How to Choose a Swimbait Rod
I get a lot of e-mails from people asking advice on picking out a good swimbait rod for particular applications, so I figured I would write a quick list of things to look for when shopping or choosing a rod from your arsenal.
The first thing I want to emphasize is that just like any bass fishing bait there is no one perfect rod you can use for every bait successfully. I know swimbaits and rods are really expensive, so this is probably why so much thought goes into this as well before the big purchase.
Swimbaits can vary in weight from ½ ounce up to a full pound. Here’s what you need to consider before making a choice:
• Which baits you are planning on throwing: size, weight & action
• Billed or lipless bait (is the rod going to need to absorb vibration from the bait?)
• Do the baits have trebles or big jig style hooks
• How far are you going to want to throw the bait?
• Are you dedicating the rod to one or two baits? (if not you should be)
• type of reel you want to use
• size of line
• where in the water column you are going to be fishing
• how you want to work the bait
There are a lot of small swimbaits on the market that really do not require any special equipment and can be thrown on rods you may have already. This will be a basis for a set of rules you can follow all the way up to those bigger baits.
Let’s take small hardbaits such as BBZ Shad 6”, smaller Triple Trouts, or any soft plastic bait you will be using treble hooks on. Think of these baits the same you would as a crankbait. They are baits that are going to be retrieved with a lot of different ways - anywhere from a straight retrieve to being jerked and paused. The bites are going to be similar to crankbait bites, and most important is getting that fish back to the boat and not ripping those smaller treble hooks out of the bass’s mouth.
This is going to require a moderate rod, something with enough power to handle the bait but also with enough give so you’re not going to loose the fish you hook up with. 7’6” to 8’ is the ideal length for most baits of this size. I recommend a big glass rod or a nice moderate heavy crankbait rod. A lot of rods these days will have lure recommendations printed on them, and are usually pretty close to where they need to be. Just keep in mind: just because a rod said it will be good for an application does not mean it is ideal. Every one fishes slightly differently.
Next on the small bait list would be hollow body swimbaits and pre-rigged jigging baits such as Storm or River 2Sea Bottom Walkers up to 6”.
I highly recommend a frog rod, heavy pitching rod, or jig rod for these baits. The frog rod is great for around cover with braid, where the jig or pitching rod for more open water applications.
Now the small stuff is out of the way I want to go over characteristics of different swimbaits.
Let’s start on the top. Most topwater baits share a few characteristics. They are baits that need to be worked, and most have treble hooks. These are usually big stout hooks that are not going to bend.
I don’t like a super stiff swimbait rod for fishing on top. The basic characteristics I am looking for are at least a 7’9” rod with a fast soft tip and a real stiff lower section for a strong hook set and plenty backbone to drag big fish to the boat. I have three rods in this category.
1. One for baits in the 2 to 3 oz. category such as floating Triple Trout, Snack Size baits, small Lunker Punkers.
2. One for baits in the 4 to 5 oz. category such as 8” Punkers, Wake Jr’s and many others on the market.
3. And one for baits in the 8 oz. and up category, such as Rago’s, Nate’s Baits etc
Some days I will fish a bait on a light rod for shorter casts, working it more, where some days I will step up the rod size to get more casting distance.
The middle water column and bottom
This is where different people will have a lot of different opinions on whether or not you should throw more of a moderate rod as compared to a broom stick. Personally I stick with more of a moderate rod with a fast tip for working bits in the middle. Working on down to the bottom with big baits such as Huddlestons I prefer to fish with rods that better resemble broom sticks.
With these types of baits you are going to be fishing a lot slower and the bites are going to be anywhere from a small tap to a freight train hitting a Pinto stalled on the tracks.
Some of my Favorites
Dobyns 7’9” an Mike Long series and Mag topwater rods for punkers and many topwater baits
Powell 7’10” 5 power for topwater and smaller lipless baits
Powell max 8’ extra heavy and 7’11” Heavy for Hudds and big soft plastic baits
Shimano Crucial 7’11” Series Swimbait rods, these rods come in three weights for a versatile series
My advice for purchasing swimbait rods is that you go into your local shop and really check out the rods you are interested in. whether or not you end up buying them on-line or not.
Keep in mind what you already know and just step it up an ounce or 15, the same rules apply as with smaller bass fishing baits.