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Published Jun 29, 2023, 9:19 PM

From the first time I saw a 15-inch bass eat a 9-inch glide bait I’ve been fully addicted to Swim bait Rods. I’ve since caught new PBs and witnessed the savage predatory instincts hardwired into the bass of all sizes. In my short Swim Bait Rods career, I’ve learned that when you’re exclusively throwing big Swim Bait Rods, it’s essential to capitalize on every rare opportunity at a memorable fish. One missed bite or the fish that shakes loose could have been that double-digit you’ve been hunting. That’s why the right Swim bait Rods can be so important. They’re also necessary for the basic task of throwing unusually heavy baits, which can range in weight from 1.5 to 13 ounces or more.

I spent the spring throwing a wide range of soft and hard baits on nine Swim bait Rods to find their ideal lure weight rating and evaluate their casting performance. I also photographed each rod’s action and measured handle length to help you compare them. Then I interviewed Mike Gilbert of Working Class Zero, who provided insight on choosing the best Swim bait Rods for you.

Here are the rods I’ve tested so far, and I’ll be adding to this list as I procure more rods.

Premium Rods

Budget Rods (Under $200)

How I Tested the Best Swimbait Rods

The author with a bass caught during testing. John Demmer III

The goal for my testing was to find each rod’s ideal lure weight range and provide specs you can use to compare the rods. I also included feedback based on my experience fishing and catching fish with each rod.

Specs

I counted guides, measured Swim bait Rods, and measured handle length from the bottom of the reel seat to the end of the handle. You’ll find these specs in the key features section of each review.

Lure Weight Rating

Manufacturer-provided lure ratings range from dead on to way off, so I conducted a casting test to find my recommended lure weight range. I cast weights that ranged from 1 to 6 ounces while noting the feel and ease of casting each weight. I also cast each rod with various Swim bait Rods ranging from a 6-inch Magdraft to Deps 250.

Action

I put the Swim bait Rods in a rod holder and attached a 5-pound weight suspended 24 inches from the rod tip. I then snapped a photo of the rod’s bend to demonstrate its action. This is important because rods that bend deeper into the blank are best for treble hook lures, and rods with a faster action are best for single hook baits.

Accuracy

I set targets at 30 feet and 60 feet and made five casts with each rod at those distances using a lure in the middle of the rod’s weight range. This test aimed to evaluate the rod’s close-range accuracy for throwing lures around docks and cover.

Distance

Sometimes you need to bomb a cast down a weed line or wall to cover water quickly. I did that with a lure in the middle of each rod’s weight range while evaluating the distance and how easy it was to achieve a long cast.

Fishing

I spent time fishing the Swim bait Rods to learn their nuances and to hopefully put a few fish on them. I fished a variety of baits on each rod, including my own hand pours, Grow Design Works Flag, 86 Baits Doomrider, DRT Klash 9, Working Class Zero Citizens, Megabass Magdrafts, Deps 250, Baitsanity Explorer Gill, Baitsanity Explorer, River2Sea S-Waver, and a three-piece PB Rat.

Read Next: Best Baitcasting Reels

Best Swimbait Rods: Reviews & Recommendations

Leviathan Omega Swimbait, Heavy

Fishing Rods photo

Key Features

  • Length: 8 feet
  • EVA, full grip
  • Line Weight: 12 to 30 pounds
  • Recommended Lure Weight: 2 to 6 ounces
  • Handle Length: 17 3/8 inches
  • Number of Guides: 8+tip
  • All double-footed Fuji guides
  • Lifetime warranty
  • Price: $340

Pros

  • Can cast a wide range of lure weights
  • Good balance
  • Comfortable ergonomics
  • Well finished

Cons

  • Daiwa Tatula wiggled a bit in the bottom reel seat connection (Shimano Tranx fit perfectly)
Fishing Rods photo
The Leviathan Omega is one of the best glide bait rods.

