A Walk Down Swimbait Lane with Big Bass
Angler Danny Gillespie (continued)
Do you remember
when you first came across a swim bait?
would be in the early 90's at Marv’s Worm King Shop. I stopped by one day to
pick up a batch of plastic worms I had ordered and Marv came out of the back
room and said "what do you think of these?". I took one from his hand (6" Worm
King) and asked what is it? He said "its supposed to be a trout", so I’m
looking it over carefully and he adds I gave a few to a guy who fishes Casitas
and he says he has caught some 10 pounders on them, so I said I will take a half
dozen since I’m fishing tomorrow. I went home and rigged them with a ¾ oz
Scampi Head (which I used with large Twin Tailed Mojo’s to fish for Calico’s
with) a Shimano Bantam with 12 pound Mono, on a 6 ½ foot Daiwa Pro Caster rod
(which I also used for Calicos) and headed to the lake the next morning. I
threw that bait for a few hours with no results, then started fishing jigs and
worms again. That night I kept thinking how good that bait looked in the water,
so the next day that was the only rod I took. I was determined to find out one
way or the other. About 5 or 6 hours into the day I caught a 10 pounder “WOW”,
man I can’t tell you how I felt at that moment, this was all new stuff,
unchartered water. I was already addicted to fishing for large fish and now
this! Very exciting times. It wasn’t long after Marv sold those baits
commercially and then came out with the 9” which the fish loved to crush.
Prototype Optimum swimbaits
At what point do you remember hearing the term Swim Bait being thrown around?
funny thing about the term Swim Bait, it came from a guy who rarely fished, my
Dad. One day I stopped by his house for a visit and to tune up a couple of Worm
Kings in his swimming pool. I was retrieving one of the Worm Kings and my Dad
looked at the bait in the water and asked what kind of a swimming bait is that?
That term stuck in my head and I began to use the term when anyone asked me what
I was catching my fish on. I would say Swim Baits. The reason for using that
term was it grouped all big baits at the time together so I wouldn’t have to be
so specific as to what bait or color I was using. A year or so later when Sean
Donovan sold his bait commercially he called it the Optimum Swim Bait, and the
term Swim Bait took off from there.
Top AC plug wood, Second Hat Trick
Plug resin, Third Homemade AC style plug wood, Fourth Same Homemade plug with 80
During this era was there any type of special patterns or finishes you liked to
was hard to beat original Rainbow but when I worked with Sean Donovan a year
prior before he started selling baits commercially I asked him to pour me a
"Dark Rainbow" Optimum which quickly became my favorite in sub surface baits.
The AC Type Woods just needed a white or off white belly to be effective. It
was so darn easy in those early days to get bit, you just didn’t need to be that
pretty, of course that all changed later. But in those early days I had surface
woods that had half the wood showing before I would touch them up with a little
spray enamel followed by a shot of clear coat and you were good to go.
Is there one lure in your box that you won’t fish anymore?
I have an old AC type plug that the fish wore the paint off a few times. I no
longer use it because I have others that work just as well and it looks good
hanging in my garage. I was given that plug from a guy who copied it off the AC
Plug, it didn't have very good action at the time so I tweaked on it and came
out with a nice tight wobble that the fish had a hard time resisting.
Daiwa Procaster Shimano Bantam
Worm King spooled with 12lb Maxima
What kind of setup did you throw this bait on? and around how many fish does it
take to wear the paint off a few times (smiling)?
started out with a 6 ½ foot Daiwa Pro Caster & Shimano Bantam with 12 lb.
Maxima. Then a bit later 7 foot Loomis MUR 843C Musky Sticks & Calcutta 200’s
still with 12 lb. The number of double digit fish on that one plug was 80
plus. Your probably thinking no way with 12 lb. line, but I’m telling you 12
lb. Maxima is very strong. When large fish have a mouth full it is not the
fighter it is with a single hook. I did however eventually go to 20 lb. test
because of an encounter I had with a Blue Heron over the rights to that plug on
Casitas in “95” and let me just say you don’t ever want to go face to face with
a Blue Heron. Ever.
What setups are you running now for swim baits?
throwing all my 8" and bigger baits with a G Loomis GL2 BBR 966, a saltwater
Daiwa Millionaire SW203 with 20lb Maxima monofilament and 20lb Seaguar
fluorocarbon. For anything under 8" I'm using a 7' Powell 704, a Shimano
Calcutta 250, and 15lb Maxima monofilament.
8lb spot on Zank's line thru at
Melones (top), 17lber hudd Pedro (left), 14lber Hudd fish at Don Pedro (right)
Switching gears up a bit, when you moved up to Northern California in 1997 you
brought your arsenal of big baits with you. How did it compare to fishing in
that’s a good question. One I thought you would ask. I moved to Sonora in
“1997” right between New Melones & Lake Don Pedro two awesome bass fisheries. I
had total confidence I would catch swim bait fish but I truly thought the best
was behind me. I could not have been more wrong. While the ratio of catching
teen fish (13lb+) was higher down in Southern Cal the numbers of 10 & 11 pound
fish in Pedro made up for it and then some. Then throw in Melones which was
full of more than willing 5 to 8 lbers and then factor in the number of great
consecutive years which far exceeded those of down South. When I began fishing
these lakes I couldn’t believe it was happening to me again, and again I
approached it the same way “Nothing lasts forever”. I relentlessly pounded
these fish knowing like last time at “Castaic” it would not last long. But
months turned into years before word got out and even then the awesome fishing
continued for several more years.
A magic day of 105lbs for 10 fish!
Over the years was there a personal accomplishment that you set out to
accomplish if so what was it?
mean other than meeting my wife Sandi? Fishing has been a huge part of my life
so I guess everyday on the water is a personal accomplishment for me. Fish or
no fish every day is a gift. As far as having something that drove me to fish a
little harder each day for many years, my goal was to catch the largest limit I
could each day. A 50 lb. bag was a special feeling. I guess it was just a
competition within myself.
Catching one 50lb limit is quite an accomplishment for any angler, how many big
limits have you caught over the years?
have caught 50 lb. plus limits 22 times with the largest going 63 lbs.
Before we wrap things up are there a few memorable days you can share with us?
Other then all my time fishing Calicos, there are a couple. They both happened
on Lake Don Pedro, one was in “2008” when I caught my last personal best a 17.2
pounder on a HUDD. What made that one so special, the first time I had her
hooked she came un-buttoned after only a few seconds and I knew I blew it.
After driving my wife crazy for a couple of days I went back to the same spot
three days later. I stealthed my way in from about 100 yards out and she bit on
the first cast, I got her in the boat and all was good! Those teen fish are few
and far between.
Another day was
in “2003” also on Lake Don Pedro. I was fishing a line through Swim Bait made
by John Viazanko which I believe was the first of its kind. It was just another
beautiful cloudy day on the pond with very few boats on the water. I caught
close to 30 Swim Bait fish that day with my best 10 fish going 105 pounds. Most
of the big ones came off of one spot. That was definitely a very memorable day.
have been so fortunate to have been a part of the beginning of the Swim Bait
I'd like to thank Danny for giving us a very candid peek into his fishing past
and sharing some inspiring stories. Having known him for some time now I can
honestly say he's one of the most humble fisherman I've met.