The cliched identity of a “swimbait angler” is someone with a go-for-broke attitude, willing to fish for one big bass. The best swimbaits, however, don’t all fit that mold. Sure, some are as big as a tennis shoe and expensive as your first car. While swimbait culture has made scarcity and high prices a virtue, plenty of readily-available lures catch fish and won’t break the bank. Here are my top picks for catching numbers of fish and your new personal best.
How I Chose the Best Swimbaits
There are a lot of great swimbaits and they range in price from few dollars to a few hundred dollars. They also range from easily available to unobtainable. My goal was to pick baits that catch fish throughout the country, are affordable, and are readily available.
Best Swimbaits: Reviews and Recommendations
Best Overall: Triton Mike Bull Shad
- Sizes: 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, and 11 inches
- Natural brush tail
- Runs true at any speed, even burning it
- Replicates a wide variety of baitfish
- Many size options
- Limited color options at basic price point
At $50-100, the Bull Shad is a good entry into the world of high-priced prestige baits. The Bull Shad does the work of a spinnerbait and swim jig and often lands bigger fish than both. There’s no way to retrieve it incorrectly, but many of the most vicious strikes come when reeling it at warp speed. Smallmouths love it as much as largemouths. It also comes in a stubbier Bull Gill version and a more elongated Bull Herring version.
Best Budget: River2Sea S-Waver
- Lengths: 6.75 and 8 inches
- Weight: 1.625 and 3.5 ounces
- Key Colors: Trout, Bone, and Warden
- Price: $19 (6-inch) and $46 (8-inch)
- Easy to fish
- Versatile profile
- Good colors
- 6-inch size can be thrown on non-swimbait specific gear
- Recommend swapping hooks and split rings
If you want to dip your toes into the world of big swimbaits there are two no-brainer options: the 6-inch Magdraft and the S-Waver. They’re both easy to fish baits that get bit and they’re both around an ounce, so you can fish them on a medium-heavy or heavy power rod.
The S-Waver has a nice S shape swim on a slow retrieve and can make larger glides with half reel turns followed by a brief pause. I like to fish the 6-inch size around docks, logs, and down weed lines. The 8-inch has enough drawing power to use it in open water situations, but it’s also great fished around cover. For the best action, fish the S-Waver on a #2 swivel or tie a loop knot. If you do decide to go with the S waver, I recommend swapping the hooks to Gamakatsu Round Bend in a #2 or #1 size. You can also change out the split rings while you’re at it to a #4 Owner.
Best Glide Bait: Storm Arashi Glide
- Size: 7.5 inches
- Weight: 3 1/8 ounces
- High-end features at a reasonable price point
- Comes with extra tail
- Paint jobs closely resemble most common baitfish
- May require heavier than normal tackle for most bass anglers
Two-time Bassmaster Angler of the Year, Brandon Palaniuk, had a heavy hand in helping Storm develop the Arashi glide bait. Storm and Palaniuk, managed to create a bait with features of baits that cost three times more. One notable feature is the swiveling hook hangers that prevent monster bass from spitting the lure. It also runs true right out of the package, and a beginner swimbaiter can tie it on and immediately work it like a pro. At 7 ½ inches, it’s bigger than anything many bass anglers have thrown previously, but it’s not so large that you can’t catch 2- and 3-pound fish. It’s best fished when the water is clear to slightly stained, and it’s not a good muddy water bait.
Best Bargain Soft Plastic Swimbait: Reaction Innovations Skinny Dipper
- Size: 5 inches
- Holds a hook up to 6/0 hook
- Tail thumps at any speed, even on the fall
- 5-inch size splits the difference between finesse and “oversized” swimbaits
- Belly slit maximizes hook up percentage
- Incredibly wide range of sometimes comically-named colors
- No eyes or other realistic features
The Skinny Dipper’s paddle tail moves a ton of water, whether inched along the bottom or buzzed on the surface. By itself, it’s a superior baitfish imitator, but it serves double- or triple-duty as a trailer for swim jigs and vibrating jigs. It’s also a popular soft plastic for castable umbrella rigs. The Skinny Dipper also comes in Little Dipper and Big Dipper models, which are 3.5 inches and 6 inches, respectively.
