Jimmy Reese on Waking the Heart Tail Swimbait

By Mark Fong

Before making the jump to the FLW Tour, GYCB Pro Jimmy Reese, honed his craft fishing and competing in tournaments across the West. Among his accomplishments are victories at the Costa FLW Series on Clear Lake and the California Delta.

The long time Northern California Pro was at the epicenter of the tournament swimbait revolution. It should not come as a surprise, that Reese relies heavily on the GYCB Heart Tail Swimbait to put big bass in his livewell. When the Inside Line visited with Reese, he shared his insight into a unique topwater swimbait pattern.

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Wake ‘Em Up

The 4.5” Heart Tail Swimbait has been on the market for several years now. It’s wide ribbed body and uniquely designed heart-shaped paddle tail creates a kicking tail action and rolling side-to-side wobble. The Heart Tail has an open hook cavity on its belly that makes rigging easy and increases hookup efficiency.

“The Heart Tail is versatile; it can be used as a swimbait or a topwater,” explained Reese. “At this season's Okeechobee (FLW Tour Event) I caught my big fish on it. It's good in the pre-spawn, spawn, and post-spawn and even through the summer time. Generally when the fish start suspending is when I start throwing it around vegetation like grass, tules and buggy whips. Docks are good too, basically anything that creates shade.”

“Topwaters always catch bigger bass,” said Reese. “With the Heart Tail, I'll make a long cast and once the bait touches down, I'll begin a medium retrieve to get the tail thumping and bring the bait up to the surface so that it throws a nice wake behind it. When the fish see that wake, they know they have the advantage of trapping their prey on the surface. Big fish will make a move to eat the bait.”

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Like any topwater pattern, this one too can be fragile. Starting in the pre- spawn, the conditions need to be right for this bite to produce. “When things start to warm up and the fish start suspending that is the key,” said Reese. “If you get five really warm days in a row coming off of winter or early spring type weather, the fish start to move up in the afternoon. Ideally 68 to 70 degrees is when it gets good, but even warmer is better. Cold fronts can shut the bite down. During the pre-spawn and into the spawn you can catch some really big fish.”

According to Reese, two additional points to keep in mind are depth and water clarity. “The optimum scenario is that most fish are in 2' to 3' of water. On Okeechobee you have a mile of vegetation from the shoreline out to choose from, whereas on other lakes you don't have that benefit. At Clear Lake you have some areas you can go a hundred yards out, but it's 7' to 9' of water out there. Generally you have about 20' of shoreline where it's going to be real productive, because the closer the fish is to the topwater, the more bites you are going to get. Water clarity is important; if you have muddy water that's tough. The clearer the water, the better it is.”

During the spawn, the Heart Tail doubles as a great locator bait. It's enticing action has the drawing power to pull fish off their beds. Long casts are important and even if the fish don't connect with the bait, the mere fact that they have shown themselves is the bonus. Savvy anglers like Reese know to pay careful attention to visually track back to the fish's location. With it's location known to the angler, it now becomes a classic bed fishing confrontation.

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In the post-spawn, waking a Heart Tail remains an effective option. “You've got all these fish guarding fry, and that's when all the vegetation and shade lines come into play,” he explained. “Depending on where you live in the country, in California at Clear Lake and the Delta you can be into May and even June. When you have lanes in the vegetation and open water that's where this technique will be most effective.”

Tackle Deets

For Reese, waking a Heart Tail is a shallow water, heavy vegetation tactic that requires stout gear. He likes to throw fish the Heart Tail on a 7'6” Douglas Outdoors Flippin' Stick. This rod has a medium fast action with a little bit of rod tip and plenty of back bone at the handle which makes it ideal for making long casts, controlling the fish on the hookset and bringing it out of vegetation.

To go along with a big rod, Reese relies on 50lb braid and a heavy wire 7/0 EWG style belly weighted hook. This specialty hook has a small amount of lead (1/32oz) molded around the shank of the hook.

Color is an important consideration for Reese. He throws a variety of different colors including: Blue Back Herring (947), Gobi (967), Watermelon with black and red flake (208) and Green Pumpkin (297).

For professional anglers like Jimmy Reese, waking a soft plastic swimbait is an important tool in their arsenal. Perhaps it should be for you as well?