The Omega is light and well-balanced, which makes it a joy to cast big baits all day. I’ve found the ideal lure weight for this rod is 3 to 4 ounces, so your Klash 9, 8-inch Madgraft, and Jointed Claw 230 are all in the sweet spot. But it will easily cast lures in the 2-ounce range and up to a Deps 250. With baits around 6 ounces, you can feel the rod balance shift forward, but a hand at the end of the long handle helps offset the shift. Also impressive was that I could make accurate, short casts with a 6-ounce bait and long over-shoulder bombs. Speaking of long casts, this rod loads up and then launches a bait with very little effort.

Leviathan Omega swimbait rod action.
Leviathan Omega under the 5 pound load. Scott Einsmann

I also really appreciated the handle’s length and grippiness. The length is great for leverage on long casts, and it fits perfectly under my armpit during the retrieve. The Omega has a fast tip, but it also bends deep into the blank when under load. That action is ideal for working a glide and keeping treble hooks pinned in a fish’s mouth. If I could have only one rod for throwing a glide, this would be it.

Read Next: Best Bass Fishing Rods

G. Loomis IMX-Pro 904C SWBR

Fishing Rods photo

Key Features

  • Length: 7.5 feet
  • Cork handle
  • Line Weight: 12-25 pounds
  • Recommended Lure Weight: 1 to 3 ounces
  • Handle Length: 13.5 inches
  • Number of Guides: 10+tip
  • The first two guides are double footed
  • Fuji K-frame guides
  • Price: $390

Pros

  • Accurate
  • Great for skipping
  • Can fish a variety of lure types

Cons

  • Limited to light lures
  • Not the best for distance casting
Fishing Rods photo

This is the ultimate rod for throwing 6- to 7-inch swimbaits around docks. It’s effortlessly accurate and great for skipping too. It throws 1- to 3-ounce baits well but can also throw a 4-ounce lure. It has all the quality build Loomis is known for and the performance you’d expect from a premium rod. The handle length is just long enough to use under my arm, but too long for it’s shorter length.

I’ve found the action is a great compromise between a single and treble hook rod. I haven’t pulled a treble yet and haven’t had issues setting Beast Hooks up to 6/0. If you’re in the market for a rod that can handle heavier baits, also check out the 8-foot, heavy IMX-PRO Swimbait (IMX-PRO 966C SWBR).

Megabass Orochi XX F10-80XX Leviathan

Fishing Rods photo

Key Features

  • Length: 8 feet
  • Cork, full grip handle
  • Line Weight: 20 to 40 pounds
  • Recommended Lure Weight: 2 to 8 ounces
  • Handle Length: 16 inches
  • Number of Guides: 9+tip
  • All double-footed Fuji Stainless SiC guides
  • Price: $325

Pros

  • Versatile action
  • Good handle length

Cons

  • Some anglers might not like its stiff tip section
Megabass Orochi XX F10-80XX Leviathan action.
The Megabass Orochi XX F10-80XX Leviathan under the 5-pound load. Scott Einsmann

The Megabass Orochi Leviathan is a rod that can fish a 9-inch glide or Beast-hooked bait. It has a powerful butt section that helps it set Beast Hooks, but it also bends deep enough into the blank to make it forgiving for treble hooks. I fish around a lot of hydrilla and use that powerful butt section to rip baits through the grass.

I found it doesn’t throw baits under 3 ounces exceptionally well, and its sweet spot is in the 3- to 5-ounce range. I’ve also thrown lures up to 8 ounces comfortably. This rod isn’t as accurate or light as the Leviathan Omega, but it is more versatile. If you’re looking for a premium rod that can fish a wide range of baits, the Orochi Leviathan is a great option.

