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Tackle Test 2021: Best New Swimbait Rods Reviewed

We put seven of the best swimbait rods through their paces out on the water.

Tackle Test 2021: Best New Swimbait Rods Reviewed

]What were the best swimbait rods in our Tackle Test 2021 fishing gear reviews? (Daiwa photo)

Swimbaits have become very popular in recent years. It seems that every year a new swimbait becomes the rage and the go-to bait of tournament winners on many of the professional bass circuits.

Swimbaits, like other bass baits, come in a variety of sizes, from the gentile to the super-sized. As such, one swimbait rod is rarely capable of handling all the various sized baits.


At Game & Fish, we acquired some of the best swimbait gear out there and put it through its paces as part of our annual Tackle Test fishing rod and reel reviews.

Here’s our take on seven of the best swimbait rods available.

More Tackle Test Reviews

Best New Swimbait Rods Reviewed

HALO KSII ELITE HFKSII72HC

GAF

American Baitworks builds HALO rods, which have a cult following of very serious bass anglers. The HALO 7-foot, 2-inch KSII has a heavy action and fast tip. The blank is built with a proprietary Japanese carbon fiber with a slender butt section and tapered tip. The KSII carries stainless steel guides and tip, all equipped with zirconium inserts for near friction-free operation.

A skeletonized reel seat lets anglers get two or three-finger purchase on the blank, depending on their grip. This lends itself to ease of monitoring the bait's action. We loved the AAA-grade cork handle and butt cap, both lending themselves to better bait feel.


The HALO KSII is rated for lure weights of 3/8 to 1 ounce and 12- to 20-pound-test lines, leading some anglers to argue if it is a true "swimbait" rod. However, we feel the KSII is an equitable option for smaller swimbaits, especially those 3/8 to 3/4 ounce, when working these in tight confines. ($169; americanbaitworks.com)

  • Bottom Line: The KSII from HALO is a good handling rod that will manage small swimbaits easily and can be used as a crossover for spinnerbaits, heavy worming and jigging.

IMPULSE GEN 2 G2-IMP73HXF

GAF

Impulse is a boutique rod company that builds rods for a growing fan base. Impulse uses Toray graphite in their blank build-out, arguably some of the best in the business, offering excellent transmittal of bait vibration and strike monitoring.

The 7-foot, 3-inch G2-IMP73HXF is handcrafted in the USA and carries a lure weight rating of ½ to 1 ¼ ounces and a line weight range of 15 to 25 pounds. The heavy-action blank with extra fast tip has nine Sea-Guide tangle-free 316 stainless steel frames with zirconium inserts.

We liked the WINN grip-equipped handle, which offers a positive hand hold no matter the weather conditions. The Sea-Guide Alien reel seat is quite ergonomically pleasing and the hogged-out areas in the handle offers anglers direct contact to the blank. While sensitivity in a swimbait rod isn't terribly important (as compared to finessing or soft plastics rods) the cut-outs do help. A large EVA butt cap helps keeps the rod from digging in when placed against the mid-section on long swimbait sessions. ($249; impulserods.com)

  • Bottom Line: The Impulse GEN 2 rod is noticeably lighter than most swimbait sticks, making it a great option for those who lean toward manageability and nimbleness in their rods.

JENKO DCVR GAMBLER SERIES G710 CSWB

GAF

The Jenko DCR Gambler Series Swimbait rod is a big, two-handed swimbait chunker. At 7 feet, 10 inches, and rated as an extra-heavy action, this rod is built for throwing tennis-shoe-sized swimbaits. In fact, it is rated for bait weight 1 to up to 5 ounces. With a line rating of 20 to 50 pounds, you can manage these giant baits without concern of throwing one off on a backlashed cast.

Like all Jenko rods, the swimbait rod carries the company's bright red-and-blue motif. The 19-inch straight handle is extra beefy and clad in traction material, allowing you to get two hands easily around it for bombing big baits downrange.




The 10 guides plus tip are nicely spaced, and the tip and second-to-tip guide are spaced closely together for even more line control on giant baits. The rod throws smoothly with little chatter or shimmy. ($159; jenkofishing.com)

  • Bottom Line: At $159, you get a lot of rod with the Jenko swimbait stick. It can manage the largest swimbaits without any unforced errors.

