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Swimbaits – tools of the trade
  |  First Published: July 2017



The emergence of the swimbait trends in Australia in the last 12-18 months has been an angling revolution in many ways. This bait and technique genre has bubbled away quietly under the sportfishing industry surface for many years, but its popularity has now exploded. The increased availability of overseas swimbaits, the proliferation of information via social media channels and the exponential uptake of the technique by anglers has seen it emerge as one of the most exciting developments in lure fishing for quite some time.

The arrival of swimbaiting on such a large scale has opened people’s eyes to new possibilities, both in terms of the size of lures that fish will eat, but also the size of fish that are out there to be caught. The spike of XOS cod pictures across social media can be attributed to the increased number of swimbaits hanging from rod tips throughout the country.

These new baits and new frontiers have delivered a new landscape in tackle design, with big baits delivering big demands of tackle and equipment. When it comes to swimbaiting, only the right tackle will do. Anything less just doesn’t cut it.

A man who has spent plenty of time with a swimbait in his hand is Australia’s bass export Carl Jocumsen. Carl understands the role having the right tools for the job plays in the swimbait game.

“Throwing swimbaits is like nothing else,” he said. “The lure and technique is insanely hard on tackle, and to do it correctly requires a whole new tackle system. I like to see my swimbait set-up as a complete system that includes the rod, reel, line, and of course the lure. Each piece of the system is important, and they are all as important as each other.”

When Carl talks we should listen, and in this article we’ll break down each piece of the swimbait system and look at the options available for Aussie anglers when it comes to choosing the tools for the swimbait trade.

Rod Rage

When it comes to swimbaiting, not all rods are created equal. While one rod can cover many techniques and lures if you’re throwing small to mid sized topwaters, crankbaits, or soft plastics, it’s a different story for swimbaits. Only a rod made purposely for the job will do. Australia rod design guru Ian Miller knows this well.

“When it comes to swimbait rods it’s important to keep in mind that it’s all about the lure,” he said. “The main job of the rod is to cast a potentially big, heavy lure so it can be presented in the strike zone, and because swimbaits come in many sizes and weights, the rod must match the lure weights you intend to use. Don’t get too confused by line breaking strains for the rod, just check rod specifications for recommended lure weights to make sure your swimbait rod is suitable for these lure weights (what you’ll likely be using). If you want to throw really ‘big baits’ then you’ll need a more powerful rod, and that will be a completely different animal... because one rod won’t do it all.”

With Ian’s philosophy at the centre of rod selection, the next question is what rods are available for the Aussie swimbait. One angler who has been truly bitten by the swimbaiting bug is Daniel Clancy, and he has a duo of rods that he reaches for on a regular basis.

“Millerods are my weapon of choice,” he said, “And there are two that I use above anything else. For my lighter swimbaiting, lures between 170 and 230mm, I’ll use a BeastFreak. It’s 7’10” long and is designed for throwing lures 30-150g in weight and is one of the most versatile rods going around.”

However, what really gets Clancy’s casting arm twitching is XOS swimbaits. Those big, 250mm-plus baits demand a lot from both angler and tackle.

“Throwing big baits can be a real challenge, and you want a rod that will happily load up when you make a big cast and is able to control the lure in the water and through the air,” he explained. “The Millerods DreamFreak is made to do this with ease, and will handle baits up to 225g in weight.”

Luke Parsons is another swimbait cod addict who favours Millerods, and Luke has three in his quiver of rods that cover his swimbait needs.

“I use a SwimFreak for the lighter stuff, a BeastFreak for the mid stuff and the DreamFreak for the big stuff,” Luke said. “Regardless of which one I’m using, they offer the same benefits and traits: the ability to throw a bait a long way, and do so without placing undue pressure and effort on the angler. Fatigue is a serious issue; it can be flat out exhausting launching a 6.5oz glidebait over and over for three days straight. The long butt of the Millerod swimbait rods allows for good rod leverage, and a smooth, natural two-handed casting action that greatly helps minimise angler fatigue.”

When it comes to swimbaiting in Australia, one name features more than many: Adam Townsend. A committed swimbait junkie and an angler who has muscled many swimbait-eating cod to the bank or boat, Adam favours the Dusk Custom Rods for his big bait work.

“My favourite rod is a 7’0” fast, medium/light Dusk rod,” he said. “It can throw lures up to 5oz, and it’s a rod that I use on both the lakes and in the rivers.”

Dusk offers two models in the Swimbait Range – a 7’10,” 3/4-3oz, moderate/fast action, heavy power model, and a 7’10,” 3/4-4oz, moderate/fast action, extra heavy power model. Built with the Australian angler in mind and with impressive styling and build quality, the Dusk Swimbait Range is certainly worthy of your attention.

