BT Quick Tip Swimbait Fever

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BT Quick Tip Swimbait Fever
BT Quick Tip Swimbait Fever
E XPERTS: S TEVE K ENNEDY, BYRON VELVICK
S
wimbaits currently account for two major
BASS records. One is Byron Velvick’s
winning creel of 83 pounds, 5 ounces at
the 2000 California Invitational. The other is
Steve Kennedy’s massive 122-pound, 14-ounce
total at the Elite Series Golden State Shootout in
March 2007.
Although both records were set at Clear Lake
with jumbo-size swimbaits, these Elite Series anglers use smaller versions to score big on fisheries
outside of California.
Both anglers utilize palm-size swimbaits as
weapons in their fishing arsenal to improve the
size of their daily catch. One as an all-day tactic,
the other when he feels the fish he’s chasing require a bigger lure profile.
But, unlike swimbaits that can measure up to
a foot in length, the advantage with smaller versions is that they do not require the purchase of
specialized gear.
For example, when he’s throwing swimbaits,
Kennedy uses a 7-11 Kistler Helium 2 Flipping
Stick teamed with a 7.1:1 baitcasting reel spooled
with 20- to 30-pound-test P-Line Floroclear.
Kennedy believes the reel speed is important for
hook setting.
“Big fish will eat the bait from behind and push
it forward. So you have to catch up to them.”
Meanwhile, Velvick throws his smaller swimbaits on his signature 7-9 swimbait rod made by
Rogue Rods, which he teams with an Okuma V200a spooled with 15- to 20-pound-test Berkley
Trilene XT.
Velvick doesn’t recommend the new hightech lines when throwing swimbaits, however.
“Monofilament is needed to absorb the shock of
swimbait hook sets,” he said.
Many consider Velvick to be one of the
sport’s most recognized swimbait experts, and
he has thrown these baits for years on the Tournament Trail. But Kennedy’s first “big bait” experience came at the 2007 Elite Series opener
at Lake Amistad, just three weeks before his
record-setting performance at Clear Lake.
“At Amistad, big female bass were suspended
in trees leading into spawning areas on the first
day,” Kennedy remembered. “I couldn’t get
them to eat a jig or a Kinami Flash, so I went
back the next morning throwing a Baby E
swimbait [www.californiaswimbabes.com]
and caught a 5-pounder.”
Since that day on Amistad, Kennedy has
used swimbaits across the country. But one that
he used at Clear Lake has become his favorite.
“I caught my biggest fish at Clear Lake on a
Huddleston Trout [www.huddlestondeluxe.com],
but I caught 40 fish a day on the 6-inch Basstrix
Paddle Tail with a 6/0 Falcon hook,” revealed
Kennedy. “It’s a great bait. I can catch fish everywhere on it.”
Since setting the all-time record in 2000, Velvick has been extolling the virtues of swimbaits
to anglers everywhere, and palm-size baits also
serve him well. “I’ve used a 5-inch handmade
bait for many years. The profile, weight and action of it are perfect. But as the popularity has
Kennedy, whose record-setting performance on Clear Lake last spring earned him a huge victory, warns anglers that swimbaits are addictive. Photo by Steve Price
Velvick says the
River2Sea Live Eye
Bottom Walker has
the perfect profile
to mimic baitfish. Photo by Laurie Tisdale
grown, I’ve found new models that I like.”
Velvick used his homemade version to win
Ray Scott’s Light Line Championship in 2002
but has found comparable characteristics in
River2Sea’s Live Eye Bottom Walker swimbait
[www.river2seausa.com].
“The smaller Bottom Walkers are the perfect
profile to mimic baitfish,” Velvick said. “They
cast well, and they have great action and a perfect
hook for big fish.”
Velvick often uses swimbaits all day long. But
Kennedy considers them situational tools.
“I use them when I find big fish that won’t eat
conventional offerings,” Kennedy explained.
“Swimbaits have a profile that appeals to bigger fish. In fact, using them around shad spawns
helps me get more of the right bites, as opposed
to spinnerbaits and crankbaits.”
Kennedy and Velvick both say not to
let the large size of a swimbait intimidate
you.
“Big fish want a big meal,” Kennedy remarked. “Swimbaits get their attention.”
Velvick agreed. “Four- to 6-inch baitfish are
very common around the country. Fish are accustomed to eating prey that size. As anglers, we
need to exploit that.”
They suggest that fishermen go to their favorite lake and try fishing swimbaits around docks,
ledges or submerged grassbeds. Start with a slow
retrieve, but experiment to find the right cadence
and set the hook hard when strikes occur. They
also say that at least 2 feet of visibility in the water is optimal.
Finally, Kennedy offered a word of caution to
his fellow anglers.
“These things are addictive. I’ve spent almost $3,000 on swimbaits since California,” he
admitted. “I know I couldn’t have caught them
at Clear Lake on anything else, so I’m definitely
hooked.”
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