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Swimbait Review


RatRumble : The RioRat by Hill Country Swimbaits


Date: 5/3/21
Tackle Type: Lure
Manufacturer: Hill Country Swimbaits
Reviewer: Cal

Total Score: 7.83 - GOOD

Whether you refer to them as swimbaits or big baits, here in California, this style of lure used in pursuit of largemouth bass is kind of old hat. Yet, around the country, and really, around the world, the movement has never been more popular. From Japan to Italy to Australia, new builders and even more baits debut almost every month. The builder of today's bait made their official start in 2019. Based in San Antonia, Texas, Hill Country Swimbaits offers a wide selection of baits from multi-piece swimmers, to two-piece glides in gill, shad, and trout profiles. The subject of today's article is in a classification that has infested TackleTour HQ. We have a plan to root them out, but the invasion promises to endure through the Summer and likely into the Fall. Introducing the Hill Country Swimbaits Rio Rat.


Hill Country Swimbaits Rio Rat Specifications

Type Waking or Crankdown
Length 10 3/4"
Weight 2.9oz
Depth Surface Lure
Material Resin
No. Pieces Two
Joint Style V w/ Pin and Screw Eye Joint
Bill Angle 70d
Hooks 2x #1 (Owner ST-36)
MSRP $135


Introducing the RioRat by Hill Country Swimbaits


Impressions & Craftsmanship: Hill Country Swimbaits's Rio Rat measures ten and three quarters of an inch from the tip of its nose to the tip of its tail. In our lab, it weighed in at two point nine ounces (2.9oz). It is a two-piece rat of narrow stature with protruding ears, a fun nose detail, and beady little, rat like eyes. The bait has legs and feet that are molded up close to the body as if the Rio Rat were taking up a posture ready to pounce on that overgrowth of surface vegetation California Delta Anglers like to refer to as cheese.

The RioRat has a more cute rather than menacing look

Of course, that's not the type of cover this bait was designed to be fished - quite the contrary. In fact, Mike Evenhouse, one of the trio of partners that makes up Hill Country Swimbaits, tells us the Rio Rat is designed for a slow, sultry Samba in clear water where time in the strike zone is more important than the commotion of a hasty fly by.

Both the fore and hind legs are articulated in the bait's shape

Ready to Rumble: Topwater rats like the Rio are essentially wake baits, but because of their fun, recognizable profile, they've become a specialty classification all to themselves. Typical rod specifications to fish these type of baits are something you'd use for large, deep diving crankbaits. Something in the seven foot, six inch to eight foot even (7'-6" - 8'-0") range with a slow taper (moderate, mod-fast, etc.) will work. Lure ratings should be up to at least four ounces (4oz) with a max line rating in the twenty five to forty pound (25lb - 40lb) range. The rod needs to be stout enough to move these oversized baits when you swing for a hookset.

I fished the RioRat on board a rather unconventional combo

The choice in fishing reel comes down more on the side of line capacity than anything else. Slower retrieves ratios simplify matters, but given this is a topwater technique and you can see your bait as you're working it, it's very easy to slow your rate of retrieve even with a super fast reel. So in order to talk about reels, you need to first, decide on what kind of line you want to use. More than any other type of top water bait, this all comes down to what you're comfortable with.

The tail looks to be custom poured and not a re-purposed plastic worm

Fluorocarbon is not usually a line I'd recommend for topwater baits because its density causes the line to sink. This will affect most topwater baits. Rats and other wake baits are so big, that tendency of fluorocarbon to sink has little to no affect. Since visibility of your line in a topwater application is of minimal concern, braid also works, and of course, the old standby is nylon monofilament or the copolymer of your choice. If anything, when using fluoro, nylon mono, or a copolymer, with such big, heavy baits, I'd recommend choosing a line with a verifiable diameter of at least 0.400 millimeters give or take a hundredth of a percentage point. For some manufacturers this is their twenty pound test, for others it is their twenty five or thirty. The point is, fishing line at this diameter has good impact strength at the knot for reliable hooksets. Braid diameter is a little more difficult to verify, but .300mm has worked for us as a minimum size and this usually equates to around fifty pound test.

The tail is held in place via a centerpin attached to the rear of the bait within a recessed cavity

Having laid all that out, my choice in combo for the RioRat comes down to one of those "do what I say, not what I do" moments. As an individual who tests a lot of tackle, part of that responsibility is pushing the limits and using product in unconventional ways. I don't do this simply for the sake of being different, but only when a piece of tackle hints that it is capable of more. Legit Design's Wild Side WSC72H+ is one of those pieces of tackle. This is a seven foot, two inch stick with a max lure rating of fifty eight grams (58g) or two ounces (2oz), but is capable of so much more. I have it paired with a Daiwa Steez Limited spooled with fifty pound (50lb) Seaguar Threadlock Hollow Braid with a top shot of twenty pound (20lb) Seaguar Gold Label Fluorocarbon Leader (measured dia. of 0.359mm).

The RioRat does not come with a split ring. With baits like this, I use a snap for a few different reasons, but mostly because I feel it gives the bait an extra degree freedom of movement

The RioRat comes with a bare line tie meaning there's no split or solid ring attached to the front of the bait. Many will simply tie direct to the line tie. With most baits like this, I use a snap, but especially with wake baits because I feel the snap gives the bait a little extra wiggle room encouraging a more free range of movement. Another reason I like to use a good quality snap is more out of paranoia. I don't trust that those line ties are entirely smooth and free from sharp edges or spurs that might slowly abrade your line. Lastly, when testing a piece of tackle, snaps give me the freedom to switch things up quickly and not shorten my leader with continual reties.

The RioRat's position at rest

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