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What You Need to Know About Tuning a Metal Lip Swimmer

Connor PD

Washed Ashore Fishing

One of the greatest features of the wooden metal lip swimmer is that the fisherman has the ability to adjust the depth at which the plug swims, on the go.

I'm sure that countless articles and videos have already been written and produced on this subject. However, I feel that it bears repeating as it can really improve your catch. 

It's a simple trick, and it can be the difference between getting skunked and catching fish. Sometimes, it even pays to tune a metal lip swimmer multiple times in a single trip. 


Tuning the Line Tie

There are two ways in which a metal lip swimmer can be adjusted to alter the depth at which it swims. The first is by adjusting the line tie on the lure. Almost all metal lip swimmers come out of the package with the line tie running straight out of the lure.

A "Washed Ashore Fishing" metal lip swimmer - with a straight line tie. 

By angling the line tie up or down with your pliers, you are able to adjust the depth the lure swims.

When adjusting the line tie upward, the lure will swim deeper in the water column.

Line tie facing up causes the plug to swim deeper.

By adjusting the line tie down, the lure will swim higher up in the water column, or even stay on the surface entirely.

Line tie facing down causes the plug to rise.

Just remember - up is down, and down is up

If you adjust the line tie up, the plug swims down, and if you push the line tie down, the plug swims up.

Tuning the Lip

The second method of tuning a metal lip swimmer is to adjust the angle of the lip.

I think it's important to preface this by first saying that you should never do this unless absolutely necessary.

It should also never be done to a fully-sealed lure, as it will leave the lure irreparably damaged.

Bending the angle of the metal lip will often times deform the lip ever so slightly, in such a way that it can't really be returned to normal.

Many builders who offer a lifetime guarantee against defects or worksmanship related errors, will not honor that guarantee if the lip has been adjusted or altered.

Lip shape has a significant impact o​n the action of the plug.

That being said, by adjusting the metal lip in the same way you would the line tie, you can alter the depth at which the lure swims. Again - up is down, down is up.

By moving the lip upwards, closer to a 90 degree angle, the lure will swim deeper. If you open the lip up, closer to a 180 degree angle, the lure will track closer to the surface. 

Change it Up!

These two tricks are simple, but have the potential to help produce fish when you're not getting bites.

Part of the beauty of metal lip swimmers is that you can alter the action of the plug on the go, with nothing more than a set of pliers.

A healthy bass on one of my "Washed Ashore Fishing" Small Swimmers.

Be aware of your surroundings, and adjust your plugs accordingly.

A small tweak of the either the line tie or the lip can make a significant difference when you're presented with changing conditions, or finicky fish. 

Thanks for reading, and tight lines!

What do you think?

Let me know by commenting below.

  1. All sound advise. Nothing is more fun than catching on metal lips in the dark.

  2. Heh Connor, nice write up, will put it to good use. My Tequila Sunrise Rainbait showed up a little while ago and what beautiful work it is! Can’t wait to throw out there. Nice job!

    1. Hey Gary!

      Glad your plug arrived safely and that you’re pleased with it! Thank you so much for the kind words! Can’t wait to see what you catch on it!


  3. Where can I purchase your lures?

    1. Reply
    2. Hi Garry,

      It looks like Gary Routenberg posted the link below. I had temporarily taken the saltwater plug page off the site last night for an update. It should be back online now.


  4. Do you have to worry about the screw eye developing metal fatigue and breaking off after multiple bending adjustments?

    1. I build most of my saltwater plugs with 316 stainless steel through-wire. For the most part, the adjustments are so small that it over the lifetime of the plug, you can expect to have other components, such as the wood, fail first.

      When adjusting lures built with screw eyes, you need to be a bit more careful, as shifting the eye can sometimes dislodge them if improperly inserted. Screw eyes should always be installed with epoxy inserted into the pilot holes. After that, small adjustments should not have a large impact on the integrity of the screw eyes unless you’re overly tweaking/adjusting.


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