BaitSmith - 6 Inch Swimbait
Author: Rob Belloni
The Baitsmith swimbait became widely available in early 2007. This 6" bait weighs a hair under 2 ounces and comes in six colors. The stock hook is a 5/0 Mustad Ultrapoint, and there is a wire loop on the belly to add a stinger hook. Each bait is hand painted, and the eyes are painted on (not glued). The Baitsmith sinks slowly, and planes up on the retrieve. I have not cut the bait in half to check, but it feels like a combination of foam and lead is used to balance the bait. These lures retail for around $28.
Because the Baitsmith is in many ways a Huddleston clone, it would be impossible to write this review without drawing comparisons. The first thing worth noting about the Baitsmith is that it is available in a 6" size. Many anglers were anxious for a smaller Huddleston to become available, and by being first to market with the smaller size, Baitsmith was able to capture a lot of sales. So my first pro for this bait is the simple fact that it's a Huddleston-like lure in a smaller size.
My expectation when I see a clone lure is that the quality will be poor. This is not true with the Baitsmith. These lures are well constructed, with clean molding and precise detail. I have not seen any Baitsmiths that swam crooked out of the package. The hardware is affixed firmly inside the lure, and the fact that Baitsmith took the time to put floatation inside the lure shows their commitment to quality.
If you have not realized it already, putting floatation inside a swimbait is the key to making it swim true at all speeds. I don't know of any lures that did this before the Huddleston, but I do have boxes full of swimbaits that have only lead in the harness that swim just a little off. Kudos to Baitsmith for taking the time to make these baits right. I believe we will see many more lures with floatation in them in the near future. It's difficult to do from a manufacturing standpoint, but it's the key to a true swim.
The colors on the Baitsmith are excellent, and also serve to differentiate the lure from the Huddleston. Chartreuse shad has been a popular pattern, and the hitch minnow patterns are geared toward Clear Lake, where the Baitsmith has been mopping up tournament money at a rapid rate this year. Hitch are chameleons, with the ability to change color and hue to match water clarity and sunlight conditions. With three hitch patterns available in this lure, you can match conditions on the water.
The action of the Baitsmith is about what you would expect, however it does have a nice vibration to it that is worth dissecting. I have always believed that bass are tricked by the Huddleston in part because the anal fin "swims" as the tail kicks. This is what I refer to as secondary action. Secondary action makes lures look alive. The Baitsmith gets secondary action in the pelvic fins, anal fin, and dorsal fin. The composition of the plastic is stiff enough that the lure looks twitchy in the water as you speed it up. This additional quiver gives the lure a fleeting, harried look as it moves. It's something like the vibration thrown by a chatterbait; not as dramatic as that, but enough to draw fish from a distance.
I like the thin profile of the Baitsmith and this lure has hookup ratio written all over it. This lure is a tournament fishing weapon plain and simple. You can conceal your trap hook between the pelvic fins, even going so far as to impale the hook points in to the fin for more weedless action if so desired. The lure is small enough that if you are fishing over the top of grass, you can get away without any trap hook at all. Catching three and four pound bass on this lure should be no problem.
With solid construction comes longevity. I would expect to get 10 or more fish per bait on this lure. It uses a heavy, injection type plastic that can pull and stretch without tearing. Your dollar per fish value with the Baitsmith should be excellent.
The eyes on the Baitsmith look OK, but they do not reflect the light like a real fish's eye does. I'd like to see a brighter metallic background color under the black pupil of the eye. The dingy gold used on the baits now just does not look right to me.
For the trout imitating anglers, the Baitsmith only offers one color option. This is a whitish, pale pink trout pattern with a sparse dot pattern. I don't see trout in real life that look like this. A juvenile 6" trout is going to have more distinct parr marks, more dark green/blue on the back, and a heavy spotting pattern. In Northern California there are lakes like Shasta where trout reproduce naturally in the rivers, and small trout are common in the lakes. There are also occasions where the CA trout hatcheries will be forced to stock small, 6-8", trout because of problems at the hatcheries. These trout are dark in coloration, with dirty grey bellies. A dark, well spotted pattern could enhance the color lineup for Baitsmith.
My biggest complaint with the lure is the sink rate. These baits take forever to sink, and the second you turn the handle they start shooting toward the surface. I like fishing slow, but I don't like wasting a lot of time on each cast waiting for the lure to get to the proper depth. This problem is exacerbated when you use heavy line like 25lb test. The heavier line causes the Baitsmith to come to the surface even faster. A model with a ROF12 or ROF16 equivalent sink rate could improve the Baitsmith offering a great deal.
Overall, this lure is fast becoming a proven tournament performer. It has been winning or contributing to most of the recent Pro/Am victories at Clear Lake. With the Baitsmith you get Huddleston like performance, at a reasonable price, in a smaller size, with quality color options. We'll be hearing a lot more about this one in the future.