The Ultimate Guide to Hard and Soft Swimbaits

Guide to hard, soft, and specialty swimbaits

Swimbaits fool predatory gamefish such as bass by mimicking the swimming action of a baitfish. Most swimbaits look like smaller species of fish, but can also be made to look like birds, rodents, and frogs. There are several varieties of swimbaits such as hard-bodied, soft-bodied and paddle tail. These are broad categories, and some can be combined — like a hard body bait with a soft rubber tail, for instance. Castaic offers numerous types of swimbaits in hard or soft plastic, plus some special hybrid varieties.

Lifelike hard body swimbaits

Hard body swimbaits feature joints to mimic the side-to-side paddle of a real fish. Shorter baits often feature a single or double joint and longer, larger swimbaits can feature multiple swivel-joints.

BD Shad
BD Shad

The BD Baits Shad features a four jointed body with a fibrous tail that produces ultra-realistic swimming action and can be fished with several retrieval methods. Because of the swimming action and paint schemes the hard body swimbaits have, they can be eerily lifelike in and out of the water. Intricate paint jobs add to the realism of these baits. While the paint color does not always make or break a fishing trip, brighter colors in muddy (stained) water can make the baits easier for predators to see or desire where more realistic colors are typically better in clear water.

Hooks on hard body swimbaits are typically treble hooks (a 3-pointed hook that looks like an upside-down umbrella). It is always best to have high-quality hooks on your lures. You don’t want that fish-of-a-lifetime to get away because of a bad hook!

Some other hard-body swimbaits include these from Castaic, the original swimbait company:

Rubber-based soft body swimbaits

Soft body swimbaits can weigh several ounces and react to being reeled in like small or modest-sized prey. Professional anglers will cast and retrieve the bait based on the current weather and water conditions. They will also use several retrieval methods to lure big gamefish. For instance, a real dying shad will dart and stop with a slow sinking behavior as waters cool. Predatory bass will watch this pattern of starts-and-stops and wait for the shad to settle before striking. Soft body swimbaits can mimic this behavior when cast and “jerked” from the rod.

BD Swimsuit
BD Swimbait

Many soft body swimbaits come in a hollow body variety. Unlike their solid-rubber brethren, hollow body swimbaits reveal nothing but air inside when you – or the bass – bares down. This adds further realism to predatory bass. The bait will literally collapse in the bass’ mouth just like real prey naturally would.

You can often rig a soft body swimbait to be weedless which enables the angler to drag soft body and hollow body models along heavy, thick cover like weeds, rocks, sand, and the bottoms of lake beds with little entanglement.

Soft body swimbaits allow you to attach your line to the front or top of the bait. Hooks are available on the belly or top of the lure. Top-mounted hooks are sometimes fastened inside the bait and are not removable. With top-mounted hooks the long wire of the hook is welded into the supporting wire inside the lure. This extends its durability and brings a lot more exposure to the hook. That’s a plus for open-waters but avoid it in heavy cover because weeds and debris can collect on the hook.

Other soft-body swimbaits include:

Thumping water with paddle tail swimbaits

Fathead Jr.

Paddle tail swimbaits like the Castaic Boot Tail swimbait, feature a large oval-shaped tail. This tail gives paddle tail swimbaits a unique “thump” and shimmy in the water when reeled in properly. Paddle tail swimbaits are most often small and don’t come with hooks in the box. This is because most anglers prefer to use the right hook for different situations at the time of fishing.

This could be weighted hooks to get the paddle tail swimbait to sink lower in the water, or as part of an umbrella rig with three or four partner baits. Anglers love paddle tail swimbaits because they can use a weedless configuration that avoids collecting debris and heavy cover during use.

Other paddle tail swimbaits include:

Fishing your swimbait for that trophy bass

Compared to other gamefish, bass are smart predators. It can be a test of patience compared to other conventional baits, but swimbaits give you your best chance at catching a trophy bass. The bite patterns for swimbaits can be slower because you need to give the lure a natural swimming action in the water.

Swimbaits are designed to do most of the work for you — just throw it in the water and reel it in. But if you jerk, twist, and jolt the rod and reel just a little you’ll give your swimbait an erratic, enticing motion bass find hard to resist. This works best when you can retrieve your bait slowly while still giving it erratic action — just like real prey.

You can also cast your swimbait into heavy cover, like along docks or patches of weeds. This method mimics lone prey that has fallen out of its regular school of fish. Bass will prey on these lonely, easy meals and strike once they leave the cover of the weeds or rocks. When fished in open waters, bass may track the bait for many meters before deciding to strike.

Catch 22
Catch22 – Blue Gill

The color of the bait can impact your chances of a hookset. Use bluegill-colored lures, for instance, when fishing in waters with lots of bluegill prey. Use bright colored lures when fishing in stained, muddy waters. Use large swimbait lures when the size of the bass are large, and use baby-sized lures when you’re unsure. Baby-sized prey are always available in every body of water.

2 thoughts on “The Ultimate Guide to Hard and Soft Swimbaits

  1. […] in one smooth, curbed movement. You want a fast tip with live baits and slow tips for crankbaits, swimbaits, and […]

  2. […] For advice on hard and soft swimbaits, see our ultimate guide to swimbaits. […]

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