BT Quick Tip Swimbait FeverEXPERTS: STEVE KENNEDY, BYRON VELVICK
Swimbaits currently account for two major BASS records. One is Byron Velvicks winning creel of 83 pounds, 5 ounces at the 2000 California Invitational. The other is Steve Kennedys 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 an-glers 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 hes chasing re-quire a bigger lure profile.
But, unlike swimbaits that can measure up to a foot in length, the advantage with smaller ver-sions is that they do not require the purchase of specialized gear.
For example, when hes 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 swim-baits on his signature 7-9 swimbait rod made by Rogue Rods, which he teams with an Okuma V-200a spooled with 15- to 20-pound-test Berkley Trilene XT.
Velvick doesnt recommend the new high-tech 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 sports most recognized swimbait experts, and he has thrown these baits for years on the Tour-nament Trail. But Kennedys first big bait ex-perience 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 couldnt 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. Its a great bait. I can catch fish every-where on it.
Since setting the all-time record in 2000, Vel-vick has been extolling the virtues of swimbaits to anglers everywhere, and palm-size baits also serve him well. Ive used a 5-inch handmade bait for many years. The profile, weight and ac-tion of it are perfect. But as the popularity has
grown, Ive found new models that I like.Velvick used his homemade version to win
Ray Scotts Light Line Championship in 2002 but has found comparable characteristics in River2Seas 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 wont eat
conventional offerings, Kennedy explained.Swimbaits have a profile that appeals to big-
ger 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 re-marked. Swimbaits get their attention.
Velvick agreed. Four- to 6-inch baitfish are very common around the country. Fish are ac-customed to eating prey that size. As anglers, we need to exploit that.
They suggest that fishermen go to their favor-ite 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 wa-ter is optimal.
Finally, Kennedy offered a word of caution to his fellow anglers.
These things are addictive. Ive spent al-most $3,000 on swimbaits since California, he admitted. I know I couldnt have caught them at Clear Lake on anything else, so Im definitely hooked.
Kennedy, whose record-setting performance on Clear Lake last spring earned him a huge vic-tory, 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