Many Rockfish anglers use swimbaits as their lure of choice when fishing for Rockfish and Ling Cod. The action can be thrilling with aggressive bites and big fish as a reward. If you're new to using swimbaits for Rockfish, this buying guide will help you decide what swimbaits to use for your next adventure!
When choosing a swimbait, the first consideration is the target species. This will dictate what size bait you need. Swimbaits come in a huge variety of sizes and colors and this can be overwhelming. Our pro tip is to keep it simple. Give yourself a few options to change baits while on the water but there is no need to overdo it.
Ling Cod prefer baits in the 5”- 8” range. These fish are apex predators with huge mouths and an even bigger appetite. On the other hand, if you are fishing for rockfish, find some baits in the 3”-5” range. Rockfish can get big but their mouths are smaller than Ling Cod.
Our recommendation for Ling Cod and Rockfish is to start with baits that offer a natural presentation. Find baits that have white, blue and green in them. This mimics small baitfish that Rockfish and Ling Cod regularly feed on. Red and orange swimbaits also do exceptionally well for these fish as these colors are very bright and contrast well underwater.
There are literally thousands of colors that you can try, but a simple approach at first will build your confidence in these baits and allow you to experiment with new colors and sizes later on.
Choosing the Jighead
Choosing the proper jighead is just as important as the swimbait. The jighead will dictate how fast your bait swims, how deep you can fish, and can really enhance your presentation.
Just like the swimbaits, there are a lot of options for jigheads. There are two main styles, a bullet/scampi head and arrowhead shaped heads. Both get the job done but arrowheads are usually preferred as they rest up against the front of the swimbaits flush and look more natural. There are also painted and unpainted jigheads. You can choose colored jigheads to match your swimbait offering a super-realistic lure presentation or use the unpainted jigheads - both work.
Colored jigheads offer better visibility underwater and are often available in glow-in-the-dark for even more visibility and attraction in deep water.
Weight is an important consideration when choosing a jighead. For more details see below, but here is a quick guide for you. For smaller swimbaits (4”-5”) look for 1oz to 2oz heads. Unless the weather is extremely flat calm, you will be limited to fish this size bait in depths less than 50ft or so. For larger baits (6”-8”) you can fish 3oz to 8oz heads.
The key is to have enough weight to get down to the bottom within a reasonable amount of time, but not too much weight where the bait snags on the bottom every drop.
There are many factors that can affect your day of fishing. The two main factors are boat speed and depth. Boat speed is affected by current and wind and that is something that you cannot control. The depth is up to you as you can choose to fish reefs and rockpiles in shallow or deep water. The main goal is to fish a bait heavy enough to reach bottom and to stay there, but not too heavy where it will drag along the rocks and get snagged.
Try to keep your line relatively vertical - the farther out your line bows while drifting the more likely you are to snag. You can adjust this by going up or down in weight. With all of this in mind, it is important to remember that Rockfish and Ling Cod live near rocks and occasional snags are to be expected. If you aren’t feeling rocks on occasion, you’re not fishing close enough to the bottom. This is just the way it is when enjoying the adventures of bottom fishing but the rewards are worth it!