There’s a consistent mantra that some baits are just too big and we’ve all dealt with that same mental block. That was a tough hill for me to climb. I always wanted to get into big baits but never had the confidence to completely dedicate myself to throwing them. It was hard for me to get out of the mentality that I had to catch fish. Nobody likes to go out fishing and end the day with a big fat goose egg. I grew up fishing tournaments and conventional tackle was the name of the game. In late 2014, I really started to get bored with fishing. It was becoming somewhat redundant and I felt like I needed a change. I knew the time was finally right for me to give swimbaits a fair shot.
I met Ceaser Chavez of Toxic Baits in 2015 and he hooked me up with a Wake N Crank and Wade Hoggs. To be honest, the Wake N Crank felt like a bait I would throw with confidence because I felt like I could throw it on a flippin stick and not have to completely upgrade my gear just to fish it. The Wade Hoggs on the other hand was gonna take some learning. The size was intimidating and mentally put me in a mindset that it was too big. I had seen numerous instances where the Hoggs had been successful I just needed to see it for myself. The only way I felt would help me gain confidence in swimbaits was to bring nothing but swimbaits when I went fishing. You leave yourself without any other option but what you have tied on the deck. That strategy works for some but not everybody. I tried it and failed miserably. Time after time of feeling like I was doing nothing but burning gas to try to chase a bite that I never knew if I would even find for myself. It got to the point where I basically said screw it and started bringing conventional tackle back on the boat just to see if fish even existed in the areas I was fishing.
It wasn’t until 2016 when things slowly started to click. I picked the minds of those around me but still needed to take that knowledge and translate it into bites. I was on a solid reaction bite but I wasn’t seeing the size that I wanted to see. This voice in the back of my head kept telling me to pick up the Wade Hoggs so I finally caved. I was fishing lanes in between scattered Hydrilla clumps. My first cast with the Hoggs I stuck a two and a half pounder. It may not sound like much to most but to me this was a huge boost to my confidence. I finally succeeded in catching a fish on a bait that I had deemed too big. The next cast I stuck a three pounder. Now things were starting to make a little bit more sense. My confidence was starting to trend upward. A few casts later all Hell broke loose when I caught a nine pounder! At this point, I was trying to process what was even going on. I went from having zero confidence in this bait to feeling like it was the only bait I wanted to throw. I ended up finishing the day with just under twenty five pounds for my best five and all on a swimbait. That day single handedly changed my mentality with big baits. I went from not ever wanting to throw them again to not wanting to throw anything else.
A question I get on a consistent basis is “where do you find the confidence to throw big baits?” The easy answer would be “time on the water” or “just fish it” but it’s so much more than that. All the struggle and frustration to get past what seems like such a simple mental block. The confidence comes from watching all the turmoil turn into bites. Figuring out when and where you should throw a swimbait. What I’ve come to realize throughout the years is that the best swimbait fisherman knows when to put it down. Don’t try to force feed a bite. There’s nothing wrong with fishing both conventional and big baits. Take advantage of situations and target specific locations. Look for Isolated cover, lanes in weeds, flats with current and deep water access, points, sparse tules, and current cuts. Use certain techniques you’ve learned through conventional fishing and try to translate them into bigger baits. I like to fish weedless baits the same way I would with a spinnerbait and hard baits like a square bill or vibrating jig. That’s where I’ve seen most of my success with swimbaits and I hope that helps those of you struggling to gain confidence. Swimbaits are a tool. It’s not all about loading the box. Learn from every chance you get to spend on the water.