Jul 5, 2017
Swimming a Jig for Bass all Season Long
Why This Technique is so Versatile
By: Glenn Walker
A technique and lure that has become a main stay for any bass fisherman, regardless of where they live or what bodies of water they fish, is one that originated here in our backyard of Wisconsin on the Mississippi River.
Tournament bass anglers began crafting their own swimming jigs after they realized that the jig, a proven bass catching lure, worked well when it was swum back to the boat. Through numerous prototypes and countless hours on the water, the swim jig and the technique that accompanies it took the Midwest bass tournament scene by storm.
The anglers that were on the forefront of this new technique racked up countless tournament wins and heavy limits of bass, prior to other anglers learning of this trend. Now, an angler’s tackle box will have a wide array of swim jigs in it. Tackle companies wanted to create the perfect swim jig and offer it to all anglers across the United States, since this technique gained popularity all across the country.
A swim jig is not just a lure, it is a technique, and like all techniques there are key situations in which it shines. For an angler to become successful with this technique, they will need to garner the knowledge of how versatile swimming a jig is and all of the components that help make a successful day on the water.
The key components of a swim jig include the bend in the hook eye; most jigs on the market have a bend that is around 30 degrees. This allows for the jig to slide easily through vegetation as it is retrieved. A perfectly balanced head is crucial because you do not want your swim jig to roll when it is being retrieved; a rolling swim jig destroys the natural looking appeal that a swim jig has.
Numerous manufactures are now producing their version of a swim jig and I suggest you try them all to find your favorite. Many of these companies are local to a certain area and pride themselves on design and craftsmanship. One key feature on a swim jig is how the plastic trailer is secured to the jig; some swim jigs have a wire that secures the plastic, while others have a molded lead keeper below the head of the jig. Whichever style is used, you want to make sure it keeps your trailer in place without having to use super glue, although putting a dab of super glue is still useful to maintain a secure connection.
The weedguard is another crucial component of the swim jig. You don’t need nor want the heavy weedguards that come on a standard flipping jig, so it is important to look at the weedguard and trim it down to your desired thickness. It is important to not flair out the weedguard because it acts as a keel. If it is flared too much on one side or the other, it will make the jig roll.
As with all fishing lures, the hook is the key component that will dictate if you will be able to get that bass into the boat. Many times you are making long casts with a swim jig, so you want a hook that will provide superior penetration, but at the same time not bend out when fighting a big bass.
A lot of the retrieve and technique of swimming a jig comes down to how the bass are feeding and what they tell you on the water about how they want the bait to be retrieved. There are three basic retrieves that I employ when throwing a swim jig. Those retrieves include: a steady retrieve, a reel and twitch and finally a slow roll.
When I begin the day on the water and am throwing a swim jig, I start with a basic steady retrieve. This allows the bass to react to the bait and, in turn, tell me how they are feeding. If the bass are following up my jig and not biting it, or maybe they are just nipping at the trailer, I will switch over to the reel and twitch retrieve.
The reel and twitch requires the angler to do as the name implies, retrieve the swim jig and every so often twitch your rod tip. What this does is it puts a natural looking action to your swim jig and entices a following bass to strike your bait. This technique works extremely well in the late summer and fall when the bass are feeding heavily on baitfish, because when you twitch your swim jig it mimics the baitfish perfectly.
Early in the season when bass are sluggish, feeding heavily on crawfish, which inhabit the bottom of the lake or river, or just holding tight to structure on the bottom, I like to slow roll my swim jig. I use this technique a lot when I am fishing rock flats with scattered vegetation in 6 to 10 feet of water. I’ll cast my jig out, let it sink down and retrieve it in just fast enough to keep my trailer moving, will still maintaining contact with the structure.
The most commonly used swim jig trailer is a single tail 5-inch grub; this jig/trailer combo is a nice compact presentation. It is important that the tail of the grub is pointed away from the hook. This will increase its action and decrease the chances of it getting hung up on the jig’s hook.
Switching over to a double tail grub is a good choice when you want to add some bulk to your jig and create a larger profile for the bass to key in on when feeding. The double tail grub is my choice when I am retrieving my swim jig slow and letting it crawl along the bottom to mimic a crawfish.
There are a plethora of soft plastics on the market that also serve as great swim jig trailers, two of my favorites include small swimbaits and craw imitating plastics. Anytime bass are feeding on baitfish or panfish, using a swimbait as a trailer is a great choice. The new 4” Zoom Swimmer is a great option as it adds bulk to your jig and the paddle tail of the bait emits a nice thump.
My go-to swim jig trailer over the past few seasons has become the Zoom UltraVibe Speed Craw. The reason is much like the swim jig itself, this trailer is very versatile. It is compact, so I can make long casts and it caters to a finicky bass’s tastes. It puts off a nice action, whether I’m bringing my jig in at a steady pace or I’m twitching it through the water column. And lastly, it can mimic a craw, panfish or shad.