Shimano Zodias (ZDC79XHA)

Fishing Rods photo

Key Features

  • Length: 7.75 feet
  • Carbon Monocoque handle, split grip
  • Line Weight: 14-30 pounds
  • Recommended Lure Weight: 1 to 3 ounces
  • Handle Length: 13.25 inches
  • Number of Guides: 8+tip
  • The first four are double-footed guides
  • Fuji Alconite K Semi-Micro Guides and a Fuji SiC tip
  • Price: $240

Pros

  • Sensitive
  • Quality components
  • Light

Cons

  • Handle length is shorter than most traditional swimbait rods

This rod can comfortably throw lures in the 1- to 3-ounce range, so if you’re a new Chad Shad 180 owner or a 6-inch Magdraft diehard, this rod will work for you. Like the Daiwa Rebellion, the rod’s balance hinders its ability to cast anything heavier than 3 ounces. I’d describe the action between fast and moderate, making it versatile for various lure types.

Fishing Rods photo
The Shimano Zodias under the 5-pound load.

The Zodias has traditional bass rod ergonomics, which can be positive or negative. When throwing big baits, I tuck the handle under my armpit on the retrieve, reducing fatigue. The Zodias doesn’t have a handle long enough for the armpit tuck, so you’ll hold it like a traditional bass rod, which can be a plus if you’re used to those ergos.

Budget Swimbait Rods

Dobyns Fury 806HSB

Fishing Rods photo

Key Features

  • Length: 8 feet
  • EVA handle, full grip
  • Line Weight: 20 to 40 pounds
  • Recommended Lure Weight: 1 to 6 ounces
  • Handle Length: 14.25 inches
  • Number of Guides: 12+tip
  • The first seven guides are double footed
  • Price: $140

Pros

  • Sensitive
  • Fast tip helps with accuracy
  • Great for mid-sized treble hook baits and smaller single hook baits

Cons

  • Not ideal for baits over 5 ounces
A 6.8 pound bass caught on the Dobyns 806
A 6.8 pound bass caught on the Dobyns 806. Scott Einsmann

I’ve been fishing a Fury 806HSB for over a year, and it’s been a staple in my rod lineup. I’ve found this rod is happiest around 4 ounces and can cast lighter baits really well. I routinely fish a 6-inch Magdraft with the Fury 806HSB, then swap to a heavier glide without skipping a beat. I find that 6 ounces is my comfortable max, but it can throw 8 ounces on a lob cast.

Fishing Rods photo

It has a classic hard bait action with a deep parabolic bend. That action helped me land several barely hooked fish and drive trebles through the roof of 6.8-pound bass. The handle length might be short for some, but it’s still long enough to comfortably fit under my arm. I’ve used the Fury 806HSB to make accurate short-range casts, and sling long casts down weed lines. If you’re in the market for an affordable rod for treble hook baits, this is one of the top options to consider.

St. Croix Bass X (BAC710XHF)

Fishing Rods photo

Key Features

  • Length: 8 feet
  • EVA handle, one-piece grip
  • Line Weight: 14 to 30 pounds
  • Recommended Lure Weight:
  • Handle Length: 14 ⅝ inches
  • Weight:
  • Number of Guides: 7+tip
  • The first two are double
  • Price: $128

Pros

  • Comfortable handle
  • Great action for treble hooks
  • Accurate lure weight rating

Cons

  • Not recommended for jig or Beast Hooks
Fishing Rods photo
The Bass X is a great buy for throwing glides on a budget.

This is one of the most impressive budget rods I’ve fished. It’s perfect for throwing a 4-ounce bait, and it’s one of the few rods where I’ve found the manufacturer’s lure weight rating is accurate. It’s definitely a hard bait rod with a deep parabolic bend. Despite its soft action, it has a powerful butt section which I really like for fishing around grass.

Fishing Rods photo
The St. Croix Bass X XH, F under the 5-pound load.

The Bass X’s ergos are spot on for me and I really liked the shape and length of the handle. It was one of the more accurate 8-foot rods I casted thanks to its soft tip and good balance. I’ve only caught one fish on this rod but it was a fish that swiped at a DRT Joker and through head shakes and jumps, the fish stayed pinned.

