How to Rig a Swimbait for Bass | Wheeler’s Top 5

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Video best swimbait rod and reel setup

Pro bass angler Jacob Wheeler routinely relies on soft swimbaits to catch all bass species, at all depths, on fisheries across the U.S., Mexico, and Canada. He details how to a rig swimbait for bass using 5 different methods.

Without further ado, here are Wheeler’s top 5 swimbait setups and applications:

3-INCH SWIMBAIT RIGGED ON A JIG

A small swimbait rigged on a ball head jig is one of the best all-around get-bit baits in existence. This setup excels when bass are keying on small baitfish (early fall on southern impoundments), year-round for smallmouth and spotted bass, or anytime fish are just finicky in general. This setup is best fished on a spinning rod and reel combo.

FEATURED LURES
  • SWIMBAIT – Storm Largo Shad, 3-inch Buy at Tackle Warehouse
  • JIG HEAD – VMC Hybrid Swimbait Jig Buy at Tackle Warehouse
  • LINE (braid) – Sufix NanoBraid, color – Aqua Camo, 10-pound: Buy at Tackle Warehouse
  • LINE (fluorocarbon leader) – Sufix Advance Fluorocarbon, 8-pound: Buy at Tackle Warehouse
  • ROD – Duckett Jacob Wheeler Series Spinning Rod, 7′ Medium: Buy at Tackle Warehouse
  • REEL – Duckett Paradigm SWX Spinning Reel, SWX-2500: Buy at Tackle Warehouse
  • HAT – Realtree Fishing Hats: Buy at Walmart
4-INCH SWIMBAIT RIGGED ON A JIG

A mid-sized paddle tail rigged on a jig is Wheeler’s most used and favorite all-around swimbait setup — it catches ’em shallow to deep all year long. Just increase or decrease your jig weight/size based on the depth you’re fishing. Wheeler prefers fishing this setup on a medium action rod and reel combo spooled with 12-pound fluorocarbon.

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FEATURED LURES
  • SWIMBAIT – Storm Largo Shad, 4-inch Buy at Tackle Warehouse
  • JIG HEAD – VMC Hybrid Swimbait Jig: Buy at Tackle Warehouse
  • LINE – Sufix Advance Fluorocarbon, 12-pound: Buy at Tackle Warehouse
  • ROD – Duckett Jacob Wheeler Series Casting Rod, 7′ Med Hvy: Buy at Tackle Warehouse
  • REEL – Duckett Paradigm CRI Casting Reel, DFCR-100-681: Buy at Tackle Warehouse
SWIMBAIT RIGGED ON A TOKYO RIG

Tokyo rigging swimbaits is a relative newcomer and still overlooked in many situations. Fished either weedless or with an exposed hook, a Tokyo-rigged swimbait is an excellent substitute for traditional swinging jigs. The physics of weight hanging below keeps the swimbait glued just off the bottom while also permitting the swimbait to move freely and independently of the weight.

FEATURED LURES
  • SWIMBAIT – Storm Largo Shad Buy at Tackle Warehouse
  • RIG – VMC Tokyo Rig Finesse Neko: Buy at Tackle Warehouse
  • RIG – VMC Tokyo Rig Heavy Duty Wide Gap: Buy at Tackle Warehouse
  • WEIGHT – VMC Tungsten Rugby Weight: Buy at Tackle Warehouse
  • LINE – Sufix Advance Fluorocarbon, 12-pound: Buy at Tackle Warehouse
  • ROD – Duckett Jacob Wheeler Series Casting Rod, 7′ Med Hvy: Buy at Tackle Warehouse
  • REEL – Duckett Paradigm CRW Casting Reel, DFCW-100-681: Buy at Tackle Warehouse
BELLY-WEIGHTED SWIMBAIT (WEEDLESS)

A Texas-rigged belly-weighted swimbait is an excellent baitfish imitator and comes through cover snag-free with ease. Wheeler uses this setup religiously in shallow water and offshore when targeting mid-depth bass relating to isolated brush piles. It’s an excellent alternative to fishing a spinnerbait or ChatterBait, especially when the bass want a less imposing bait.

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FEATURED LURES
  • SWIMBAIT – Storm Largo Shad Buy at Tackle Warehouse
  • HOOK – VMC Heavy Duty Weighted Willow Swimbait Hook, 4/0: Buy at Tackle Warehouse
  • LINE – Sufix Advance Fluorocarbon, 17-pound: Buy at Tackle Warehouse
  • ROD – Duckett Jacob Wheeler Series Casting Rod, 7’2″ Med Hvy: Buy at Tackle Warehouse
  • REEL – Duckett Paradigm CRW Casting Reel, DFCW-100-751: Buy at Tackle Warehouse
AS A LURE TRAILER

Wheeler advises not to overlook using a swimbait as a trailer on your favorite moving baits. Specifically, he’s had excellent success (tournament wins) by adding bulk and action to the backs of ChatterBaits, swim jigs, and spinnerbaits. Bulkier, flat-sided swimbaits also have the added benefit of improving the ability to skip baits deeper under overhanging cover such as brush and docks.

FEATURED LURES
  • SWIMBAIT – Storm Largo Shad Buy at Tackle Warehouse
  • BLADED JIG – Z-Man ChatterBait JackHammer: Buy at Tackle Warehouse
  • SWIM JIG (underwater video) – Terminator Heavy Duty Swim Jig: Buy at Tackle Warehouse
  • SPINNERBAIT – Accent Jacob Wheeler Custom Colorado Willow Spinnerbait: Buy at Tackle Warehouse
  • SPINNERBAIT (underwater video) – Terminator Pro Series Spinnerbait, Double Willow: Buy at Tackle Warehouse

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Ethan Smith is a seasoned marine veteran, professional blogger, witty and edgy writer, and an avid hunter. He spent a great deal of his childhood years around the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest in Arizona. Watching active hunters practise their craft initiated him into the world of hunting and rubrics of outdoor life. He also honed his writing skills by sharing his outdoor experiences with fellow schoolmates through their high school’s magazine. Further along the way, the US Marine Corps got wind of his excellent combination of skills and sought to put them into good use by employing him as a combat correspondent. He now shares his income from this prestigious job with his wife and one kid. Read more >>