Swimbait Basics for Fall and Winter Smallmouth Bass

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Professional fishing guide Tony Roach loves targeting late-season smallmouth bass using paddle tail swimbaits rigged on jig heads. Roach discusses how to find late fall and winter smallmouth “winter holes” and his rigging and retrieval technique for coaxing bites from lethargic yet catchable bass.

As a Mille Lacs-based guide, Roach relies on paddle tails for consistent multi-species action throughout the open water season. They’re simple to fish regardless of skill level, can be worked from a boat, shore, or kayak with minimal gear or electronics, allow you to cover a ton of water and depths without re-rigging, and flat out trigger bites when nothing else will.


On this day, water temperatures were in the low- 40s, so Tony takes us through his typical cold water retrieve. Bass winter around prominent manlike structures that provide quick access to different depth zones. Because of this, Roach favors using a heavier jig head as it allows him to work a range of depths.

Durable baits rigged on screw lock heads get the nod, so you can minimize beating your hands up in the cold and focus on fishing. Lastly, Roach shares his preferred rod setup for fishing this primary swimbait tactic. Check out our article on swimbaits for more content on how to apply this versatile lure category to your fishing situation.

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