Selecting the color of your swim jig comes down to several things; the first and most important item is the water clarity. If the water clarity is good, then I will select a jig color that looks natural and portrays the forage that the bass are feeding on. When you go to a new body of water it is important to determine what the bass are feeding on and to evaluate what the water clarity is like. If the water clarity is poor and the bass aren’t able to zero in on the swim jig before biting it, I will select a color that catches the bass’s attention and stands out in the tinted water. Here is a list of my top color picks and the time of year that I use them.
- Spring: Black/Blue, Chartreuse/White, Bluegill
- Summer: White, Black/Blue, Chartreuse/White, Bluegill
- Fall: Shad patterns (White, Splatterback Shad and Sexy Shad)
When selecting the trailer color there are two ways you can go about selecting one, the first is to pick a color that complements the jig color, this creates a very natural looking presentation. I tend to follow this idea when the bass are feeding on shad in the late summer and fall, bluegills throughout the year and crawfish.
The second idea behind picking out a trailer color is to use one that contrasts the jig color. Early in the season I like to use trailers that grab the bass’s attention, especially if the water clarity is poor I use colors like white and sapphire blue.
The majority of areas and situations that a swimming jig will shine revolve around shallow water that is filled with various forms of fish holding cover and structure. One of my favorite and most productive times of year to use a swim jig is following the spawn when the bass are guarding their fry. A swim jig does a great job imitating something trying to disrupt those fry and bass will destroy your jig.
A similar situation the swim jig is a good lure choice is when the bluegill and other panfish spawn. Bass will stalk the shallows looking for an easy meal and a swim jig brought through the panfish spawning areas will pay off.
Ambush points are obvious in many areas, whether they funnel down in weeds, channel openings, current breaks, docks, lay downs or bottom composition changes, they all are great areas to catch bass. Fishing these areas is where swimming jigs shine because you can present your lure effectively through the cover and you can cover a vast amount of water in a short amount of time.
One of my favorite ways to fish a swim jig during the summer months on the Mississippi River is to cast it on top of weed mats. The key to fishing weed mats with a swim jig is to get the bait coming across the mat to the edge and then dropping it. Anything that was watching it come across the mat will track it to the edge and strike as your jig falls into the open water.
Don’t discount offshore areas with structure for fishing a swim jig, by switching from the typical standard ¼ oz. jig and increasing to 3/8 or ½ oz. jig, will allow you to get the jig down to the bottom where the bass are holding tight to the structure.
Two areas where I have found the deep swim jig bite to be successful are atop flats and along weedlines. The flats could be rock, sand or weeds, but just retrieving the swim jig back and letting it tick the tops of the weeds or bump into the rocks works very well, many times when other lures fail to garner a strike.
When I use the swim jig to fish deep weedlines, I cast the jig out beyond the edge of the weedline, then quickly engage my reel and bring the swim jig back in so it ticks the top of the weeds. Then, when my jig gets to the edge, I let it fall down the face of the weedline. If I am able to make a cast parallel to the weedline, I let the jig sink down to the edge of the weeds and steadily bring it back to make sure it stays in the strike zone.
- Rod: The size of the rod an angler uses for fishing swim jigs is a personal preference. Some anglers prefer a shorter rod, while others rely on a 7’ or longer rod. My personal choice for a rod is a Witch Doctor Tackle Shaman (SIIC72MH), this 7’2” has a fast action which allows me to impart action into my jig, but its medium heavy power allows me to hook up with the biggest of bass in dense cover and get them into the boat. A fast action rod is suited for fishing with fluorocarbon, but still works when using braid if you are huck and chucking distances to cover water.
- Reel: It is important to use a reel that can quickly pick up the slack in your line, because many times the bass will run directly at you and picking up the slack line is crucial. I like to use a Wright & McGill Victory II or Pro Carbon reel with a high speed 7.01:1 gear ratio to accomplish this.
- Line: Depending on the cover I am fishing my swim jig in, will dictate the line I choose. If I am throwing my jig on top of the slop or around lily pads, I will use 40 lb. Seaguar Smackdown Braid, but if I’m fishing the jig in open water with sparse vegetation, I’ll use 15 lb. Seaguar TATSU Fluorocarbon.
The swim jig is such a versatile lure and technique. By understanding it and putting it to use on your next fishing trip, you will become a more versatile angler and put more bass in your boat!
Glenn Walker has been fishing tournaments for over ten years, spreading his passion and knowledge of the sport via articles and videos. He keeps busy fishing events across the Midwest and on the Mississippi River. Glenn's sponsors include: Bass Boat Technologies, Ducky Products, Humminbird, Jeff Belzer Chevy, Mercury Marine, Minn Kota, Plano, Rayjus, Seaguar, Simms, Snag Proof, T-H Marine, The Rod Glove, TroKar, War Eagle Custom Lures, Witch Doctor Tackle, Wright & McGill and Zoom Baits. For more information, check out GlennWalkerFishing.com or on Facebook at facebook.com/glennwalkerfishing.