Versatility At Its Finest…Swim Jigs
By Glenn Walker
Tournament bass anglers began making their own swimming jigs after they realized that the jig—a proven bass-catching lure—worked well when it was swam 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.
For anglers to become successful with this technique, they will need to garner the knowledge of how versatile swimming a jig is and all the components that help make a successful day on the water.
The Swim Jig
The key components of a swim jig include a bend in the hook eye that is around 30 degrees. This allows the jig to swim through the vegetation and not get hung up. A balanced head is important 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 manufacturers are now producing a “swim jig,” and I suggest you try them all to find your favorite, but I rely on an RC Tackle Swim Jig. Above I talked about the importance of a well-balanced head, and the RC Tackle jig has just that. The eyes of this jig are drilled out to help remove the weight that would cause the jig to wobble and roll.
Some swim jigs have a wire plastic keeper; others rely on the angler using superglue to keep their trailer in place. The jig I like to use has a custom-made ribbed section of lead on the shaft of the hook to keep the plastic securely in place. The weight of the plastic keeper is on the shaft of the hook and again helps keep your swim jig running true in the water column.
The weedguard is another important component of the swim jig. You do not 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, and 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. On the 1/4-ounce RC Tackle Swim Jig, a 5/0 super sharp hook is used, and this hook not only allows for the angler to make long casts and still get superior penetration, but this hook will not bend.
The most commonly used swim jig trailer is the single-tail grub. The majority of the year I use a five-inch grub on my swim jigs. If the fish are in a sluggish mood or are feeding on smaller baitfish, then I will downsize to a four-inch grub. This makes your lure presentation more compact and matches the hatch in a situation when the bite is tough. 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.
The 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.
Other popular and creative swim jig trailers included using soft plastic frogs, Zoom Swimming Chunks, Zoom UltraVibe Speed Craw and soft plastic swimbaits.
The retrieve and technique of swimming a jig is based on how the bass are feeding and what they tell you about how they want the bait to be retrieved. There are three basic retrieves that I employ when throwing an RC Tackle swim jig. Those retrieves include: a steady retrieve, a reel and twitch, and a slow roll.
When starting the day out, a steady retrieve is a good choice, because it allows the bass to react to the bait, and in turn will give you more details on how the bass want the bait presented. If the bass are following up the swim jig on the slow and steady retrieve but not biting, I will switch over to the reel and twitch.
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 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.
A slow roll retrieve is perfect for when the bass are holding tight to structure that is bottom oriented. 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 out my jig, let it sink down and retrieve it just fast enough to keep the tail of the grub moving. The slow roll retrieve also works very well when bass are feeding on crawfish. A slow-moving swim jig along the bottom does a great job mimicking a crawfish.
Selecting the color of your swim jig comes down to several things. The first and most important in my mind is water clarity. If the water clarity is good, 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 the water clarity. 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 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. The first is to pick a color that compliments 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, bluegill 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.
Location, location, location!
The majority of areas and situations where a swimming jig will shine revolve around shallow, structured-filled waters. One of my favorite and productive times 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 when 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 on the Mississippi River is to throw 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 watches it come across the mat will track it to the edge and strike as your jig falls into the open water.
Offshore locations are also prime spots for the swim jig. Switching from my standard 1/4-ounce jig and going to the 3/8-ounce size allowed me to get my lure deeper in the water column where the bass were holding tight to the bottom.
Two areas where I find the deep swim jig bite to be successful are flats and weedlines. The flats can be a rock or weed flat, but just retrieving the swim jig back and letting it tick the tops of the weeds or bumping into the rocks works very well.
When I use the swim jig to fish deep weedlines, I will 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’m 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.
The swim jig is such a versatile lure; by understanding it and putting it to use on your next fishing trip, you will become a more versatile angler and will put more bass in your boat!
Glenn has been fishing tournaments for 10 years, spreading his passion and knowledge of the sport via articles and videos. He keeps busy fishing events across Minnesota and on the Mississippi River. Glenn’s sponsors include: Humminbird, Jeff Belzer Chevrolet, LakeMaster, Mercury Marine, Minn Kota, Onyx, Plano, Rayjus, RC Tackle, Seaguar, Snag Proof, The Rod Glove, Trokar and Wright & McGill. For more information check out glennwalkerfishing.com or on Facebook at facebook.com/glennwalkerfishing
Proper Gear for Swimming Jigs
• 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 reel with a high-speed 7.01:1 gear ratio.
• 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’ rod. I’m now using the 7’2” Wright & McGill Tessera Series Jig/Worm rod. The extra length allows me to make longer casts, and with its soft tip, I have the ability to work the swim jig, but it also has plenty of back bone.
• Line: The type of cover I am fishing 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 30-pound Seaguar Kanzen Braid. But if I’m fishing in open water with sparse vegetation I’ll use 15-pound TATSU fluorocarbon.