn, the big realistic fish like baits excel too. We're talking the Hudds, Reaction Strike, Castaics, Optima, the Spros. These giant, slow moving life like baits draw strikes from transitioning bass like no other bait available. 35-45 pound sacks are common during this period in the spring time. Where we once threw Rattle Traps and Spinnerbaits over the transition flats, we now toss these big fish baits with the utmost confidence a giant river bass is gonna eventually engulf it.
The last group of baits is the smaller plastic paddle tails. These are my favorites, I believe them to be the most versatile. For me, these paddle tails have replaced the need to toss a crankbait and spinnerbait. I toss these plastic baits in the exact kind of places I would the other two, and with far greater success. They come in two varieties basically, the weighted models with giant EWG hooks texposed through the back and the Sassy shad like baits fished on an exposed lead head jig.
There are many available brands here in these two that are available. I might suggest, in an effort to keep it simply, to just stick with the Mission Fish and BassTrix baits at first. They are commonly found at most tackle shops and just plain catch fish. These are weedless type swimbaits, with the weight buried in the plastic body. They are easy to pitch and flip into the wide array of cover here. They also work extremely well in open water too. The other variety is that Sassy Shad type bait that is affixed to a lead head Jig. I personally have fallen head over heels across the deck of my boat this past year for the Big Hammers. They have several sizes ranging from 3'-6.5", a great assortment of colors, matching life like jig heads and provides a super tail action wobble that drives these river bass into a feeding frenzy. These baits we're originally designed for saltwater application in Southern California, that niche is now expanding to freshwater bass. FishTraps and the Yamamoto Saltwater series are also two common options that work here. If I had a choice, stick to bone white or the pearl white colors. That white works 365 days a year on this Delta.
Listen up guys, don't be intimidated by the swimbait craze. It's not difficult at all, it's really just a chuck and wind process. We may not have the 16-22 pounders here like those running rampant in our trout stocked lakes here in California, but we do have more fish over 10 pounds in this River than anywhere else on the planet. And if you want a chance of catching one of those double digit fish here, start tossing the swimbaits, you will not be disappointed, I promise!!
Keep A Tight Line!