Best Rigged Soft Plastic Swimbait: Megabass Magdraft
- Sizes: 6, 8, and 10 inches
- Molded around an internal harness to prevent tearing
- 3D eyes
- Super high-quality hardware
- Realistic multi-colored pours
- Streamlined body less likely to hang up
- Not durable
- Expensive for its limited lifespan
The Magdraft brings Megabass’ legendary JDM quality to the soft swimbait market, and they’ve left no detail unaddressed. These include an internal harness that keeps the bass of a lifetime from tearing the bait apart and a high-grade swivel, which allows the treble hook to rotate. There’s even an internal magnet to hold that hook in place, limiting snags and creating a realistic presentation. Two molded fins on the Magdraft keep it swimming straight and prevent snags by pushing away cover. That’s why this has in recent years become the not-so-secret bait of the pros, one responsible for several major tournament wins.
Best Wakebait: Gan Craft Ripple Claw
- Size: 7 inches
- 1.6 ounces
- Replaceable Tail
- Can be waked slowly or cranked down
- Quality Owner ST-36 Trebles
- Replaceable lip
For decades, a slowly-crawled wake bait has been the secret weapon of big bass hunters, starting with anglers in the Ozarks who modified Bomber Long A’s to stay on the surface and leave a telltale trail. They fished them at night, but the Gan Craft is equally effective in daylight thanks to its very realistic paint jobs. It wobbles erratically, and while it’s not a light lure, it’s still within the realm of reasonableness for tournament-class fish.
Best Value Hard Bait: G-Ratt
- Models: 5-inch Pistol Pete, 8-inch Sneaky Pete, 10-inch Poppa Pete
- Single jointed
- Slow sinking
- 4X strong treble hooks
- Rotating hook hangers
- Reasonable price
The Sneaky Pete quickly became one of the favorite glide baits of veteran Bassmaster Elite Series pro Steve Kennedy, who has an arsenal of more expensive “garage” baits, but still likes this one in many tournament situations. It has the features found in many other premium baits but at a fraction of the price. It’s easy to get it to walk, pause and rotate, and it creates a light knocking sound during the retrieve to attract fish.
Types of Swimbaits
There are two main categories of swimbaits: hard baits and soft plastics. Within hard baits, there are those made of wood, plastic, and resin: both single-jointed “glide” baits and multi-jointed “swimmers.” Then there are the soft plastic varieties—some come pre-rigged with single or treble hooks, and on others you need to add your own. These choices may serve as a gateway to more costly options, but truth be told, many of the best professional bass anglers in the world rely on these over-the-counter solutions to pay their mortgages.
Q: What is the best swimbait for bass?
The best overall swimbait for bass is the Mike Bucca Triton Bull Shad. It’s an extremely versatile and easy to fish swimbait that produces bites from bass of all sizes.
Q: What is the best rod for swimbaits?
A swimbait rod must match the weight of the bait you’re throwing. Most baits are thrown on long medium heavy to extra heavy rods with fast actions. The long length and fast action aid in setting the hook.
Q: What is the best size swimbait for bass?
Swimbaits between 4 and 6 inches are excellent for producing bites and larger baits are best for targeting trophy bass.
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I limited my best swimbaits list to readily available baits. The swimbait world is loaded with limited-quantity “drops,” and bait flippers who look to make money on their ability to acquire rare lures. There’s a time and a place for those special lures, but for someone just getting into the game, it makes sense to invest in lures that you won’t be afraid to get snagged.
At the same time, I didn’t want to settle for baits aimed at beginners. Every lure in this summary has real-world applications for even the most sophisticated anglers with seemingly unlimited budgets. The goal was to provide an assortment of best-in-class lures that wouldn’t require a master’s degree, heavy modifications, or hundreds of hours on the water to get them to work properly. Every one of these is ready for the fish of a lifetime straight out of the package.