Dickie Colburn – For The Record

Cleve Barrett bit his leader off just ahead of the knot on his Usual Suspect and disgustedly bounced the three-inch Swim bait off the floor of the boat.“That’s what I hate about these dang things,” he barked while already digging another one out of the package on the console.

Still in the midst of his mini-tirade, he lobbed his new Swim Bait in the direction of the shad exploding out of the water and continued, “This bait has a piece of foil already sticking out of the side of the body, small fish bite the tail off, two or three nice trout and the body is already sliding up and down the hook shaft and I still can’t remember how to tie that stupid loop knot!”

“And, don’t forget to add to your list that they also catch fish,” said his partner as he raced to the front of the boat to catch up with another redfish steadily depleting his stash of monofilament.“If you hate them so badly,” he teased, “why did you tie another one on?”

His long time fishing buddy, Dalton Stiles, knew the answer to that question and neither expected nor received an answer.While a portion of Cleve’s list of the lure’s shortcomings was indeed accurate, the most important quality of any artificial lure is that it catches fish and the Swim Bait does that in spades!

The vast majority of recreational anglers simply hoping to catch and keep enough fish for a fish fry could care less if it is a one pound croaker or a ten pound redfish tugging on the other end of their string.They are looking to get as many bites as possible and for that reason alone they are reluctant to trust their luck to anything other than live bait or fresh dead shrimp.

There are specific lures in a plethora of colors designed to better fool different game fish at different times of the year in different depths of water, but I know of no single lure that covers every need.Having said that, with the exception of GULP, which will attract fish and crabs while simply lying on the bottom, I would readily take my chances year round fishing soft plastics under a cork or cranking on a Usual Suspect Swim bait!

The cork fishing suffers a little during the coldest months of the year, but that is not the case with a Swim Bait.For my money, the advantages that the Usual Suspect has over most other lures are that it is shaped like a shad, produces a great deal of vibration with its paddle tail and can be effectively fished at any depth by simply changing your speed of retrieve.

I fish both the three and four inch versions and there are those days when one is more productive than the other, but the four inch seldom out catches its little brother even when trying to dupe larger trout.Because we fish it on a steady retrieve I am also amazed that so many flounder manage to ambush it as well.

For the most part, the four inch version is, however, my first choice when fishing in water ten feet or deeper.It obviously sinks a little faster and the larger profile makes it easier for the fish to locate it in murkier water.That is also the only time I bounce the lure a little rather than continuing to fish it on a steady retrieve.

As far as Cleve’s list of negatives is concerned, he is indeed right about everything, but the loop knot which has nothing to do with the quality of the lure.Depending on the size of the fish chasing down your lure, it is not at all unusual to have everything from a croaker to a lady fish occasionally snap the tail off rendering the bait useless.Most tails are torn off, however, by anglers hurriedly prying the lure out of a toothy mouth with their pliers.

It is also not unusual to find a piece of the foil insert protruding through the side of the body on a brand new lure.If that dampens your confidence trim it off, but I have never found it to make any difference.When the weight starts sliding on the shaft of the hook, however, not unlike Cleve, I cut it off and tie on another one.

A Tony’s or Norton’s speed clip works as well as a loop knot, but one or the other is a must to maximize the bait’s action.Any knot cinched up to the nose tends to steer the lure rather than allowing it to swim freely. Believe me when I say that the advantages far outweigh any disadvantages when fishing the Swim Bait.If you can simply cast and slowly crank your reel handle it will catch fish and change your mind about artificials!