I’m a bit of a skeptic when it comes to super realistic-looking bass fishing baits. But for some reason, I’m all for baits that really don’t look like anything at all that’s found in nature. For instance, when’s the last time you saw a baitfish that actually looked like a buzzbait or a spinnerbait with their wires, blades, skirts and exposed hooks? But I’ll throw those baits all day long and then turn my nose up at something that looks just like the real thing.
I think a lot of times it comes down to the hard, cold fact that those baits that don’t really look like anything are good producers; they get bit. On the other hand, some of the super-realistic baits I’ve tried over the years don’t produce. They either won’t run right or for whatever reason, even in spite of their super-realistic design, the bass just don’t bite them.
Then there are some baits that do look realistic and work really well. So I have to be careful not to rule out this whole class of realistic baits because a few of the ones I’ve tried didn’t really work all that well. I figure there are others out there like myself who struggle with this as well.
In an effort to help us not miss out, I set out to find a few of these wild-looking baits that actually work.
Lunkerhunt Hollow Body Phantom Spider
I was actually sold on this one a while before I ever even tried it. I watched a video of this thing with some closeup slow-motion footage and it is one of the most realistic-looking baits I’ve ever seen in the water. You should really check out this video in particular if you’ve never seen it. It shows the insanely realistic movement of the legs of the Phantom Spider, one of the nastiest baits I’ve ever seen in the water.
But, I’ve seen videos of other baits similar to this before and not been all that impressed with a bait when I later tried it. So, I sampled the Phantom Spider for myself and was quite impressed. One of the most shocking things about this lure is its castability. With the flailing legs catching air, I figured this bait would be hard to throw. But it actually casts really well, both in distance and accuracy. I was also using the smaller of the two sizes which comes in at only 1/4 ounce, throwing it on a 7-foot, 2-inch casting rod with 40-pound braid pretty easily. Downsizing to a 7-foot, medium-heavy rod with 30-pound braid would increase the distance and accuracy even further.
The bait is also super easy to fish while still creating a crazy good action. You don’t walk this bait like many other hollow-body baits. Instead, you just twitch it along in a straight line and the legs contract and relax, making it appear as though the spider is crawling across the surface of the water. It’s best to keep your rod tip up when working the bait and the bait has a tendency to land upside down every now and then. But the weighted belly rights the bait within a couple twitches if this happens and you’re good to go. Lastly, the double frog hook in this bait is solid and capable of handling big ones.
Savage Gear 3D Snake Wakebait
This is a bait that I actually already wrote a full review on. But I was so impressed with it at the time that I knew it had to make this list. Like the Phantom Spider, the lure manufacturer of the 3D Snake Wakebait did a fantastic job with the paint schemes and designs to create some really realistic lures, out of the water. But how does this snake perform in the water?
I don’t know if I’ve ever thrown anything with a more realistic action in the water than this thing; it actually gives me the creeps a bit. I’m not a big fan of snakes, so my head is often on a swivel whenever I’m fishing in a snaky spot. This thing looks just like a snake swimming towards the boat. It casts a nice, wide wake that helps fish detect the lure’s presence in the water and then track it down.
There’s an 8-inch version and a 12-inch version of this bait. The shorter one weighs 1 ounce and the longer version comes in at 2 ounces. I fished with the 8-inch version and was skeptical at first about the bait only having two hooks as long as it was. But what I found in fishing the lure is that, even though the bait is 8 inches long, it’s much more compact than that as it’s being fished.
The bait is constantly wiggling through an S-shape which shortens the profile of the bait in the water from 8 inches to more like 5 inches. This means that more or larger hooks would cause this bait to foul hook itself regularly. I also really liked that the hook hangers swivel, which takes a lot of the leverage away from a fighting fish when it tries to throw the bait.
SPRO Rat Wakebait
Fishing with big, rat-imitating wakebaits went from a niche West Coast deal to a more mainstream technique over the last decades, in large part due to Tom Frink and Jacob Nummy winning the Bassmaster College National Championship with a big wooden rat in 2013. But wooden rats are time consuming to make and expensive, so there needed to be another option and SPRO came out with their composite version to fill in the gap.
I’ve fished with big wood rats before and caught some good fish doing it, but where the SPRO Rat particularly peaked my interest was in the various sizes they offer. So I tested out the smallest of their four versions for this piece and was rather impressed. The SPRO Rat 25 is only 2 1/2 inches without the tail and 5 inches long with it. This was another bait that casted surprisingly well at only 5/16-ounce.
There is a big difference between fishing this little rat imitator and the much larger wood rats or the SPRO Rat 50, which is 10 inches long with the tail. Though you’ll catch the occasional small fish with a big rat, this little guy opens up that realistic look to the whole food chain. With a great tight action, the SPRO Rat 25 creates the realistic look of a baby rat or little mouse scurrying along the surface trying to get away.
You can reel it slow or quick to change the width of the wobble of the bait. Though the Rat 25 appeals to small fish too, it has a great set of short-shank Gamakatsu EWG trebles on it that can hold up to a big bite as well. This bait fishes best on braided line, since the line floats and braid is easier to cast than monofilament. A bait that could be fished on a spinning reel if you like but also works well on a 7-foot, medium-heavy bait casting rod with 30-pound test, this is a fun one for all ages and experience levels to fish.
Many of us have been burned by a super-realistic bait before, falling for a pretty paint job and a cool-looking design on the shelf only to find the bait doesn’t function well in the water. But there are dozens of realistic-looking baits out there that actually do work, these are just three that I’ve personally used and been impressed by.
The cool thing about baits like these is that they are fun to throw. They speak to what fishing with artificial lures is really all about: Trying to trick a bass into believing something is real that isn’t.
These three baits do a good job of that, both with super-realistic designs as well as actions and hardware that complete the job once the bait hits the water. So if you’re bored with the same ole, same ole out on the water, give one of these realistic lures a try and you may just spark that old excitement for fishing you’ve lost along the way.