When it comes to swimbaiting there are no hotter baits at the moment than those from the Jackall stable, and Jackall Australia’s Harry Watson is one guy that’s revelling in the swimbait trend at the moment. It’s no great surprise when it comes to selecting a rod for hurling his swimbaiting long and hard, he opts for G.Loomis branded rod. A user of G.Loomis products since he was a boy, Harry favours the models in the G.Loomis Swimbait Series.

“Some anglers like a fast or ultra fast rod for throwing their swimbaits,” he said. “However, I like to use a medium/fast action rod, and it’s the G.Loomis 904 that I use more often than not. It’s an awesome rod and I use it for throwing lures up to 70g in weight.”

Daiwa have a rich history of providing anglers with design and performance-leading products, and the swimbait rods available from the Daiwa Australia stable are true to that trend. The Tatula name has become famous since it was added to the Daiwa line-up a few years ago, and the Tatula rod range features two specific models for swimbaiting – the 76H and the 76XH. Featuring a unique telescopic butt that allows the rod to collapse to a shorter length for improved storage capability, the Tatula Swimbait rods are both light and crisp in the hand, yet equally powerful and strong. For those anglers looking for a more economical priced swimbait rod, the Tatula range is well worth a look.

Fans of the Daiwa Black Label range also have their swimbait needs catered for, with the 77H Swimbait Custom featuring cork grips, two-piece construction and Fuji SIC guides.

The famous Wilson name occupies an enviable position on the Australia tackle landscape, and are designed with the needs of the Australian angler in mind, along with attention to detail and performance. This focus is evident in Wilson’s Venom rod series, and in particular their 7’6” Venom Swimbait rod. Designed specifically for swimbaiting for Australian species, the Venom is a true workhorse.

“The rod was designed to cast lures, and not just to lob lures but to actually load hard and power cast lures a long way,” explained Wilson Fishing’s Troy Dixon. “It does that and it will throw swimbaits up to 180g with ease. It also has the strength to muscle fish, which is something not every swimbait rod is designed can do.”

The US is famous for swimbaiting, and one brand that occupies a good footing in the swimbaiting market over there is Storm. Aussie distributor Rapala Australia has taken advantage of Storm’s proven performers to bring one of their newest releases to the Australian market.

“The Storm Arashi Swimbait rod offers both excellent performance and value,” explained Rapala Australia’s Tom Slater. “It features 30 ton blank construction, measures 7’6” in length and is capable of throwing lures up to 120g in weight. They’re also great value for money, with a recommended retail price of $150.”

Another US brand with a rich and proven rod design history is 13 Fishing, and they have many swimbait options available for the Aussie angler.

“We have two ranges, the Defy Series and the Muse Black Series,” explained 13 Fishing Australia’s Andrew McKinstray. “They are ergonomically designed for optimum angler comfort and performance.”

Both series feature the 13 Fishing aesthetics and styling that have helped make the brand famous, with the Muse Black featuring six swimbait models, from the 7’9” heavy power model all the way up to the big dog of the range, the 8’6” extra/extra heavy model. The Defy series offers two models, and features an impressive recommended retail price of $149.99.

Dobyns Rods have a strong following in Australia, particularly with the tournament and high-end lure fishing fraternity. For those anglers who love their Dobyns, there are many swimbait models to choose from. The Fury and Champion XP series both feature models ideal for the Australian swimbait fan.

The Champion XP Series features nine swimbait models which are built on ultra-sensitive, high-modulus graphite blanks with Fuji Alconite guides, Fuji graphite reel seats, and AA grade cork grips. The Fury Series is designed with budget-conscious angler in mind, and features two swimbait models, the 795SB and the 806SB.

Samaki fans are also catered for when it comes to swimbait tackle, with the Zing Xtreme Series offering anglers two rod models to choose from. The lighter model in the range, the Zing Extreme SZX-792BSBH, is 7’9” in length, designed for 15-30lb line and lures 1-5oz in weight. The second and heaviest model in the range, the Zing Extreme SZX-802BSBXH, is 8’0” in length and will cast lures 2-8oz. Both models feature Fuji K guides, custom super-hard EVA camo grips, premium Toray carbon fibre blanks and AA cork grips.

Reel it In

When it comes to selecting the reel to use, not just any reel will do. Carl Jocumsen has his own preferences.