Okuma Guide Select XH Swimbait Rod

Fishing Rods photo

Key Features

  • Length: 7 feet 11.25 inches
  • EVA handle, split grip
  • Line Weight: 15 to 40 pounds
  • Recommended Lure Weight: 3 to 6 ounces
  • Handle Length: 15 ⅝ inches
  • Fuji K-concept guides
  • Number of Guides: 10+tip
  • All double-footed guides

Pros

Cons

  • Not the most accurate rod
Okuma guide select action
The Okuma Guide Select under the 5-pound load.

This was my and many other anglers’ first swimbait rod. It’s been such a popular option because, for many years, it was one of the few affordable big bait rods. We now have a lot of great rods under $200, but this classic is still a great one for fishing soft baits. It has a fast action and powerful backbone for setting hooks with authority, even in deep water. I found the ideal lure weight for this rod is 4 to 5 ounces, so it’s great for 7-inch Citizens or 8-inch Hudds.

13 Fishing Omen Black XH (OB3C8XH-SB)

Fishing Rods photo

Key Features

  • Length: 8 feet
  • EVA handle, split grip
  • Line Weight: 20 to 40 pounds
  • Recommended Lure Weight: 3 to 8 ounces
  • Handle Length: 15.5 inches
  • Number of Guides: 9+tip
  • All double-footed guides

Pros

  • Can throw heavy baits well
  • Surprisingly accurate for such a stiff rod

Cons

Fishing Rods photo
13 Fishing Defy Black under the 5-pound load.

The 13 Defy Black Swimbait Rod has a thick blank that creates a sturdy backbone for setting hooks on soft baits. I found the extra heavy power to be ideal for casting lures in the 4- to 6-ounce range, but it can cast swimbaits up to 10 ounces. So if you’re looking for an affordable rod for throwing the big stuff, this is a good option to consider.

Daiwa Rebellion (7111HFB-SB)

Fishing Rods photo

Key Features

  • Length: 7 feet 11.25 inches
  • EVA handle, split grip
  • Line Weight: 14-30 pounds
  • Recommended Lure Weight: 1 to 3 ounces
  • Handle Length: 14 inches
  • Weight
  • Number of Guides: 9+tip
  • The first two are double foot

Pros

Cons

  • A longer handle length would help it balance better
Daiwa Rebellion action
The Daiwa Rebellion under the 5 pound load. Scott Einsmann

This is a great rod if you exclusively throw small swimbaits like a 6-inch Magdraft, S-Waver 170, or DRT Tiny Klash. I’ve found it throws 2-ounce baits really well, but casting anything over 3 ounces is difficult due to the rod’s balance, and it was downright painful trying to throw lures in the 6-ounce range. It has a true fast action, which is great for single hooks, but I’ve had no issues landing fish on trebles.

The Rebellion is accurate at short distances and can bomb a cast. It’s also sensitive enough to feel subtle bites at the end of long casts. The handle length is just long enough to fit under my arm and use as leverage while fighting fish.

Swimbaiting Accessories

Fishing Rods photo
A measuring board like this one from Working Class Zero is a must-have accessory.

Reels, Line, and Accessories I Use

How to Choose a Swimbait Rod

Mike Gilbert is a bait maker, video creator, and owner of Working Class Zero. I talked to this swimbaiting legend about what he looks for in a swimbait rod.

Swimbait Rod Length

Rods around 8 feet have become the standard for swimbaiting, but Gilbert likes rods a touch longer.

“I like one rod, one length, one power, to throw everything from 3 to 8-ounce baits. That way, when I pick up a rod, I know exactly how it performs every single time,” he says. “My preferred setup is a fast-action, extra-heavy, 8-foot 6-inch rod.”

Why such a long rod? “I feel like with the longer length, I’m getting a better hookset, and I feel like it’s a catapult,” Gilbert says. The long rod makes it much easier to cast big baits long distances, but there are some downsides.

“When you get into really tight spots like pitching into dock slips, a long rod is kind of a nightmare,” he says. In those instances, a shorter rod is better for working specific cover and hitting it at various angles. Gilbert also says that the length of the rod should match the angler. He’s 6 feet tall, which is partly why a long rod works well for him. A shorter angler might prefer a shorter rod.