ABU GARCIA VERITAS PLX TORO VTPCMU79-6

GAF

The Abu Garcia Veritas PLX Toro is a feature-rich rod priced smartly. Built with the advanced 3M Powerlux 100 resin system, the new Veritas blank is 15-percent stronger than previous models, and lighter too.

Other top-shelf features include titanium alloy guides with ultra-light zirconium inserts, a closed-cell EVA grip for weather and wear resistance, Fuji reel seat and a surprising limited 3-year warranty.

We liked the Veritas due to its lightweight demeanor. It is balanced exceptionally well, odd given the rod's extended 24-inch split grip. The rod, with its 1-to-4-ounce bait weight rating, and 25- to 50-pound line capacity is a formidable caster. The oversized handle section offers unprecedented purchase for the user, a big plus when throwing ridiculously large and awkward lures. We envision this rod being a good crossover for those freshwater anglers who also pursue musky, stripers and big pike. ($99; abugarcia.com)

  • Bottom Line: At a mere $99 MSRP, and given its long list of standard features, the Abu Garcia Veritas PLX Toro is a great choice for cost conscious anglers chasing big freshwater fish on a tiny budget.

DOBYNS KADEN BULLSHAD MB836SB

GAF

The Dobyns Bullshad was the longest swimbait rod in our field at 8 feet, 3 inches. The Bullshad rod has a special story. Mike Bucca, a swimbait afficionado, started his own swimbait company in 2007. Friends with Gary Dobyns, the two put their heads together to design a rod to throw his 6- to 11-inch swimbaits (aptly named "Bullshad").

The Kaden Bullshad, like all Dobyns rods, is a quality piece anchored by a high-modulus graphite blank and a Sea Guides XO guide train with Kevlar wraps. A 14-inch, full EVA handle and Fuji reel seat keep reels lashed securely while throwing colossally large swimbaits. All blanks are balanced and spined to ensure the best flexure when under the extreme stress of up to 8-ounce baits. Rated for 20- to 40-pound test lines, the Bullshad falls right in the middle of the line weighting ratings. ($199; dobynsrods.com)

  • Bottom Line: Designed for and by Mike Bucca and his baits, at 8'3", the Bullshad is large and in charge, more than capable of throwing all swimbaits—no matter the brand.

EAGLE CLAW EC2.5 EC2B76MFC1

GAF

The folks at Eagle Claw have been making fishing gear our grandfather's-grandfather fished with. While the EC2.5 in the 7-foot, 6-inch model isn't labeled as a "swimbait" rod, it is well suited for this assignment.

The heavy power rod with a fast action is rated for ¼- to 1-ounce baits and 10- to 25-pound-test lines. This puts the EC2.5 right in the mix of average swimbait sizes. At $79, we liked the fact that the rod won't dent any budgets. The rod performed well, throwing baits with confidence and handling well with its extended 17.5-inch split grip.


The extended handle makes this rod a cinch to get on top of with two-hands for extra-long casts. The EC2.5 fits nicely into an entire series of reasonably priced rods from Eagle Claw designed to give fishermen a variety of technique specific rods to choose from. ($79; eagleclaw.com)

  • Bottom Line: The Eagle Claw EC2.5 offers anglers a workable swimbait rod that will throw most sizes without hiccups and a variety of baits at a very reasonable price.

DAIWA TATULA TTU731HRB-SB

GAF

The Daiwa Tatula line of rods features 21 models, each designed for a specific bait class or technique, making it arguably the most complete rod line available. Their TTU731HRB-SB is their 7-foot, 3-inch swimbait rod. Rated for 15- to 30-pound lines, and a maximum bait weight of 4 ounces, the Tatula features a premium quality cork split grip, one of the most comfortable handles we tested.

When picking up the Daiwa the first thing you notice is just how light it is. This makes the Tatula a great choice for those who fish small-to-medium-sized swimbaits around cover. While capable of throwing large baits, at 7'3" the Tatula shined in tight quarters.

We were able to flick small swimbaits with confidence; lures that would have been a challenge with heftier swimbait rods. Like all Daiwa rods, the Tatula carries high-end components and a very impressive 5-year limited warranty. ($189; daiwaus.com)

  • Bottom Line: The Daiwa Tatula swimbait rod, at 7'3," is worth a serious look by those bass anglers who routinely use swimbaits as search baits, especially when thrown in and around structure.

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