“The demands a swimbait places on a reel is like nothing else in light tackle lure fishing. If you use the same reel you use for throwing 1/2oz spinnerbaits or crankbaits you’re going to wear it out and eventually destroy it,” he explained. “While low-profile baitcasters will do the job with small swimbaits, when you start throwing the big baits a barrel style baitcaster is the only way to go.”

Luke Parsons agrees.

“I use a 8.5:1 Shimano Metanium MLG for throwing lures up to about 140g, and once I go heavier than this I use a 5.6:1 Shimano Calcutta Conquest 400,” he said.

A slow down in reel retrieve ration is another thing that Luke does when he starts to go big.

“Big baits mean big fish, and a slower reel provides you with more cranking torque and more pulling power when trying to winch out giant fish,” he explained.

Daniel Clancy follows a similar path when it comes to reel selection – low-profile for the lighter stuff and a barrel reel for when things get big.

“I use either a Shimano Core or Curado for the small stuff, and then swap it for a Calcutta Conquest 400 when throwing big baits,” he said. “I’ve recently added a new Shimano Tranx 300 to my big bait line-up and it’s absolutely awesome.”

Harry Watson is another angler who is a fan of the new Shimano Tranx.

“The Tranx is strong, smooth and holds a ton of line,” he said. “It also handles the rigors of throwing swimbaits all day long.”

Daiwa offer swimbait fans a host of reel options as well, with the famous Zillion name hard to go past. It has outstanding casting performance that put its ahead of the pack, courtesy of the Zillion’s T-Wing System. Additionally, its bulletproof construction and reliability make it the ideal choice for those looking for a low-profile swimbait baitcaster.

The Daiwa Tatula HD is the perfect accompaniment to the Tatula swimbait rod range. The HD is available in two retrieve ratios (6.3 and 7.3:1) and features large neoprene handle knobs, making it one of the more ergonomic and comfortable reels to use.

Daiwa also have your large reel needs catered for, with the Ryoga Shrapnel big in looks, performance and power. The Shrapnel carries 13 bearings, a 6.2:1 retrieve ratio, 10kg of drag and will accommodate 195m of PE5 line. This is one stunning looking and performing swimbait reel.

The 13 Fishing Concept A3 baitcaster offers a host of different options for the swimbait angler, and is available in both left and right models. The A3 is available in four different retrieve ratios (5.3:1, 6.6:1, 7.3:1, and 8.1:1). It weighs in at under 200g, but although this reel a lightweight in body weight, it’s anything but a lightweight when it comes to performance.

“The A3 has 22lb of drag pressure, seven ball bearings and casts big baits all day long with absolute ease,” explained Andrew McKinstray. “It’s a low-profile baitcaster that punches well above its weight.”

Another reel that’s famous stateside is Lews, and Australian anglers have many to choose from at home. Lews Australia’s Craig Simmons is the man behind Lews in Australia.

“Lews are famous in the US for their ability to cast hard, cast long, and outlast the others,” he said. “When it comes to swimbaiting, it’s hard to go past the Lews Super Duty Speed Spool. It’s perfecting for throwing big baits all day long.”

The Line Up

Big baits require big line. In the US and Japan, most anglers throwing swimbaits opt for 20 or 30lb fluorocarbon, but on Australian soil our swimbait fans run PE and braid nine times out of ten.

Harry Watson has been a long time user of Platypus line and, as expected, it features heavily in his line-up when swimbaiting.

“Cod are not a line burner but there’s a lot of structure like granite rocks where I do most of my swimbaiting, so I like to go a heavy line,” Harry explained. “I run either 50lb Platypus Super Braid or P8 mainline and match it with 40-60lb Sunline FC100 fluorocarbon leader.”

Daniel Clancy also goes with a braid/fluoro leader setup.

“I fish 40lb Power Pro Super Slick Braid with a 40lb Sufix Super 21 fluorocarbon leader for my light set-up, then I bump it up to a 50lb mainline/50 leader set-up for my heavy outfit,” Daniel explained. “I favour the Power Pro because it’s smooth, strong, not too chunky and has proven itself trip after trip. I also like the Sufix Super 21 leader because it’s more supple than a lot of other fluoros, and has excellent shock resistance.”

Luke has a similar line set-up as Dan, with only a slight difference.

“Dan and I use the same lines but I use 30lb for my small swimbaits, then step it up to 50lb and 40lb leader on my mid sized swimbaits, then 50lb and 50lb on my big baits,” he said.

Adam Townsend is a Yamatoyo fan when it comes to line selection, and opts for 45lb Yamatoyo Super PE mainline and 40-45lb Yamatoyo fluorocarbon leader.