Swimbait Rod Action

A rod’s action is how it bends. If a rod bends mostly at its tip, it’s called a fast action, and if it bends into the middle of the rod, it’s called a moderate action. In my reviews, I’ve demonstrated each rod’s action by inducing a bend in the rod to help you compare the rods and find the one that best fits your preference.

Swimbait rods usually favor treble-hook hard baits with a parabolic, moderate action like a crankbait rod or single-hook soft baits with a fast action like a jig rod. Gilbert prefers a rod that can do both, but says if he had to choose a rod just for hard baits, he’d go with a softer rod that would be less likely to bend out a treble hook.

For a versatile rod, though, he likes a fast action. “A quarter of the way down the rod is where it should start to shut off, and then you get that deep bend in the rod as it loads up,” Gilbert says. “I prefer that so I can fish a Beast Hook bait. Those big Beast Hooks have thick gauge heavy wire, and you have to be able to drive that hook home.”

Gilbert likes a tip that sags with the weight of his lure. “I prefer a soft tip, which I think is a little unpopular in the swimbait world right now,” he says. According to Gilbert, the soft tip allows a fish to suck in a bait without any resistance.

While there are advantages to choosing one rod for soft and hard baits, the compromise comes in how you fight a fish on trebles. When Gilbert hooks a fish on a glide, he hits it hard but doesn’t grind them to the boat. “I have to have a little more patience instead of just horsing them in because my rod has less forgiveness,” he says.

Sensitivity, Guides, Handle

According to Gilbert, sensitivity is immensely important in a swimbait rod. “You want to be able to feel every little thing,” he says. “There have been times where I feel a subtle change and bring in the slack real quick and swing. Hook sets are free, after all. And low and behold, there’s a fish there. Those fish will eat the bait and swim at the same cadence you’re reeling so you don’t even feel the bite.”

Handle length is another important aspect of a swimbait rod. Gilbert uses the handle trapped under his arm to help him fight fish using his whole body rather than his wrist and arms.

“I like a handle that can tuck up nicely between my arm and ribcage but not so long that it’s sticking out behind my arm,” Gilbert says. Handles that are too long can get hung up on clothing and hinder maneuverability. His ideal handle length is around 16 inches with a full grip.

Some anglers prefer all double foot guides on their swimbait rods. But Gilbert’s only preference is for traditionally wrapped guides rather than spiral wrapped.

Final Tips on Choosing a Swimbait Rod

Gilbert says that getting a specific rod for each of your baits, is a luxury, not a requirement. He recommends finding a rod you like at a mid-price point and buying a few of them. “Every time you pick up that rod, it feels the exact same in your hands; when you’re setting the hook, you know exactly what to expect. Everything is familiar; the only thing that changes is the bait that’s at the end of the line,” he says.

When choosing your rod, Gilbert says you need to find a rod that will work for you and how you fish. “Rod stuff is so tailored to the individual who has garnered some experience to know what they like and don’t like,” he says.

His final word of advice is that a rod isn’t everything. “A swimbait rod can only do so much for the angler,” he says. “Your fundamentals of casting, retrieving, and setting the hook are the most important, and a good rod will only enhance your ability to execute those fundamentals.”

Mike Gilbert’s Current Swimbait Setup

FAQs

Q: What is the best action for swimbaits?

For lures with treble hooks, most anglers use a moderate/fast action and for single hook baits, most anglers use a fast action.

Q: What kind of rod do you use for glide baits?

An 8-foot, XH, moderate/fast rod is a good all around option for glide baits.

Final Thoughts on the Best Swimbait Rods

Finding the best swimbait rod for you ultimately comes down to personal preference. If you’re new to swimbaiting, you can choose an affordable rod that will help you gain experience in figuring out what you like. If you’re looking to upgrade from your starter rod, you’ll have to decide if you want different rods for different types of baits or one rod you’ll use for everything. Use the information in this review as guidance, and talk to experienced anglers in your area to learn their preferences.

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