Learning to Swim

Postspawn bass like their meals on the move.

Field & Stream Online Editors

When largemouths done with spawning stack up near flooded bushes in coves and in grassbeds on tributary points, Alabama tournament pro Kyle Mabrey knows it's time to swim-his baits, that is. "The bass are keying on active forage, especially small bluegills," Mabrey explains. "Using a swimming presentation with a jig, creature, or lizard can be a fast way to add some serious weight to your stringer." Here's how he does it:

Tackle
When the sun is high, Mabrey targets the shade of flooded bushes, using a 61/2-foot medium-heavy spinning rod and 10-pound monofilament. For fishing grassbeds, he goes with a 7-foot medium-heavy baitcasting outfit with 20-pound line, to help haul out bass that bury themselves in the weeds when hooked.

**Lures **
Mabrey's favorite lures for swimming include a watermelon, white, or black Yum Zellamander lizard; a watermelon or black Yum Wooly Hawgtail creature bait; or a 1/4- to 1/2-ounce black-and-blue Booyah jig. He rigs both the lizard and creature Texas-style with a 3/16- to 1/4-ounce tungsten sinker and an extra-wide-gap hook, and adds a v-chunk or grub trailer to the jig.

**Technique **
Mabrey casts into grassbeds or pitches his lure underhand beneath flooded bushes. He engages the reel before the bait sinks all the way to the bottom, lifts the rod to about 11 o'clock, and retrieves steadily-fast enough to keep the lure off the bottom or above the grass.

"It's critical to determine what type of retrieve the fish want," he says. "They may want your lure swimming slowly and steadily just off the bottom, or swimming faster near the surface. Either way, keep the rod rock-steady and adjust the retrieve speed with the reel. If this fails, you can try twitching the rod tip as you continue to reel. The most important thing to remember is that unlike most retrieves with a jig or soft-plastic bait, here you want to keep that bait moving."