By Mark Fong
The Heart-Tail Swimbait is brand new for the 2015 season and FLW Tour Pro Jay Yelas is extremely excited about the new offering from Gary Yamamoto Custom Baits. Yelas has spent many hours on the water with a Heart-Tail tied to the end of his line. With its bulky ribbed body and namesake tail design, the Heart-Tail produces a strong swimming action and strike triggering body wobble. From coast to coast and north to south the Heart-Tail Swimbait has become a valuable addition to Yelas' bass catching arsenal.
When talk turns to topwater, most anglers don't think to fish a soft plastic swimbait, but perhaps they should. “The Heart-Tail works really well on top, throw it out and wind it along the surface. The tail kicks and gurgles and splashes,” said the 2002 Bassmaster Classic Champion. “It will work anywhere, but it works especially well in the presence of shallow emergent vegetation or grass that is matted on top where you can't work a bait with treble hooks because you would hang up on every cast. In places like Florida, the fish get down 2 to 4 feet deep in those grass beds and they'll come up on it all year long except for when it is really cold and the water temp is in the 50's. But when it gets in the upper 60's they'll definitely blast it year round. You can catch some giant bass fishing it on top.”
Because he is fishing around heavy vegetation, Yelas opts for an extra heavy 7'6” Kistler Helium 3 rod with a Team Lew's Pro 7:1:1 reel with 50lb braid. “When one grabs it in all that grass, you need to be able to pull them out of that stuff. I usually use a 6/0 big heavy extra wide gap hook like an EWG Superline hook,” said Yelas. The presentation is usually pretty slow, but sometimes you can speed it up a little bit, you'll know the right speed cause you'll hear the tail kicking and making that attracting little gurgling sound.”
Color is an important consideration for Yelas. He cites Pearl White (364), Black w/Blue Flake (021), and Olive Shad (948) as his top choices. When traveling to Florida, he is sure to add Goby (967) to the mix.
Umbrella Rig Swimmer
“The Heart-Tail works great on the back of an umbrella rig,” commented Yelas. “It has a large profile which makes it perfect for lakes with larger forage. On the umbrella rig, I pretty much use the Pearl White (364) color. That's the one I've always had the best luck with.” The Oregon based pro added that over the past few seasons, he has experienced more success with umbrella rigs featuring attracting blades than those without them.
He lists the winter and prespawn period as prime periods to fish the umbrella rig. Two important prerequisites for Yelas are the presence of bait and good water clarity. “It's a clear water presentation and it's not something that works very well in the summer time,” said Yelas. “You can fish it shallow, keeping it 2 to 3 feet deep with real light jigheads or you can let it sink deeper.” For Yelas, the 30 foot mark has historically been the deep end of the umbrella rig's effective zone.
Proper tackle selection is always an important component for success and the umbrella rig is no exception. “The umbrella rig is power fishing at its finest and it requires big tackle. It's heavy lifting throwing it all day and you need heavier tackle.” said Yelas. “Kistler makes a 7' 11” Helium 3 that's extra heavy, it loads up great and you can bomb that umbrella rig way out there. I use a Lews BB2 6:4:1 with 65lb braid.”
Deep Water Swimmer
There are times when a single swimbait is a more effective presentation than a multi-bait umbrella rig. Yelas likes to rig the Heart-Tail on a jig head. He has found that swimming a Heart-Tail on deep structure can be a highly productive pattern in summer and fall. The presence of bait fish is crucial for the success of this pattern. “In places like the Tennessee River lakes, the fish get out there on ledges and you can get on a good swimbait bite,” said Yelas. “Last year I was on Kentucky Lake in late June and I caught them really good on the Heart-Tail. I like to throw it out there and let it go to the bottom, then I'll just slow roll it near the bottom.” With its large bulky profile, the Heart-Tail does an excellent job mimicking the large gizzard shad that are a favorite forage of big ledge dwelling bass.
For most of his deep swimbaiting, he alternates between a ½ oz or ¾ oz Yamamoto swimbait jighead. Yelas likes this particular jighead for its ability to hook and hold oversized fish. Again he relies heavily on a Pearl White (364) swimbait. Any time that herring are part of the forage base, Yelas is quick to match the hatch by selecting a Blue Back Herring (947) colored Heart-Tail.
“I like to use a 7'3” Kistler extra heavy with 15lb fluorocarbon,” explained Yelas. “Usually I have a lot of line out. I'm making long casts in deep water and I need to be able to set the hook when I get a bite. A lot of times I just do a reel set and the Team Lews Pro 7:1:1 helps me to get a good firm hookset on those deep fish.”
Swim Jig Trailer
Swimming a jig through grass and wood and around docks is a productive pattern that many anglers overlook. Because this technique has the ability to select for a better grade of fish, Yelas is always on the lookout for a good swim jig bite. “The post spawn period is the prime time to swim a jig, but over the years I have seen them bite it early in the spring and I've seen them bite it in the fall. During the summertime you can get a little window where you can swim a jig through the grass the first hour of daylight but they won't bite it all day in the summer like they do at other times of the year,” said Yelas.
Yelas employs either a 3/8oz or 1/2oz flippin style jig for his swim jig duties. He praises the Heart-Tail for both its ability to add strike generating movement to his swim jig and for the bulky profile it creates. Yelas likes to keep his color choices simple, matching an (021) Heart-Tail to the back of a black and blue jig for days that are dark and cloudy or for early mornings. On sunny days, he opts for a (364) Heart-Tail with a white jig. If the water is muddy, he will switch from the white jig to a green pumpkin jig and Heart-Tail (297) combination.
“With a swim jig I like a rod with a little softer tip than all these extra heavies I have been talking about for these other techniques,” explained Yelas. “Sometimes I like to add a little extra action to the jig and a Kistler 7'3” heavy has a soft enough tip that allows me to impart action to the jig by shaking the rod tip with my wrist. I'm reeling and shaking the rod at the same time, it kind of makes the jig do a little undulating up and down action. I use the same Lews Pro Reel and 50lb. braid for swimming around shallow grass and 20lb fluorocarbon if I am fishing around docks or in deeper water.”
Yamamoto's new swimbait is truly a multifaceted bait. Now it's up to you to discover your best Heart-Tail applications.