Depending on whether they are hand-painted, hand-poured, made in the U.S., China, Mexico or in a small garage somewhere, swimbaits range in price from $3.99 to $100. Some swim better than others. A few look like a live trout in the water. “I feel there are so few real good swimbaits,” says Art Berry, a Western Open Bassmaster champion from Hemet. “To be the ultimate and the best swimbait, you have to be able to reel it at the slowest retrieve and get the most action. Unfortunately, there aren’t a lot of good baits out there that you can do that with. “So many companies pour them with poor plastics, so you have to reel them so fast to get the proper action. That’s not going to catch you a lot of trout.” Swimbait use has skyrocketed in recent years. Most anglers have numerous models – trout look-alikes are as common in Southern California as plastic worms, crankbaits and spinnerbaits. Yet it has become more difficult for average anglers to catch trophy bass with swimbaits. Each week a handful of Southern California reservoirs yield bass over 10 pounds, most caught on swimbaits. The best lake continues to be Casitas, which yields more bass greater than 10 pounds than all the other lakes in the region combined. Lake Perris, Diamond Valley, Castaic Lagoon, The Delta and Clear Lake also are top big bass waters in California. But the number of bass falling for the fake trout is decreasing, some say. “I think the bass are biting swimbaits as good as they always have,” said Berry, who rates the Huddleston and Triple Trout as the best available baits. “The problem is that there’s not a lot of good swimbaits on the market. I don’t really think bass has really smartened up to them. “It has a lot to do with the retrieve, the angler himself and the swimbait. You’ve got to give the bass a little credit. They aren’t stupid. They are big because they are smart.” Berry says that the decrease in productivity can be blamed on angler skill and a lack of education. Many anglers, he says, aren’t using the proper gear and don’t have the patience necessary to fish the bait. Guyette believes success will to come to anglers who fish the baits properly, with the right gear, and those who can show bass a life-like swimbait they haven’t seen hundreds of times. New baits with a different width, length and paint job than others, that can be retrieved at varying speeds or has a slower fall than common baits – all can aid anglers in catching more fish. “Swimbaits will never die out, but they will always been making something a little different,” Guyette said. “All it takes is a minor change in the bait to make it work better. You’ve got to remember that these bass see hundreds and thousands of swimbaits a year now. There isn’t a guy on the lake that is fishing for big bass that doesn’t use swimbaits.” Chris Shaffer wrote “The Definitive Guide to Fishing Southern California.” He covers the outdoors for the Daily News and can be reached at [email protected] 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREGift Box shows no rust in San Antonio Stakes win at Santa Anita California’s trophy bass use the California Department of Fish and Game’s small stocked trout as growing pills. A stocked trout makes up a great deal of a trophy bass’ diet; rather than searching for dozens of small meals, a large bass can eat one big meal and expend less energy. Trophy-size Florida and Northern-strain largemouth bass continue to eat trout at an alarming rate, but for Guyette, Crabtree and a vast number of swimbait anglers, catch rates have taken a huge hit. “When we first started throwing swimbaits, it was something new,” Guyette said. “The bass hadn’t seen swimbaits before. Now there’s so many baits being thrown at the fish. The fish have been conditioned to the baits, and they are very smart about remembering what they look like.” When the craze first began, there was only a few swimbait manufacturers. The biggest players back then – the Castaic Soft Trout and the AC Plug – were made in small corners of a garage. Now, nearly every major bass-fishing company has a swimbait, some several. But the garage junkies continue to sprawl across California, Nevada and Arizona. Every month a new, hot swimbait emerges from artists vying for position in the market. Since the early 1990s, Ed Guyette and his fishing partner, Randy Crabtree, have been considered some of the best bass anglers on the planet. The duo fished Lake Casitas exclusively and managed to catch and release more than 500 bass greater than 10 pounds. Guyette and Crabtree were trying something new, fishing with “swimbaits” – a fake trout, more or less, tied to the end of anglers’ lines that actually swam and looked like a real stocked trout. In April 2002, their 19-pound largemouth ranked as one of the 10 largest bass ever caught. They caught that fish – and nearly every other bass they hooked – on the Castaic Soft Trout swimbait. Guyette and Crabtree were part of a fishing revolution. They, along with hundreds of Southern California anglers, made swimbaits among bass anglers’ chief weaponry. The practice quickly spread throughout California, across the country and overseas.