Key Features of a Quality Swim Jig / Get Better at Swim Jig Fishing

Key Features of a Quality Swim Jig

Over the past several articles we have discussed the history of the swim jig, how and where to use it, different jigs, trailers and techniques. Here, I’ll lay out just a few additional pointers I came across while I was researching this bait. There is no doubt, they’ll help all of us become better swim jig fishermen.

Spring Swim Jigs All-Terrain Strike King and Dobyn's
The All-Terrain Tackle Swim Jig – one of my top selections for the coming season.

Swim Jigs actually developed as tournament anglers were burning their flippin’ and pitchin’ jigs back to the boat to make another cast. They noticed the baits would get clobbered at high speeds, and this “secret” was closely guarded for a time. In fact there was a period where the only way to get a swim jig similar to the ones we’re familiar with today, was to have a friend that made custom baits!

As with most baits – it was possible to keep the secret… until the camera crews started climbing in the tournament boats. In fact – if memory serves there was a very similar incident with Kevin VanDam and a hair jig he was using to smack bass while everyone else was having a rough time not that long ago…

The primary benefit of the swim jig is the fact that they allow you to cover a lot of water (especially shallow) looking for aggressive fish and then yank them out of all sorts of heavy weeds and timber.

Narrow Shaded Portions of a Stream
Looks good – start swimmin’

The wedge shaped head and the angle of the hook eye have a lot to do with preventing hangups. Usually an angle of about 30 degrees is preferred. These features combined help the bait slide up and over cover easier and avoid getting pinned or snagged. This combines with the skirt and the trailer so that the overall package tracks flat and straight.

If the head of the jig is too heavy or poorly made (very common in the early days when it was hard to find a hook to fit a bullet head at the right angle) it will make the bait nose-heavy, it will swim poorly and it will not deflect off of cover properly or get back on plane right away. It might even flop sideways and get tangled up.

This is bad news and defeats the purpose of using a swim jig in the first place.

Brovarney Baits Blue Crab Swim Jig
Brovarney Baits Blue Crab Swim Jig – a Prime Example of Proper Components

You want a stout hook. A reasonable diameter needle point with a round bend made out of nickel steel (or so I’m told) that comes out of the jig cleanly with minimal catch points.

The skirt on a swim jig is extremely important if you want it to look lifelike in the water. A skirt of about 30 to 50 strands is a good place to live. Other jigs can have somewhere in the neighborhood of 60 to 80 strand skirts, which will not more in the water, or flare on a pause or when deflecting off of cover. Fewer strands means more freedom of movement. If you want to take it a step further, look for a bait maker that offers hand-tied skirts instead of using cheap rubber bands that can catch or allow the skirt to slide down the jig on a fast retrieve or in heavy cover.

Typically the skirts are made up of tinsel (or mylar), living rubber or silicone. You want loud and obnoxious? Silicone offers a ton of color options. Flakes. Two-tones. Patterns. Tinsel adds flash to highlight your silicone or living rubber skirt. Living rubber pulses more in the water. It is also a bit heavier, but it comes in fewer colors than silicone.

A combination of all 3 is not uncommon.

When it comes to the head of the jig and the eyes, better quality swim jigs will have some combination of both. The jighead can be a solid color, two-toned, crackled or swirled with or without glitter. Eyes can be painted on (usually yellow with a black dot for baitfish imitators, red with a black dot for crayfish patterns) or some sort of fancy “3D Eye”. Jigs can be powder coated and baked for maximum durability. Some manufacturers advertise “triple coating” their jigs in epoxy or some hard finishing resin.

However they do it – it needs to be durable.

Spring Swim Jigs All-Terrain Strike King and Dobyn's
My Dobyn’s swimbait head showing a bit of wear & tear…

A weedguard is usually present, although like the skirt, it is typically thinner or more flexible that what you might find on a traditional flippin’ or pitchin’ jig. In some cases they are about 50% the size of their counterparts. Some are made of fibers, others thick fluorocarbon – but whatever the material, a good swim jig will have a weedguard that is straight (it acts as a keel in a sense); one that compresses without a ton of effort for solid hookups, but also helps the bait deflect off of cover when necessary.

The trailer can have a massive effect on how the swim jig rides in the water column, although these are usually added by the angler to match the conditions, not included with the jig out of the package. Large trailers with big paddle tails offer much more lift that a curly tail grub. The larger tails also thump more rhythmically and produce a slight rolling action, while grubs imitate frantic, fleeing baitfish and kick off a ton of smaller vibrations. They also track in a straight line. When rigged with the tail down, it can add some lift and help the swim jig plane out easier on the retrieve.


Sizes? Typically 1/8 ounce to 7/8ths – and everything in between. 1/4 ounce is an extremely popular size, especially for grass, timber, brush, and general shallow sparse cover. Most people at least start with a 1/4 ounce swim jig, then fine-tune from there.

Spring Swim Jigs All-Terrain Strike King and Dobyn's
Strike King Tour Grade Swim Jig with a Swim-N-Shiner

As far as a rod and reel, you don’t need anything extra fast, but a good medium-heavy to heavy action rod with a lot of backbone will help you load up and launch the bait a long distance when you need to huck it a country mile. Personally I like a heavy action and a rod length from 6′ 10″ to 7′ on the button. I use a somewhat fast baitcast reel (anywhere from 6:1 thru 6.4:1), although by some standards these could be seen as “moderate” retrieve ratios.

I spool up with straight 30 to 50 lb braid (Power Pro, Sufix Y6 and Berkley X5 have all worked well for me) aside from a 2 to 6 foot fluorocarbon leader (14 to 20 pound Berkley Vanish) connected with a back-to-back uni knot, that is then tied to the bait. Fluoro sinks, braid floats – so a larger leader will be both more abrasion resistant and sink more, which can help get your bait down – you’ll need to work with this and find the combination that works best for you.

Just make sure you watch out when using braid if you’re rubbing against rocks, branches and pilings – it will fray and break. Fluoro usually won’t, however it tends to jump off the spool a bit more, especially on windy days. Mono isn’t a bad choice if it’s on the heavier side and you look for a brand with low stretch.

As with almost every presentation in fishing – the ultimate rod, reel and line combination will be the one YOU are most comfortable with. You decide what works and then run with it!

Moving Forward

So get out there with your favorite combination and start chunking a swim jig anywhere you’d usually throw a spinnerbait, wakebait or shallow running crank. Try a nice steady retrieve often, then try burning it, and feel free to add a few twitches to flare the skirt and drop the jig a touch.

Mix it up… then… hold on.

2020 Fishing (Resized for Gallery)
Swim Jig Largemough Bass. Gimme gimme.

Tight lines.

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