Improve Your Game With Off-Season Preparation, By Amy Wellenkamp

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It seems counter-intuitive, we have all heard “big bait, big fish”, and I agree with that statement. However, time and again I have been fishing our California Central Coast waters (from San Simeon, Morro Bay, Avila Beach down to the shallows at Point Purisma), and I have witnessed the smaller lures outproduce the larger ones in certain conditions. When the captains notice the fish are only biting small lures they will tell us while we are motoring out to the fishing grounds. So, after hoping for a sea monster and not catching one with my big lure time and again, I started using the 3.5” swimbaits in these scenarios. Do what the captain says, right?

 I learned when the fish are full of small bait fish they don’t really care about those big lures, but they will still attack the smaller baits. Match the hatch not only with color, but the size of the lure as well. The swimbaits need to be the right color and have the proper size lead head for the conditions as well. Light enough to act like a bait fish, and heavy enough to move through the water columns and into the strike zone.

My favorite swimbaits are made by Madame Lure. They have incredible action, are more durable than other swimbaits I’ve used, and offer so many colors. When I am fishing on a slow pick-bite day, I have discovered these lures out-perform most other lures I try, or even the other anglers on the boat that day are using. So much I am often asked half-way through the trip what I am using because the species and size of fish caught on these lures are more desirable over what is being caught, on traditional setups.

The action of a Madame Lure swimbait really stands out. A test I give a swimbait when I first look at them is to hold it by the body and give a slight shake to the lure and see how the tail responds. I am looking to see if the tail responds with the slightest of movement. The reason is I want the tail to really wiggle and create lots of action under water, grabbing the attention of these predatory fish. Another attribute I look for is balance, does it swim straight? And lastly consistency, do the swimbaits from a certain manufacturer have consistent quality. Madame Lure consistently checks all of these boxes each time I purchase their lures I am confident they will perform. 

Durability is another attribute which is important to me in a lure. When I thread a Madame Lure swimbait onto a leadhead I am not concerned it will split or tear because they are designed to withstand lots of use. From the thickness of the tail, to the material used, they last, even after catching multiple fish. It is frustrating to me to use a lure, catch a fish or two and have it fall to pieces.

How do I make my swimbaits last as long as possible? I use a Bait Button to hold the swimbait body snug up against the lead head. This way I don’t need to use glue, and the swimbait doesn’t slip back and rip. It stays in place so the swimbait keeps its integrity much longer, and most importantly this practice makes sure the lure has the best presentation while fishing. What is a Bait Button? It is a small plastic disc which slides over the hook securing the lure to the lead head. These discs are so easy to use because of the custom dispenser. This dispenser allows me to apply the Bait Button very quickly with no mess. Even while we are switching spots on a higher swell day. Also, there are two colors of the Big Game Size Bait Buttons, clear and red. I like to match the color of the Bait Button with the lure.

Swimbait colors, one of the most interesting parts of selecting a lure. I have fished so many different colors and sizes of swimbaits, it is interesting how different days the fish target different colors. If fishing was the same every day it wouldn’t be very interesting. Trying to figure out what colors the fish are attracted to at different depths, weather conditions, what bait fish are present, the time of year, there are so many variables. Just prepping for a trip is almost as exciting to me as the actual fishing itself. Because Madame Lure offers so many color schemes for their lures I have loads of choices to experiment with. They even have a Baby Lingcod color, and it works!

My must have Madame Lure colors for rock fishing on the Central Coast are Mackerel Green, Kelp Killer, Pearl, and Purple Shad. I have had much success with these colors in the 3.5” and 5.5” size. My favorite color for the jumbo swimbait and the creature is the Matin’ Squid (1/2 glow and ½ pink). I have learned I need to have a few of each color with me when I head out on a trip. This way if one of the colors is the hot ticket for a specific day I have a couple of backups.

Small swimbait hack: Picture this, ocean conditions are rough, the current is strong and you need to use a heavier weight to even get your lure to the strike zone. However, the fish are only biting the small baits on this day so a large leadhead with a big swimbait are not going to work. Even heavier jigs aren’t working. In these conditions I have seen and experienced using this hack and the anglers using this method are catching fish while no one else is. 

To get these smaller baits to the strike zone add a heavy sinker, then two dropper loops. On the dropper loops add a hook, only a hook, and then the 3.5” swimbait body. This way those swimbaits are still swimming, look realistic and are doing their job without being weighted down.


All in all, do smaller swimbaits produce larger and higher quality fish, yes, in certain conditions. Especially on those days where the fish are being finicky. Now, go get em! Tight lines.


Written By: Amy Wellenkamp


To learn more about Madame Lures and Bait Buttons visit their websites: