Although swimbaits have been around for nearly 40 years, it’s fair to say that their popularity has reached an all-time high. The trend should come as no surprise: Americans obsess over catching huge largemouths, and the anglers dedicated enough to cast and retrieve giant swimbaits all day are often rewarded with monster fish. Because owning some of these baits is as rewarding as catching a fish on them, competition to have the most impressive swimbait arsenal has driven the price of some of these baits through the roof.
Though you certainly don’t have to break the bank to buy a productive swimbait, here are 15 with price tags that might shock you more than would a 15-pound bass eating one. And, sure, there are some garage swimbait makers out there with products that cost more than some of the swimbaits on this list, but these are the lures that you don’t have to know a guy who knows a guy who knows a guy to get ahold of.
1. Manifold Deniro Yugo Frame 550
At over a grand retail, this massive bait from Japan is in a class of its own—and the costs don’t stop at the lure. Because this glide bait is over 21 inches long and weighs 43 ounces it requires something more than even a typical swimbait rod to launch and fish it effectively. It also requires a “break-in” process to properly age the leather—yes, leather—that coats its exterior. To build just one of these baits is labor-intensive. The leather needs to be hand-stitched, and the manufacturer claims that it provides action and texture close to that of a natural baitfish. —Pete Robbins
2. Roman Made Mother
On July 1, 2009, very few American bass anglers had heard of Lake Biwa, Manabu Kurita, or Roman Made. That obviously changed the next day when Kurita tied George Perry’s long-standing world record by landing a 22-pound 5-ounce largemouth bass. Kurita started getting a ton of press, and, though he hadn’t caught the lunker on a Mother, he made no bones about the bait he used regularly to catch behemoth bass. Kurita would later lose a fish on the bait that he estimated would have bested the current world record. —Mark Modoski
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3. Deps Slide Swimmer 250
The Slide Swimmer has been a huge hit among bass anglers for Deps. The bait comes in two different sizes, and you’ll have to open your wallet a bit wider for the big one. The Slide Swimmer 250 is a magnum-size swimbait with incredible detail, thanks to its 3D eyes and scale and gill patterns that look truly lifelike. The 10-inch, 6½-ounce Slide Swimmer 250 sinks slowly and is engineered to move silently through the water. Its detail and motion are practically flawless. —M.M.
4. Kaesu Kotetsu
Another marvel of Japanese bait-making, the Kotetsu is a standout swimbait. The first thing you’ll notice is the lack of treble hooks. Not only does the back- and tail-hook design keep the Kotetsu free of weeds and snags, but it also prevents swinging trebles from damaging the bait. The Kotetsu is made from a chemical wood that has a consistent density. The material also produces a splashing sound and pushes water in a way that mimics real bait. It’s one of the smaller swimbaits on this list, measuring a mere 6 inches and weighing only 1 ounce. —M.M.
5. DRT Tiny Klash
The Division Rebel Tackle Tiny Klash has a cult following and is usually in short supply. When vendors do have some available, they often enforce a strict limit of one per customer. The design is based on a low-floating body that can be turned into several different kinds of lures. Both the lip and the tail can be adjusted up or down, or removed altogether, to vary the way the lure reacts to your rod movements. From regular retailers, they’re typically offered in standard baitfish colors, but on eBay there’s a treasure trove of everything from leopard skin to tribal prints (at higher prices, of course). —P.R.
6. Roman Made South
The South is the third high-end swimbait available in the U.S. from Roman Made. It takes its name from a southern region of Lake Biwa in Japan, where the forage is primarily bluegill sunfish. At 4½ inches and weighing just over 2 ounces, the South is significantly smaller than the Mother and Mother Triple. Its jointed construction helps it replicate the popping noise bluebills make on the surface, drawing bass up from below and eliciting violent topwater strikes. The South is a floating bait and is intended to be waked over weeds and other shallow structure. —M.M.
7. ABT Lures Xtreme Wrap Suicide Glide
If you’re not familiar with ABT Lures yet, it’s time to get friendly. Allen Borden, owner and custom-lure maker of ABT, built the company from the ground up, and they’re now a force to reckon with in the swimbait world. ABT currently offers 20 custom made-to-order lures, all of which fetch top dollar. But the Xtreme Wrap lures are the most valued. The Xtreme Wrap Suicide Glide is the priciest, and for good reason. The ample 9-inch, 4½-ounce bait is available in six of the most lifelike patterns you’ll ever see. —M.M.
