These products and fishing tips are based on my own experience catching smallmouth bass.
1. Keitech Swing Impact FAT Swimbait
These little swimbaits flat out catch fish, and are particularly deadly on smallmouth bass no matter where you reside in the country. They have proven to be an extremely versatile bait that can be utilized with a number of techniques and in almost any scenario—but there is one super simple technique, that has simply caught me more fish than any other.
By simply rigging this bait on a 1/8 or 1/4 jig-head and slowly swimming the bait back to the boat, you will flat out catch them. This technique works best in clear water, so that the fish can see the bait from great distances, and are drawn in. I have also found that using a jighead that has painted or 3D eyes is also important because it not only makes the bait look more natural and lifelike, but it also gives the fish a target, to focus their strike.
2. Hollow Body Swimbaits
Hollow body swimbaits are also a fantastic presentation for smallmouth bass because they often have fantastic and ultra-realistic paint and body finishes that make them look super natural in the water. Their hollow body and different soft-plastic formulation also provide a wider side-to-side action and wobble, which can sometimes make the difference between getting a bite, and not. These baits can be retrieved at any speed; however, as with the FAT Impact above, I tend to throw and retrieve them slowly for smallmouths.
I tend to throw this style of swimbait when there is cover in the area, because they are easily rigged with both a weightless or weighted swimbait hook, allowing them to be swam over a variety of covers including grass, weeds, wood, and rock. This is one of my go-to baits in late spring and early summer, when fish are more active, and vegetation is starting to form on your favorite bodies of water.
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3. Line-Thru Soft-Plastic Swimbaits
The line-thru swimbait was really designed to improve hook-up ratios when using medium to large soft-plastic swimbaits. Your preferred fishing line passes through the bait’s body and is tied directly to a belly or treble hook on the bait's underside. The hook swings free upon the hookset, allowing the angler to do battle directly with the fish. Traditionally, these swimbaits have been used for shallow to mid-depth fishing and for targeting larger than average fish sizes, though smaller versions are available, and specialty designs allow for fishing in deeper water.
I typically throw these baits with a large exposed treble, belly hooked, as I'm almost always throwing this in deeper open water situations, or around rock. If there is any type of vegetation around, the exposed hook will almost certainly catch it—affecting the bait's swimming action and fish-catching ability. Don't be afraid to up-size these baits when using them in deeper off-shore applications.
4. Hard Body Swimbaits & Glidebaits
Some of the biggest smallmouth I've ever caught have come off of a hard-bodied swimbait, like the one seen above by River2Sea called the S-Waver. Featuring a natural "S-Action" swimming motion, S-Waver will seductively wake the surface and call in big smallmouth and largemouth bass alike. Hold your rod tip up and S-Waver is a surface lure, allow the bait to slowly sink and the S-Action continues under water.
When targeting smallmouth, I use the smaller version: S-Waver 120, which comes in a 4 3/4", and is slow sinking. Again, I think an ultra-slow retrieve is required to get the most of this wide swimming motion, and gives the bait a chance to be seen from far away by giant lunkers. Introduce a few erratic twitches on a slack line, and you'll get the most finicky of fish to commit!
5. The Original Swimbait: The Grub!
I may take a lot of heat for putting this one up there, but if you truly think about it, it's true! The curly-tailed grub is really the first true swimbait... and we all know it's dynamite on smallmouth because of its finesse applications and down-sized appeal. Whether you simply cast and retrieve in the traditional swimbait sense, or swim it across the bottom, making contact with rocks and boulders—the bait simply works!
In my opinion, use it on the lightest round-ball jig-head you can get away with, for the most realistic and natural presentation. The same is true, even when you're bottom bouncing. Whether this little baby is swimming in the middle of the water column, or skittering across the bottom, you're sure to hook up with some giant bronze-backs!