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Columnist
Try artificial swim baits to produce some real results
By Mike Jackson | Daily Herald Outdoors Writer

Soft-bodied swim baits, such as the tiny version for panfish or the jumbo versions for pike, muskies and lake trout, often trigger aggressive strikes.

 

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Published: 9/22/2010 2:57 PM

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My fish-finder indicated a school of big, suspended fish down around 30 feet.

I dropped the bait to the school and jigged it several times. Just as I was about to bring it back up, I almost suffered a shoulder separation.

A huge lake trout slashed the tail of the lure and then came back for a second try. After 15 minutes I was able to subdue a 25-pound laker and discovered the tail of the bait hanging from one of its teeth.

This kind of action happened on a far northern Manitoba river system where they grow huge fish.

Every few years new artificial baits come along that seem to capture the attention of anglers in this country.

Some years ago I took a half dozen of these baits, the same ones I used to catch that big lake trout, and used them in Mexico when I fished for the jumbo bass in Lake Huites.

Those were the Storm Swim Baits that came as close to the real thing in the shad department. I caught lots of bass when the fish went deep and were suspended midway down the water column.

There seems to be some kind of triggering aspect to these baits because every time I've had a strike from a big fish they appear to devour the lure while also ripping it apart.

I had one 46-inch northern pike shake the lure so violently that it ripped the tail section from the rest of the body.

Panfish also seem to suckered by the scaled-down versions of similar models.

Two years ago I was on the Fox River holding right in front of a channel mouth. I had a miniature version of a swim bait on my line. This one was produce by the Crème Company.

I knew there were pike in the channel and I assumed this little lure would tease the fish out of the heavy cover to chase the bait. It never happened. What did occur was a school of crappies went after the lure like South American piranhas. Go figure.

I thought it must have been a fluke. I moved to another channel mouth and flipped the lure 30 feet into the channel, right near a partially submerged tree. The lure barely sank beneath the surface when the water boiled. Another jumbo crappie grabbed the "fooler" and started to head back in to the lumber.

I am not saying swim baits are the ultimate tools in a tackle box, nor am I suggesting these baits will work under all conditions.

A couple weeks ago on Bangs Lake in Wauconda I figured the bass would be in deeper weed pockets. I flipped one of the small swimmers to a pocket without any strikes. I move 10 feet to the north and tried again. On my third cast a hefty largemouth inhaled the lure and, like the channel crappie, headed for the deep weeds. My spinning reel was rigged with Spider Wire Stealth and the line was the perfect tool to put an end to that run. It was a beautiful 4-pounder.

Now that the lakes are rapidly cooling down, it may a good time to look to the deeper spots along the weeds for game and pan fish. It's just about the right time for the fish to start gorging themselves in preparation for the long winter ahead. Watch your sonar and carefully examine the bunches of bait fish that often gather in a ball-like formation. Look to see if you can spot the larger marks under the bait, and that is where you want to target the gamefish.