8. 3:16 Work Horse Glide
During this year’s Bassmaster Elite Series tournament, two of the top ten anglers—including eventual winner Lee Livesay—relied on this 8-inch, slow-sinking glider to do their damage on big bass. It likely imitated a gizzard shad or yellow bass for them on Texas’ Lake Fork, but it can be deadly any place big bass are feeding on larger forage. Of course, that assumes you can get one. The Texas-based manufacturer sold out of their first run before they were all built. —P.R.
9. JSJ Baits Siren Slide
The Siren Slide is the flagship creation of master craftsman Josh St. John. The meaty 9-inch, 4½-ounce lure is incredibly realistic and a juicy target for oversized bass. It’s a slow-sinking glide bait that swims with a wide “S”-pattern, and its 3D eyes, gill plates, fins, and textured scale pattern make it really come alive. It’s finished with heavy-duty split rings and premium Owner Stinger Trebles. —M.M.
10. Deps Bullshooter 160
The Deps Bull Shooter 160. $110 F&S
The Bullshooter 160 is the second bait from Deps to make the list. It has the profile of a bluegill and is available in six ultra-realistic patterns that match various sunfish species. The single-jointed lure sinks slowly in the water column with smooth-gliding action that mimics the real forage to a T. Like Deps’s Slide Swimmer, the Bullshooter 160 has 3D eyes, a natural finish, and rubber fins. It measures 6½ inches and weighs 3¾ ounces. —M.M.
11. Megabass I-Slide 262T
Another tackle giant based in Japan, Megabass has become a household name among U.S. bass anglers thanks to its scores of quality lures, but the I-Slide 262T remains the flagship swimbait. This oversized glider was born from the mind of master lure maker Yuki Ito, who designed the bait knowing that it would need to withstand smash after smash from double-digit bass. As such, the I-Slide 262T is durable and tough. And it’s also near the top of the list in regards to size, measuring just more 10 inches long and weighing 6 ounces. —M.M.
12. Imakatsu SG+ Big Roid 210
Imakatsu is another Japanese company with multiple baits on this list, of which the SG+ Big Roid is their biggest and most expensive. At a healthy 8¼ inches and 3½ ounces, the lure is the right size for lunker bass. The bait’s price reflects its construction; it has a detailed scaling pattern, durable jointing, and 3D eyes. The tail on the SG+ Big Roid is replaceable, so you won’t have to worry about buying a new lure after a few heavy hits. —M.M.
13. Tater Hog Hog Father
This lure is the kind of bait that bridges the gap between mainstream success and garage-built cult following. The Hog Father might not be the most creatively-named lure in Matt McBee’s lineup—that title could go to the Hoochiemomma, Hoochiebaby, or Spud Stud. But it’s a proven winner when big bass are feeding on big prey. The foiled finishes are remarkably lifelike, but at 8.5 inches and 4.6 ounces, you’ll need a specialized rod to cast and work it all day. —P.R.
14. M.S. Slammer
This is bait comes from one of the smaller operations on this list, but Mike Shaw’s Slammer is no less impressive. All Slammers are hand-crafted by Shaw himself. And at 14 inches, it’s the second-longest bait on our list, so it has all the size that a goliath looks for in meal. Shaw crafts his baits to handle abuse from not just bass, but also musky, pike, and lake trout. Its sturdy construction and quality components can certainly handle serious punishment. —M.M.
15. Imakatsu Gill Roid
The third and final bluegill imitation on our list, and another high-end Japanese import, the Gill Roidand is one of the more stunning sunfish patterns you’ll ever see. Like the Bass Roid, the Gill Roid is a floating bait that can be adjusted to reach almost any depth by adding lead or tungsten strips. It also comes with two interchangeable tails that switch the swimbait from a gliding motion to thumping action. The Gill Roid is between 5 and 6 inches, depending on the tail, and weighs 2.6 ounces. —M.M.