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How to Rig and Fish a Swimbait: A Guide for New Anglers

Folks new to fishing may not be familiar with the swimbait, but I promise you, you want to be!

Designed to look and move like a fish, swimbaits are easy to cast and fish, and they’ve proven incredibly productive in every season.

Let’s take a close look at the swimbait and get you in the know.


What is a Swimbait?

Swimbaits come in two forms: hard bodied, segmented lures with graphics that closely mimic prey species and soft-plastic designs that can be used weighted or unweighted.

Both work like magic when fished properly.

TRUSCEND Fishing Lures for Bass Trout Multi Jointed Swimbaits Slow Sinking Bionic Swimming Lures Bass Freshwater Saltwater Bass Lifelike Fishing Lures Kit


This hard-bodied swimbait looks amazingly like a fish.

Swimbaits come in many sizes, but they tend to cluster on the larger end. For instance, Truscend’s hard-bodied swimbaits are 5 ½ inches long, while their pre-rigged soft plastics measure a full 3 ½ inches.

TRUSCEND Fishing Lures for Bass Trout Jighead Lures Paddle Tail Swimbaits Soft Fishing Baits Freshwater Saltwater Jigging Bass Gear Fishing Gifts for Men


Pre-rigged soft plastic swimbaits are really easy to rig.

Simple soft plastic bodies are also available, allowing you to attach a variety of jig heads, even creating weedless options that are nothing short of murder in thick grass and weeds.

weedless swimbait soft plastic

This soft plastic swimbait has been combined with a weedless jig head.

How to Rig a Swimbait

Hard bodied swimbaits are armed with at least two big treble hooks, so go-to knots like the Palomar aren’t going to be easy to execute.

Instead, I recommend either the Uni knot or the San Diego Jam. Both are easy to learn, fast to tie, and very secure.

We’ve written extensively about these knots before, and if you want to learn to tie them - and you really do! - check out these articles:

One Knot to Rule Them All - How to Tie the Uni Knot

How to Tie the San Diego Jam Knot

Pre-rigged soft plastics can be attached to your line with the same knots - no hassle and no trouble.

Alternatively, soft plastic swimbait can be rigged weightlessly with the addition of a simple hook, or weighted with a jig head.

Let’s discuss both rigging techniques to get you up to speed.

Weightless rigging

Weightless swimbaits can be deadly, as they’ll slowly flutter downward between erratic starts, stops, and turns.

And the rigging is simple. I like a hook like Owner's Weighted Black Chrome Beast Hook with Twistlock.

Owner American Weighted Beast Soft Bait Hook (Size 4/0) 5130W-024,Multi,4/0 1/8Oz, (3 Per Pack)


Not only is this hook secure, it’s weighted to keep the point up, right where you want it.

Simply twist a swimbait like the Keitech Swing Impact Fat onto the spiral Twistlock, and pass the hook through the soft plastic to achieve a natural, streamlined appearance. You want the hook exposed, not laying just against the skin of the swimbait. That allows for clean, easy hooksets.

Keitech FS48419 Fat Swing Impact Alewife, 4.8'


Swimbaits like this Keitech Swing Impact Fat are a deadly combo with a Twistlock hook.

And that weight on the shank of the hook will keep your rig oriented point up, reducing snags.

Weighted rigging

The second approach to soft plastic swimbait rigging is the addition of a jig head. I prefer a weedless head like Z-MAN’s Pro ShroomZ Weedless Jighead because it allows me to target big bass in nasty vegetation without worrying about getting hung up.

Z-Man FPHW14-02PK4 Pro Shroomz Weedless 1/4oz 4Pk - Black


This weedless jig head lets you target bass in the thickest vegetation.

The process of adding a jig head to your soft plastic swimbait is simple:

How to Fish a Swimbait

Swimbaits rely on sight more than action or vibration and are best used when the water is clear to just slightly colored. In murky, heavily stained, or muddy water, they just won’t attract the attention you need.

But they’re effective across the seasons since you can adjust the speed of your retrieve and technique to match the bass’s energy levels.

Check out our recommendations for the best swimbait rods!

Hard-bodied swimbait technique

With a hard-bodied swimbait, you need to keep those big treble hooks in mind. 

They’re great for covering a lot of water quickly to find fish that are biting, but you don’t want to throw them into a weedbed or blowdown without care.

Here’s what I like to do with them.

I’ll cast my swimbait over cover that I think is holding bass and slowly start my retrieve. Three or four turns of my handle and I pause for just an instant, beginning again. That start-stop cadence signals bass that a wounded fish is struggling, and they’ll come running for an easy meal.

This technique is very effective for finding actively feeding bass.

Weightless swimbait technique

A weightless swimbait will dart erratically and turn suddenly, acting like a dying baitfish every time you pop your rod tip.

The technique is simple: cast your bait, and keeping your rod tip low to the water, pump just the tip to send the swimbait darting. Keep your line tight and be ready: as soon as you come near a bass, it’s going to strike!

Weighted swimbait technique

I like to use a 1/4 -ounce weedless jig head with my soft plastic swimbaits, and I know I’m fishing clearish water where weed growth will be prolific.

Weighted like this, a swimbait’s going to sink at more or less 3 feet a second, and it’s simple to count down, allowing your bait to reach the desired depth in deeper water.

When it reaches that point, you can simply retrieve it slowly, keeping your rod tip low to be ready for a hookset.

You can also cast this weedless presentation into shallow, live weed beds, ripping it or swimming it through thick grass. When bass see it moving in and out of cover, they won’t be able to resist.

Final Thoughts

Don’t overlook the swimbait, especially in cooler weather where the water is clear. A slow approach with a well-rigged swimbait is deadly in most situations, so keeping a few ready to go is always a solid idea.

We hope you’ve learned something from this article, and as always, we’re here to answer any questions you might have.

Please leave a comment below, and we’ll be in touch!

About The Author
Pete Danylewycz
Born and raised in Cleveland, Ohio, Pete grew up fishing on the Great Lakes. Whether he's casting a line in a quiet freshwater stream or battling a monster bass, fishing is his true passion.