Swim Bait Techniques for Calico Bass

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May through August is prime time for Calico bass fishing here in southern California and there’s no better way to catch large numbers of Calico bass than throwing swim baits. In addition, you’ll normally catch the larger fish throwing swim baits versus fishing live or cut bait.
Swim baits and jig heads: When it comes to what jig head to use, it is really up to the angler to use whatever brand jig heads they prefer. As far as size and weight, you want to use a jig head that allows for maximum cast ability according to the rod, reel and line you’re using. As a general rule, jig heads in the 1/2 oz. to 1.5 oz. range will be needed for the 4” and 5” Rude Baits swim baits. Try different sizes until you find the best size for your particular rod and reel and fishing situation.
I know many anglers who are firm believers that the jig head should be painted, and/or have eyes, which I do believe helps, but I’ve caught as many bass on unpainted jig heads as I have on painted heads. I really believe the bass key in on the swim bait itself and the action of the bait, more so than the overall appearance of the bait and jig head.
Weedless jig head on not? Skirted or not? We’ve had great success using both skirted jig heads and non-skirted as well. Some anglers only use skirted jig heads as they believe the skirt adds to the action and entices more strikes. I personally prefer to use non-skirted jig heads without a weed guard if I’m able to find fish by casting between, or next to kelp stringers. If you are throwing into open pockets in the kelp beds, or targeting deeper water in kelp beds, then you obviously want to use a jig head with a weed guard. It also helps to use jig heads that have the eye at the top front of the nose of the jig head, preferably with a rounded underside that helps you lift the bait over the kelp stringers without getting hung up. When fishing more open water, it really doesn’t matter what style of jig head you use. In open water, I sometimes use the standard “shad” style jig head.
Rods and reels: Most serious Calico bass anglers use 7-6” to 8 ft swim bait casting rods with a properly matched reel. A reasonably priced example would be a 7’ 11” Shimano Crucial swim bait casting rod that retails around $180 matched with a Shimano Curado 200G reel (retail around $160) or 300E (retail around $250). You of course, can spend much more on rods and reels than the example given. However, any good quality light saltwater combo or heavy freshwater combo that allows you to cast swim baits on a jig head a good distance and has a good quality drag system on the reel will work. Calico bass range from a couple of pounds to the occasional double digit hog so the real benefit to having quality tackle is being able to land a much larger fish like a white seabass or yellowtail should you get bit by another species of fish while Calico fishing. For those who prefer spinning tackle, select a quality rod 7’ to 7’6” medium heavy action and fast tip and match with a quality spinning reel.
Line: Always use quality line of the recommended test suited for the reel you’re using. If you’re fishing primarily open water, use good quality monofilament line 12 to 20 lb test. When I’m throwing swim baits between the kelp stringers, over kelp stringers into pockets, or letting my swim bait sink down into areas where I know there is kelp or bottom structure, I use Power Pro Spectra 50 lb test with a short 20 lb Seaguar fluorocarbon leader of 18” to 24”. I usually join the two lines with a uni to uni knot connection. The Spectra will cut through the kelp stringers if you get hung up or have a big fish on. A lot of anglers are now using straight Spectra.
Techniques for throwing swim baits: When it comes to Calico bass, you need to fish where there’s kelp or rocky structure. Whether fishing from your own boat, or fishing from an open party or charter boat, cast your swim bait between open cuts in the kelp let it sink but not all the way to the bottom. If not bit on the sink, then start your retrieve before your swim bait hits the bottom. If you’re using Rude Baits swim baits, a slow to medium, steady retrieve is best. If there are no open cuts you can cast to, cast to the very edges of the kelp beds and use the same technique of letting it sink, then starting a slow to medium, steady retrieve. Calico bass like to hide in the kelp stringers and attack bait fish swimming by. Another technique is to look for open pockets of water in the kelp bed and cast into the pockets, much like freshwater bass fishing grass mat areas where you flip a jig into open pockets but with Calico fishing, you are casting the swim bait into the open pocket, letting it sink and then slowly retrieving the bait until it hits the edge of the kelp where you either let it sink back down to hopefully get bit, or gliding it back over the kelp so you don’t get hung up. Use Spectra with a fluorocarbon leader or straight Spectra as noted above when doing this type of fishing. Use jig heads with weed guards as well.
Swim bait size and color: I’m a firm believer that bigger baits catch bigger fish. However, that is of course a generality and any angler that fishes much can cite numerous examples of big fish they’ve caught on small baits. I recommend the 4” and 5” Rude Baits swim baits when fishing Calicos. I’ll typically fish the 5” and only switch to the 4” if the Calicos are running small in size. When it comes to color, we’ve had tremendous success on all of the colors we offer. As I say with any soft plastic bait, fish the color you have confidence in.
When it comes to swim baits, there are many manufacturers to choose from. We at Rude Baits of course believe our swim baits are the best. All of our baits are injected laminates so you’ll never have the bait split at the color transition point because both colors are injected together. Most other swim bait manufacturers use open pour techniques that allow cooling of one color before the second color is poured on top. This doesn’t always allow the two colors to fuse solidly together, thereby sometimes having the bait split, particularly when you insert the jig head hook into the bait. You’ll never have that problem with Rude Baits! Rude Baits swim baits also have extremely vivid colors and are made with a softer plastic than any other swim bait manufacturer. Rude Baits swim baits are designed to be fished slower than other swim baits. This allows the bait to remain in the fish “zone” longer, thereby increasing the number of strikes! Order some today online at www.rudebaits.com and you’ll see the incredible action they have retrieved at slower speeds.

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