Freshwater: Search & Finesse - The Fisherman

Freshwater: Search & Finesse

Brenden
Nice bass, like this one for Brenden Kuprel, don’t hesitate to take the little paddletails.

When a lure tip from a buddy pays off, you pay it forward.   

Slim Swimz by Z-Man Fishing Products are a deadly search and finesse bait. In the 2-1/2-inch size, the paddletail fits on any kind of 1/16-ounce jig to create a potent little combination that catches fish big and small.  As a search bait, it covers water quickly and locates fish. As a finesse bait, it’s a scale-back compared to larger presentations that allow longer casts. It allows you to be more particular about what’s right out in front. Whether in the form of weeds, wood, or rocks, Slim Swimz lure largemouth and smallmouth bass, pickerel, perch, crappies and panfish away from cover and onto the hook. And the plastic stays on the hook longer than that of other paddletail brands, after you wrangle with more fish.

I use an ultralight spinning rod and 4- or 6-pound test monofilament when fishing rocks for smallmouth. River bass will hit Slim Swimz, but I’ve found the lures to be very effective on reservoir and lake smallmouths. When fishing weeds, I use a 5-1/2-foot medium power spinning rod and 15-pound test braid, a 3- or 4-foot length of 15-pound test fluorocarbon leader tied to the mainline by uni-to-uni splice. I don’t want to lose a big largemouth or pickerel diving headlong into the salad.

Brenden Kuprel introduced me to Slim Swimz, and we agree that they seem to fish best on jigs with an open hook. While I’ve clipped rocks while fishing smallmouths with a couple of other friends, Kuprel and I usually don’t fish right in the weeds or wood but close to such cover.  Time and again, by swimming the jig at moderate speed through the mid-column over weedy bottom, pickerel come out of the weeds to take it.

On at least a couple of occasions, I’ve watched a pickerel rise through clear water and engulf one. One of them was very nice size, which took a jig I intended for smallmouths early in June, cutting 4-pound-test line when I set the hook. I felt amazed in early May, when Kuprel caught largermouth after largemouth by swimming a paddletail yards away from the shallow end of weeds near shore, 7 or 8 feet above weeds growing deeper. I’m used to fishing close to stuff, and Kuprel has made me more comfortable getting away from it.

On a different occasion with Kuprel later in June, fishing was tough, so I felt confident about using a little finesse bait, but swimming the jig wasn’t working. Repeatedly, I let it sink along steeply sloping shorelines into 20-foot depths along the weedline. I worked it slowly on bottom, jigging it subtly, and that worked on pickerel close to 2 pounds. A paddletail doesn’t require much pull to make it flutter. Kuprel and I tied that day.

Like pickerel, largemouth bass are not always willing to swim a distance and overtake the jig. But during May and June, water temperatures are in the optimal range or close to it. Bass are active, taking chase after fish forage. Chances are good that they’ll move off cover to overtake a jig, if they’re not hanging in the mid-column to begin with. Last May, I caught a largemouth in the middle of a lake over 35-foot depths while trolling a Phoebe spoon right under the surface for salmon. Talk about bass off structure. It was a good bass of 2-1/2 pounds, too, not a dink that hadn’t learned its lessons.

Otherwise, putting the jig on bottom down deep, or not so deep, can do the trick, but try not to get hung up in weeds. Risk that, though. You want to be near the stuff or even in it where it’s not too thick. Kuprel and I use green Swim Slimz with the black stripe of a juvenile largemouth. You can just imagine how effective that can be when jigged subtly among strands of greenery creating a color scheme. Just like a baby bass making itself an easy target.

Crappie are notorious jig-takers. Swimming these paddletails through shallows during warm weather in March will catch dozens of them. Yellow perch, too. The jjgs will also be effective on crappies, perch, and panfish in April and May. During late spring and summer, they’ll work wherever you find the fish.

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