“The Yamatoyo is bulletproof,” Adam said. “It’s super abrasion resistant, wears incredibly well over time and is trouble free through the guides and when it comes to tying knots.”

Stowed Away

When the lures you’re throwing are worth anything between $20 and $400, you want to make sure you keep them in top-notch condition. However, when it comes to storing swimbaits up to 30cm in length, it can be no easy task finding a box or tray that will house them. Some of our anglers opt for a makeshift (but effective) approach, but if you like a bit more structured order in your life there are some purpose-designed options available.

Harry Watson is one of the anglers who opts for the simple storage option.

“There’s nothing special about it,” he said, “I just use a cheap sandwich container from the supermarket.”

Adam has a similar approach and uses a container that I think all lure anglers have in the tackle storage set-up – a Sistema plastic tub from Coles.

“The Sistema container is perfect,” Adam said. “It fits perfectly in my Berkley backpack and can hold lots of big baits, covering both the rivers and dams.”

Daniel Clancy is guy who’s often looking for a better way to do things, and his approach to swimbait storage is no different.

“When it comes to swimbait storage, I am yet to find a good solution in the fishing industry,” he said. “Instead, I use storage solutions available from Bunnings. They have a variety of storage options for tools and hardware that are similar to a tackle box, but they have way more options to fit big baits in a practical and organised way.”

For those anglers who are less inclined to look outside of the fishing market for storage options, proven brands such as Bass Mafia and Versus have options suited to housing swimbaits. Jon Millard is Bass Marfia’s distributor.

“The 3700 DD Coffin is ideal for swimbaits,” Jon said. “It has removable dividers, is fully waterproof, is deep so it can accommodate big lures, and is virtually bulletproof.”

Versus have two standout models, with the VS-3070 an ideal briefcase-style storage option, while the VS-3043 is an ideal deep stowaway-style storage case that will fit plenty of big baits.

Flambeau offer many options as well, with the Tufftainer and Ultimate Tufftainer two of the best. Featuring Flambeau’s Zerust technology, which minimises corrosion, the Tufftainer’s rigid construction will keep your swimbaits safe and secure. The Ultimate Tufftainer is the standout of the two models, with its silicone gasket keeping your lures waterproof and dry.

The Terminal

Lure anglers love to tinker with their tackle, and it’s no different when it comes to swimbaits. For those looking to tune their stock standard baits, there are a few options available. Many of the latest baits to hit the market, such those in the Jackall stable, have the facility to add extra weight, and it’s this addition of extra weight that is becoming very popular amongst many swimbaits fans. Jackall Australia’s Harry Watson is a big fan of this.

“I chin weight my lures a lot of the time, mostly with tungsten weights,” he said. “Doing this allows me to change the running depth of my lure.

“For example, at night when fishing shallow I might use a 1/4oz weight, while during the day I might use a 1/2oz weight and fish the lure 15-20ft down. I also make sure I split ring the weights on rather than clip them on. Barra and cod can have a tendency to throw the weights off if they’re just clipped on.”

For those anglers looking for a locally available, off-the-shelf option when it comes to chin weights, the Mustad Fastach X-Weight is hard to go past. Troy Dixon from Wilson Fishing understands the importance of adjusting weights.

“The Fastach connection makes it easy to clip and on and clip off the weight. With a 1/4, 3/8, and 1/2oz weights to choose from its easy to match the weight to the depth you want to fish,” Troy explained.

Daniel Clancy is another guy who likes to add some weight to his baits. However, Dan prefers the stick-on variety.

“I carry a range of weights, mostly stick-on ones, that I put on the lure rather than clipping on hanging chin weights,” he said. “I see a lot of guys using chin weights, but I’m not a real fan. I prefer to use the stick-on ones.”

Dan doesn’t just carry sticky weights though – he has a trick bag of goodies that he always brings with him when fishing.

“I always carry various little bits and pieces for on-water alterations,” he explained. “I always upgrade the hooks and rings before using a bait, and swap the stock terminal for VMC components. Wire harnesses and multiple rigging harness options are always in the box pre-done, as well when soft swimbaits are been used.”

Luke Parsons also upgrades his hardware before he throws a lure.

“You’ll find that 99.9% of the swimbaits we have here in Australia are not designed for our fish, and the hooks will be below par 9/10 times,” Luke explained. “Owner STx3/x4 series hooks are solid as a rock and have not let me down yet.”

THE WRAP

So there you have it – a run-down on the tools of the trade on the market for those anglers looking to tie on a swimbait and get started in this highly addictive pursuit. Rest assured we’re only going to see more swimbait tackle become available as the year rolls on, and the momentum of this trends gathers even more speed.

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