Big Baits for Big Bass: How to Fish Glide Baits, Wakebaits, and Harnessed Swimbaits

Big baits catch big bass. It’s that simple. But knowing when and how to throw these giant lures isn’t as cut and dry. There are specific scenarios where bass respond better to larger baits and are more willing to take them. If you can dial in on these times and learn how to fish these baits properly, the chances of you hooking into a lunker are high. Big bass respond the best to big baits.

In recent years, more and more anglers have been picking up giant swimbaits and large hard plastic lures in pursuit of monster bass. I eventually gave in to the trend and started fishing these baits here in the Southeast—and I’m really glad I did. Some of my biggest bites in recent memory have come on oversized lures, and it’s a tactic that I am pretty serious about. The only downside is the price of some of these baits, but there are still plenty of affordable options to get started. Here is a quick guide to the three main styles of big bass lures and how to fish them the right way.

Two rods on the author’s boat with big glide baits rigged up and ready to go. Shaye Baker

What Are Big Baits

The term “big baits” is relative. Depending on the target species and style of fishing, the size of the lure is going to differ. For the purposes of this conversation, I’m referring to big baits as anything in the 6- to 9-inch range. These are relatively large lures for bass fishing, but still manageable enough to be used in most freshwater fisheries.

Baits in this size range can be used to target spotted, largemouth, and smallmouth bass in almost any body of water. And while they may seem oversized and sometimes even unrealistic in our minds, these baits aren’t as intimidating to fish. They will often draw aggressive strikes from large bass that are big enough to take down prey of that size. Sometimes, they even entice smaller bass that have no business going after bait this big.

There are three main styles of oversized bass baits: glide baits, wakebaits, and harnessed swimbaits. Here is a closer look at each type of lure, including how to fish them and specific recommendations.

How to Fish Glide Baits

Bass Fishing photo

The slow sweeping side-to-side motion of a glide bait has produced some of my biggest bites. These lures offer realistic actions and have fantastic drawing power, able to lure bass from several yards away. Unlike most bass baits that have to be “worked” by twitching your rod, the action of a glide bait is better generated by the turn of the reel handle. Using quick, partial turns, you can develop a start-stop cadence that allows the bait to glide in one direction and then the other. Shorter glide baits with taller bodies (like the Chad Shad) have a choppy, quicker motion. More elongated baits like the 6th Sense Draw have a wider, slower glide.

Some anglers prefer to use a slower gear ratio reel in the 6:1 range to help make this cadence feel more natural. Stepping up to a 300 size reel for the bigger lures is a good idea, too. The two baits mentioned above weigh 3.75 ounces and 2.4 ounces, respectively. So you’ll need much heavier gear to fish them. I recommend graduating to a 300 size baitcaster if you’re going to go with 9-inch baits or bigger. I’ve also found that a 200 size reel works fine with baits smaller than that. Of course, you’ll have to beef up your rod, too.

All casting rods come with lure-weight ratings on them, so select one that’s sufficient for the load. You’ll want a rod with a little bit of a bend to it, but still has plenty of backbone to fight fish and manage the lure. A quality 17- to 20-pound fluorocarbon line works well with these baits.

A largemouth bass caught on a 6th Sense Draw glide bait.
A largemouth bass caught on a 6th Sense Draw glide bait. Shaye Baker

How to Fish Wakebaits

A wakebait is a hardbody lure that rides along the surface of the water and produces a wake, hence the name. Wooden rats are among the most popular style of wakebaits, and I’ve been fishing with an old one a buddy gave me for over 10 years (see below). Big wakebaits have a beautiful side-to-side wobble as they are crawled along the water’s surface. The body typically consists of two large sections that bang up against each other as the bait rocks back and forth, adding a rhythmic knocking sound to the already tantalizing visual of a small rodent swimming along the surface. The long tail sweeping back and forth behind the bait is the exclamation point of this enticing action.

Other big wakebaits, like the Clutch Wake Gill, are designed to look more like bluegill and other species of baitfish. They are used to mimic a stunned bream floundering on the surface, as opposed to a rodent that’s fallen in from above. In either case, these baits draw the attention of bass to the surface and generate aggressive strikes. They work really well around large semi-submerged cover like laydowns, able to draw fish up from underneath. They are also really effective around bream beds and in shade during the summer.

Braided line and a substantial rod are necessary to fish a wakebait properly. The braid helps the bait stay on the surface and adds needed strength for when a fish tries to break you off in thick cover. You’ll want a long, heavy power rod that can handle these hefty 2-ounce-plus baits. It should also have moderate action as well. This helps the rod load on the cast, making it easier to get distance, and also prevents treble hooks from pulling free from a fighting fish. Here’s the gear you should fish with.

The author's old wooden mouse wakebait.
The author’s old wooden mouse wakebait. Shaye Baker

How to Fish Harnessed Swimbaits

A 6-inch harnessed swimbait is a great entry-level lure for someone who is interested in getting into big bait fishing. Both the Berkley CullShad and Megabass Magdraft are fantastic baits to start with. If you’ve never thrown big swimbaits before, these may seem a little intimidating to fish, but they are much more manageable than a 9-inch glide bait and a lot cheaper.

Besides being easier to cast, these swimbaits will also produce strikes from smaller- to medium-sized fish, along with getting eats from giants. Plus, you don’t need an especially heavy rod and reel to fish them. Most standard gear will do just fine. The CullShad only weighs 1 ounce straight out of the pack, while the Magdraft is a little heavier at 1 and 1/4 ounces. Still, both of these baits can be fished on a medium to medium heavy rod in the 7-foot, 3-inch range. Whatever rod you choose, make sure it’s a medium action with enough backbone to get the bait out there. Fishing a more sensitive, fast action rod will lead to lost fish.

You’ll want to use fluorocarbon line when fishing these swimbaits. Fluoro sinks and is almost invisible. Slow rolling these baits back to the boat is key. No other action is neccessary other than the slow kick of the tail and wobble of the bait that happens naturally as it’s reeled in. These lures are great for skipping under docks and other overhead cover, as well as overtop submerged cover like points, humps, flats, and ditches. I prefer the CullShad if I want my bait to stay high in the water column, within three feet of the surface. Then I’ll go with the Magdraft when fishing deeper. Here is the gear to fish these swimbaits.

A largemouth bass caught on CullSHad swimbait.
A largemouth bass caught on CullShad swimbait. Shaye Baker

Catch Your Personal Best Bass With a Big Bait

Don’t let the big bait category intimidate you. There are plenty of affordable options, like the $12 CullShad and the $18 Magdraft. Start with the cheaper baits and learn how to fish them the right way. Once you feel confident in throwing big baits, take a step up to the more expensive, bigger lures like the $60 Chad Shad glide bait. There’s no need to spend north of $100 for big baits. There are plenty of great options to be had for below a C-note. You’ll also want to make sure the gear you use is up to the task, too. Don’t skimp because you can easily break a rod that’s not rated for a heavy lure. Look at what your rod is recommended for and plan accordingly.

Don’t think you can’t catch bass in your local fishery on big baits. If there’s a 2-pound bass in the lake, pond, or river that you’re fishing in, then there’s a bass plenty big enough to bite a big bait. Start throwing these lures in likely big fish spots and be ready to hook into a giant. Maybe even your personal best bucketmouth.

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