July 06, 2022
For a lure type that’s been around for more than 100 years, glide baits don’t get the attention—or the fishing time—they deserve.
What is a glide bait? For starters, it’s a hard baitfish imitation made of wood, plastic or resin, with a single joint that’s usually located just aft of the midpoint. The sides of the lure are flat, or relatively so, to create a planing surface, and the line tie is typically positioned directly on the nose of the bait.
Glide baits generally sink slowly, though some float and a few are weighted to sink quickly for deep-water applications. They come in all sizes and colors, but most anglers opt for glide baits that are at least 6 inches long. Of course, they get much bigger, including some Japanese models that measure nearly 20 inches.
And they’ve been around much longer than many anglers realize. The first glide bait was probably the K&K Animated Minnow, patented in 1911.
Today, most of the major hard-bait manufacturers market at least one glide bait, and hundreds more are being produced in garages, at kitchen tables and in basements by avid designers who believe they are building a better mouse trap. Glide-bait and swimbait aficionados wait patiently for these garage baits to become available. Many sell for hundreds of dollars, but you can buy quality mass-produced glide baits for around $20, or even less.
WHEN TO GLIDE
Tim Little is the co-host of YouTube’s "TacticalBassin" and a glide-bait expert. He’s been fishing the lures since they gained fame as big-bass catchers in the 1990s and has caught dozens of lunkers on glides of all sizes, colors and shapes. His personal best glide bait fish weighed more than 10 pounds and came from California, but he’s fished them all over the country with great success. Little’s opinion on the best time to throw a glide bait is straightforward.
"I’ll throw a glide bait 12 months out of the year," he says. "Whenever bass are fairly shallow—say 10 feet or less—a glide bait can be a great tool to catch big fish or just to get them to show themselves."
That’s right. Big glide baits serve double duty for bass anglers targeting larger-than-average largemouths, smallmouths or spotted bass. A big glide looks like an easy meal, and even if a lunker chooses not to eat the bait, big fish are drawn to it and will often come out of cover or move up from deeper structure just to get a look. When they do, savvy glide baiters take note.
In addition to shallow bass, another requisite for good glide-bait action is clear water. Little looks for at least 4 feet of visibility. Some glide baits are equipped with rattles and make a lot of noise; others are quiet. Either way, a big glide bait gets a lot of attention, as long as the bass can see it.
WHAT TO GLIDE
Little puts glide baits in two categories and chooses between those styles depending on the water he’s fishing. First, there are the open-water glide baits.
"An open-water glide has a really wide, sweeping action," Little says. "They’re my choice when searching expansive cover like submerged vegetation or broad structure, like a point."
Examples of open-water glide baits include the Deps Slide Swimmer, the Baitsanity Explorer and the Baitsanity Antidote. The most expensive glide baits tend to be open-water glides, and they can command anywhere from $50 to $250 or more. Several garage-made glides and limited-production models out of Japan sell for more than $1,000.
The other style of glide bait is the cover glide.
"Cover glides have a less expansive side-to-side sweep on the retrieve, and are more responsive when you twitch them," Little says. "They work well in tight areas like around boat docks or laydowns."
Cover glides are rarely inexpensive, unless you’re comparing them to high-end, open-water glides. Some of the most popular cover glides include the River2Sea S-Waver 168 and 200, the Arashi Glide, the Savage Gear Shine Glide, the G-Ratt Sneaky Pete and the Gan Craft 230. The least expensive of these baits start at around $20, but some retail for a lot more.
When choosing colors, Little keeps things simple.
"I generally like to match the hatch," he says. "If the water I’m fishing has trout, I’ll fish a rainbow [trout] pattern. If it has golden shiners or hitch, or gizzard shad, I’ll try to match that. I generally stay away from wild colors like hot pink or bright yellow. The boldest color I’ll use with a glide bait is bone."
A GUIDE TO GLIDE
Little’s glide bait retrieves depend on the type of glide he’s fishing and where he’s fishing it. If he’s around cover, he likes to cast a cover glide past the target and slowly and steadily reel the bait until it reaches the spot he expects to hold a fish. Most glide baits have a lazy “S” pattern when retrieved in this way.
When the bait gets to the anticipated strike zone, he gives it a couple of sharp, short twitches. This can be done with the rod tip or by quick turns of the reel handle, which is Little’s preference. When stopped and twitched like this, a glide bait will turn nearly 180 degrees to face any pursuer. Little wants the bait to appear as though it’s been seen and recognizes the peril. He likes the cover glide here because it responds well to quick twitches.
If that doesn’t trigger a bass to strike, Little continues his retrieve, making six or seven steady turns of the reel handle before pausing momentarily and doing the double twitch again. He repeats that rhythm all the way back to the boat.
In open water that is free of obstructions that could hang or foul a lure, Little opts for an open-water glide.
"With the open-water glide, I’m covering water," he says. "But I still want some of that erratic action. Instead of pausing to twitch the bait every six or seven turns of the reel handle, I’ll do it every 10 or 12 turns. By reducing the number of twitches, I can fish an area faster. But if I see a bass following, I can pause and twitch the bait to trigger a bite."
Whether fishing a cover glide or an open-water glide, a key element of Little’s gear is a quality pair of polarized sunglasses. Apart from offering protection from the sun, they’re essential for looking into the water and spotting any lunkers that are tracking or checking out his glide baits.
"If you’re not seeing the fish that are following your glide bait, you’re not getting as much out of these lures as you could be," Little says.
"They have tremendous drawing power—especially the really big baits—and you can have a productive day with glide baits even if you never get a strike. They’ll pull big bass away from cover or up from structure and allow you to see them when otherwise you’d never know they were there. Then you can come back in an hour or two and cast to those fish from a different angle or with a different bait."
Anglers can fish glide baits on traditional medium-heavy to heavy bass tackle, but you’ll have a better experience, and hook and land more big fish, if you equip yourself specifically for the task.
Little maintains that you’ll benefit from two different combos: one for glide baits measuring 6 to 8 inches and weighing up to a couple of ounces, and another for bigger glides.
"For smaller glide baits," he says, "I recommend a medium-heavy or heavy casting rod that’s 7-foot-2 to 7-foot-6 with a 150- or 200-size casting reel with a 7-to-1 gear ratio. You need that reel speed to make effective twitches with your reel. I’d spool it with 15- to 20-pound-test fluorocarbon line.’
For fishing the bigger glides, Little scales things up considerably.
"I think you need a dedicated swimbait outfit for the bigger glides," he says. "I’d go with a 7-foot-6 to 8-foot heavy or extra-heavy rod and a 300-size casting reel. I’d spool it with 80-pound braided line and use a leader of 25- to 30-pound monofilament to absorb some of the shock of the hookset."
THE RIGHT ATTITUDE
As is often the case when trying to learn a new method or improve with an old one, the experts place an emphasis on attitude. Tim Little’s approach to glide baits is no different.
"If you want to be an effective glide-bait angler, the most important thing is not your technique," he says. "It’s your mindset. Keep throwing it; don’t put it down. Eventually you’re going to have success, either by catching bigger fish than you’ve been catching or by finding them with the glide bait.’
That’s what you call a win-win.