Swimming Lizards for Bass

Bass hate lizards, well it’s salamanders they hate, but we’ve grown accustomed to calling the soft plastic variety a lizard. Because bedding bass are very aggressive towards egg-robbing salamanders, many anglers think of lizards as a spring bait and forget them the rest of the year. However, I’ve learned swimming lizards for bass can be a very effective presentation any time the water temperature is above 55 degrees.


Swimming Lizards for Bass

Swimming Lizards for Bass – How to Rig it

The rigging is simple, a lizard, an offset hook, and a pegged 1/8-ounce bullet weight. Put the pegged weight on, tie on a favorite hook, and then Texas rig a lizard of choice. In recent outings, I have also started using the NuTech Naked Jig. The NuTech Naked Jig is as weedless, if not more so, as a Texas rig but gives me a very stout hook. The head shape of the NuTech Naked Jig also gives me a slightly different swimming action.

Swimming Lizards for Bass – When

Swimming lizards for bass in the spring allows me to cover a lot of water while presenting a bait bass love to hate. As the water warms and bass move from spawning to chasing shad, the commotion a swimming lizard makes is a compelling option. Swimming lizards for bass remains a productive tool for me through the fall until the water drops below the magical 55 degrees. I can only guess the bite drops off because salamanders hibernate and become unnatural in the water column.

During the Spring, I like to fan cast possible spawning flats. The presentation is straightforward, cast and retrieve on a steady wind. The hardest part about swimming a lizard for bass this time of year is identifying the retrieve speed for the day. Often the most effective retrieve speed is just fast enough to keep the lizard within a foot of the bottom. Starting as slow as possible I speed up as needed to draw strikes. A more rapid retrieve puts the lizard higher in the water column and can trigger reaction strikes from cruising bass.

Swimming lizards for bass gives me a one-two punch during the spring spawning season. If I come across a bedded bass while covering water, a lizard is one of the best choices to place on their bed to draw a protective strike. It’s not uncommon for me to fish a swimming lizard for bass all day long in the spring.

Once the spawn is over and bass move to Summer patterns it’s time to switch gears. There are two productive patterns for Swimming a lizard for bass. First, casting along the edge of drop offs. Let the lizard hit bottom and wind it just fast enough to keep it off the bottom. The second is target fishing. When bass are on shallow cover, cast the lizard past targets and swim it right through the middle of the cover. Running a swimming lizard into the targets is extremely effective at drawing reaction strikes. Remember, the lizard is either Texas rigged or on a NuTech Naked Jig and both are extremely weedless. If running into the target cover fails to produce a strike, repeat the cast. This time, let the lizard drop in the middle of the cover. If this doesn’t draw a strike, I will bet there isn’t a bass present.

As the Summer progresses, vegetation develops. Vegetation is the only other time I will change up from a steady retrieve. Casting past or over submerged vegetation, I retrieve my swimming lizard just fast enough to tick the tops of the vegetation. Occasionally the lizard will hang or drag the vegetation. A quick pop of the rod tip will free the lizard and can draw bone jarring strikes.

As the water starts cooling in the Fall of the year, swimming a lizard for bass rotates back towards the spring pattern. Move to the backs of tributaries and fan cast flats where shad have migrated. The same flats which produced spawning bass will hold migrating shad. Even in the fall, the key is covering water. Bass will be scattered, they’ve been chasing shad in all directions, and unless they have a ball of shad pinned against a point or flat, bass are roaming looking for a ball of shad. Just like a crankbait, pick up a swimming lizard and get to casting. Cast past every likely target, along every shallow ledge, point, big rock, stick up or brush pile. Remember the presentation is weedless, so there is no excuse to pass up on any bass holding cover.

Swimming Lizards for Bass – Tackle

A sensitive medium heavy fast action rod works best. While it’s a reaction style presentation, an extra sensitive rod is vital. Many strikes are very hard-hitting, but often a bass will simply swim up and grab the lizard from behind and swim with it. These kinds of strikes are difficult to feel. Also, it’s important to know the bait is staying off the bottom; a sensitive rod will telegraph the bottom if the retrieve is too slow. I suggest staying away from extra fast tips as they can cause an angler to pull a moving bait from a striking bass during a hook set. In shallow clearer waters, the swimming lizard will produce many visual strikes, and an extra fast action tip will be a downfall. My rod of choice is a Dobyns DX 743C. The Champion Extreme DX series is extremely sensitive, allowing me to feel the bottom and any changes in the direction of my swimming lizard. The tip action on the Dobyns three power rod allows me to cast the light weight long distances with accuracy. If I’m swimming a lizard through a lot of heavy timber, I will switch to a Dobyns DX 744C for a little more pulling power. The 744C still has the fast action tip I like.

I like to use monofilament line when swimming lizards for bass. Monofilament has a little stretch preventing early hooksets. The biggest reason I like monofilament is the floating factor. Because monofilament floats, I can retrieve my swimming lizard slower and stay off the bottom. Finding the slowest retrieve, yet staying off the bottom, is often the key to success for this presentation no matter what time of year.

I use a 7:1 gear ratio reel. However, a high-speed reel has no benefit to this presentation, so a 6:1 reel will work just fine. I like to be able to make long casts and cover a lot of water, thus a reel with a high line capacity is a must.

Time tested and bass approved the swimming lizard is a go-to presentation for me any time the water is above 55 degrees. I love to chase bass with something different than every other angler on the water. If there is a reaction bite on the lake, the swimming lizard is a presentation bass haven’t see a thousand times each weekend. Give it a shot to put a few extra fish in the boat.

Mike Cork

For more great articles from Mike, check out his Blog “Get the Net”


  1. Mike June 2, 2017
  2. John Bender II October 30, 2017
  3. Mike Cork December 7, 2017

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