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Get hooked on a new variety of soft-plastic swimbaits.

In the last few years, many anglers have embraced so-called swim-baits. But there seems to be confusion as to exactly which lures can be classified as such. In a broad classification, swimbaits would include hard-plastic, multi-jointed plugs (such as the Sebile Magic Swimmer); molded baits with fixed, internal weights and hooks (such as Storm's WildEye Swim Shad); and "hybrids" with soft-plastic, jointed body segments.

The newest kids on the block are the hollow and translucent lifelike baitfish imitations that require rigging with a single unweighted or weighted hook. Call 'em the hollow swimmers.

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I have been a big fan of fluke-style soft-plastic jerkbaits for quite some time, but now prefer the hollow soft-plastic swimbaits. Like jerkbaits, hollow swimbaits can be rigged weedless for shallow flats, can be weighted to fish at any depth in the water column, and come in a variety of sizes and colors. Most are molded, some are hollow, and all have a paddle tail that comes alive when retrieved. The hollow swimmers are softer than most, so they collapse under pressure when a fish strikes, allowing for sure hooksets.

Popular choices include the Berkley PowerBait Hollow Belly, Yum Money Minnow, Bass Magic Luck "E" Strike and Strike King's Shadalicious. And something tells me there will be more in short order. Hollow swimbaits must be rigged with an appropriate size hook in order to achieve the most lifelike swimming action, and to stick the fish.

There is more to fishing soft-plastic swimbaits than putting a hook into one, casting it and then retrieving. To get the best possible swimming action, follow these rigging tips and watch your catch rate rise.

The simplest way to rig a hollow swim-bait is to use a bare jighead. I find that a 1/4-ounce jighead is an ideal match for 4-to 5-inch swimbaits. A jighead won't decrease the swimming action, but your bait will appear to have two heads and will not be weedless. For that reason, I prefer to use a specialized swimbait hook. Manufacturers make these hooks in a variety of sizes and styles. A 4/0 hook works well with a 4-inch swimbait and a 5/0 fits nicely in a 5-inch bait. If you rig your bait with too large a hook, the hook will exit too far back in the tail and that will kill the swimming action. Too small a hook will preserve the lure's action, but if the gap is too small, the hook may not protrude sufficiently to engage fish.

Some of the most effective swimbait hooks have either a free-swinging corkscrew or ridged spear which is inserted into the head of the bait. Others are merely extra-wide-gap worm hooks with lead molded to the shank. When rigging with weighted worm hooks, insert the eye of the hook about a quarter of an inch behind the nose of the bait on the bait's bottom side. Then push the eye up and then through the nose of the bait. Be sure to insert the barb of the hook into the belly of the bait far enough back so that when you bring it through to the top, the bait hangs naturally without any kinks or humps. Laying the hook alongside the swimbait helps you visualize where the entry and exit points need to be.

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Swimbait hooks, whatever their style, size or shape, will have some weight poured around the shank of the hook. When I fish moving water around a pass or inlet, or in deep holes, I select hooks with a 1/2-ounce of weight, but for reds and trout over grass-flats 3 to 4 feet deep, my go-to swimbait is a 5-inch mullet pattern rigged weedless with a 5/0 swimbait hook, typically with 1/8 to 3/8-ounce shank weight, depending on the depth and desired retrieval speed. After casting I wait two seconds before beginning my retrieve so that my swimbait runs about two feet deep.

Pay special attention to where the weight is placed on the hook shank. Some hooks have the weight forward, others centered, and others toward the hook bend. In the case of the D.O.A. Pinch Weight accessory, you can customize the orientation of the weight. With the weight placed in a forward position, as rigged with a jighead, the swimbait will nose-dive toward the bottom when you stop reeling. If the weight is well aft on the hook shank, the bait will squat down as it sinks. This does not look at all realistic--baitfish do not sink tail first when fleeing a predator. I suggest picking hooks that have the weight placed halfway between the hookeye and bend; this way the swimbait will sink in a level or just slightly nose-down attitude. On some hooks, you can reposition the weight by sliding it up or down the shank to the desired position. Others are poured solidly in place on the shank.

Hook weights are an alternative to weighted swimbait hooks. They come in various weights and can be crimped onto the shank of an extra-wide-gap worm hook. The D.O.A. Pinch Weight comes in various sizes and colors, and Bass Pro Shops offers a similar product. Another good option is to cut a slit into the belly of a swimbait and wedge a small egg sinker or bullet weight into the body. A small, compact weight is best, as a longer weight inserted into the body tends to dampen the lure's swimming action.

Most swimbaits come with painted or embedded decal eyes. If not, you can add impressionistic eyes to your bait by making a small hole through the head of the bait with a small copper tube or a pair of needle nose pliers, and then inserting either a 3- or 4-bead segment from a ceiling fan pull chain, or a plastic or glass rattle chamber. Be sure to make the hole smaller than the diameter of the chain or rattle chamber to produce a tight fit.

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HOLLOW Swimbaits and Hooks

SOME BAITS

* Berkley PowerBait Hollow Belly, choice of 4-to 6-inch in 10 colors; www.berkley-fishing.com

* Strike King Shadalicious, choice of 3 1/2- to 6 1/2-inch in 6 colors; www.strikeking.com

* Yum Money Minnow, 3 1/2-inch in 41 colors. Fat Money Minnow, 5 inch

* Luck "E" Strike Bass Magic, 2 1/2 to 6 1/2-inch in 15 colors

HOOKS

* VMC, www.vmchooks.com

6319XL wide gap worm hook, 1/0 to 5/0

7316 Riggin' Worm Hook, 1/0 to 5/0

7317 3X Strong Wide Gap Worm Hook, 2/0 to 5/0 7316 BG Bugeye (weighted) 1/0 to 3/0 in 1/8- and 1/16-ounce

* Gamakatsu, www.gamakatsu.com

Superline EWG weighted swimbait hooksize range 3/0 to 5/0, each available in 1/16- and 1/8-ounce

Superline Spring Lock, size range is 3/0 to 7/0, in 1/16-to 3/8-ounce

Superline EWG Monster, size range is 5/0 to 7/0, in 1/8-to 3/8-ounce

* Mustad, www.mustad.no

Power Lock Plus, weighted, size range 1/0 to 11/0; Soft Bait-Spike, size 1/0 to 2/0

* Owner, www.ownerhooks.com

Twistlock 3X Weighted, size range 3/0 to 5/0, 1/16-to 1/8-ounce

RIG IT RIGHT

(Refer to the photo at right)

1) Insert hookeye into head of bait.

2) Align hook with bait to determine where to insert hookpoint.

3) Properly rigged bait lays and swims straight.

4) Improper hook insertion point causes bait to kink, and twist when retrieved.

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Title Annotation:Hollow Swimmers
Author:Kinder, Larry E.
Publication:Florida Sportsman
Geographic Code:1U5FL
Date:Mar 1, 2010
Words:1266
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