What is a “transitional” swimbait. I coined the term to help describe the style baits I love to fish and make so much. By transitional I mean baits that can be transitioned to easily from conventional bass fishing techniques. These baits are basically just big lipped or un lipped hardbaits in the 5-8” range that weigh 3ozs or less. Some soft baits can fished the same as a typical reaction bait also. If you throw crankbaits, chatterbaits, spinnerbaits, buzzbaits, frogs, poppers, ploppers… the list goes on and on im sure, but any of these techniques can be translated directly into “transitional swimbaits”.
There can be a stigma that hangs over a certain lure when it is labeled a “swimbait”. A lot of people will instantly pass over or ignore it because of the label. Coming from the west coast it is rare to see this happen as they have proven themselves day in and out as effective catchers for large fish as well as tournament winners. With my recent travels I have noticed much of the country will not even consider tying one on. It’s so foreign for me to see this especially when talking about 6-7” baits. Fisherman will not hesitate when you ask them if a 3 pound bass can eat at a 6” shiner or herring, “HELL YEAH THEY WILL!” Show that same fisherman a 6 or 7” hard jointed swimbait or lipped wakebait and they waver while shuffle their feet explaining how their fish don't eat swimbaits or they don't have the rod to throw that stuff. WHAT?! POPPYCOCK! There are baits that can be thrown comfortably on flippin’ sticks that can easily and effectively add a new PB to your exploits or a check winning kicker to your tournament limit. I could go into a million ways and scenarios that these reactionary swimbaits will and do work but honestly you already know them all if you are a conventional bass fisherman.
Swimbaits made a name for themselves catching bohemouths on the west coast in our trout stocked reseviors. Guys like the Butch Brown, Mark Rogers, Byron Velvivk and The Bailey Brothers with the ground breaking video “Big Bait Posse” put these techniques out through various forms of media for the rest of the world to see and ogle. The fish were unprecedented and it was amazing to see. Using new big giant baits that closely imitated the stocked rainbow trout guys were catching huge fish and weighing giant limits in tourneys. By targeting these fish with hyper realistic baits and hitting the right feeding window, heroes can be born! This is not the type of swimbaiting I am referring to when I speak on “transitional swimbaits”. The baits I’m talking about can draw those feeding bites but they shine as reaction baits.
Grinding squarebills into cover to make them deflect and draw strikes has always been one of my favorite ways to fish for bass. It catches tons of fish and big ones to boot. Well, I just translated that directly into a wakebait style bait that I could crank down and the Wake ’N’ Crank was born. My home water of the Califonia Delta is full of all types of cover. Banging into that cover is a great way to get bit. So no matter what approach you use it’s best to just chuck that bait you got tied on right into the junk if you want a big bite. When I adopted the big baits in place of traditional baits I noticed that although they were a lot larger and had big treble hooks dangling down, the baits were surprisingly weedless. Even more so than their conventional counter parts. If it gets real nasty you can tie on one of a plethora of weedless swimbaits and literally fish that thing anywhere and anyway you would like. One of my favorite ways to fish a hollowbelly swimbaits is burning them as fast as I can next to over head cover mid day. You cannot reel fast enough with that thing and they SMOKE it. There are no rules with this style of bait. Companies like; MS Slammer, 3:16, Matt Lures, 22nd Century Triple Trouts, BullShad’s, Hiroshima Customs, Black Dog, Toxic Baits, DRT USA, Negosaki, AC Plugs and many more offer baits in the 5-8” sizes that can be tied on directly to a conventional flippin’ stick and put to work. No need to change a thing, except your mindset.
A great place to start the transition into this style of swimbait is just to pick up one or two of each style bait and start throwing them where you would normally fish. Pick colors that match what works with normal lures or match the local forage base. One lipped hardbait and one lipless is a good place to start and there are plenty of options. In my opinion it's hard to go wrong starting with a bullshad or triple trout in the lipless category and MS Slammer for the lipped category of baits. These baits won’t break the bank and are proven fish catchers nationwide. The only drawback to the Slammer is they are mainly wake baits and can sometimes struggle on the crankdown. Nothing a little lead tape behind the bill won’t fix though. Throwing a wake bait like a MS Slammer or Wake Jr. is very similar to throwing a double bladed buzzbait.. that you can pause. Throw it out next to or over cover and creep it back on the surface, it’s really that simple. If you get a lipped bait that can be cranked down cast it out and bang it into cover or rip it through the weeds like a lipless crank or a chatterbait. Lipless swimmers are great search baits and the fish love them on the burn for me. BURN pause BURN pause is one of my favorite ways to fish in general and these baits kill fished like that. Another great technique is to pitch them next to cover and give them a couple twitches like a dying baitfish. The fish will engulf them on the pause. These examples are just the tip of the iceberg and the ways to effectively fish this style bait is endless. Do not let dock talk or what your buddy has told you influence how you apply transitional swimbaits. These really do work nationwide and on all bodies of water. It’s up to the angler to find out which bait to throw and how to apply it, the same as it is with conventional style lures and techniques.
I wanted to write this because I believe there is no learning curve when deciding to throw these slightly larger baits. No need for new specialized gear and fancy reels. Just some 20lb test, a solid reel and a flippin’ stick puts you in business. Throw the preconceptions out the window, grab one of these big baits and go catch a big one. It really is that easy. Below is a video that a fish tries to eat a Snag Proof Buzz Frog a couple times. Upon the fish missing it twice I put it down and picked up the big bait. Turned the swipe to a bite, enjoy.
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She missed the frog but not the Hoggs!