What is a Swim Jig? / Get Better at Swim Jig Fishing

What is a Swim Jig

The jig.

Possibly the greatest fish catching contraption of all time.

In it’s simplest form, it’s a hook with some lead attached for weight… then just add a bit of meat. A crawler, a leech or a minnow. Jigs can be used to bump bottom and entice bites with a simple raise-lower retrieve that many of us learned to utilize as our first step beyond the bobber.

But jigs have evolved. Some jigs are still for meat, but some are for pitching plastics, and some are for swimming.

What Makes a Swim Jig Unique?

Over the past 20 years or so, swim jigging has become a refined art. We’re no longer just swimming ballhead jigs with curlytail grubs (although some swear by this presentation for smallmouth bass); instead, we have access to countless jig-and-trailer combinations. Often, matching the right jig to the right skirt to the right trailer is critical if you want to get bit.

The swim jig itself usually has a tapered or streamlined head to slip through grass, weeds and timber better than other jighead styles. The skirt can be thick or sparse – allowing anglers to make the proper selection based on cover, conditions and local forage, and colors combinations are all across the board. The hook is usually some sort of heavy gauge offering unless you are using a “finesse jig”. Swim jig trailers come in all shapes and sizes.

Strike King Tour Grade Swim Jig
Strike King Tour Grade Swim Jig: Bluegill pattern (notice the heavy gauge hook).

These jigs are tailor-made for working around heavy cover and horsing monster bass from the depths!

Where Did Swim Jigs Come From?

According to In-Fisherman Field Editor Steve Quinn:

… zipping a jig through the shallows can cover more water and entice bass that rarely see such a look… [this] terrain has been the home of the spinnerbait or more recently, the bladed jig. Swimming a jig was considered off-beat when a few river experts began using it over 20 years ago. It’s a technique that may seem too simple to work well, but the results speak for themselves.

That’s certainly one thing we have learned in our quest to minify – in most cases; the simpler, the better.

The Swim Jig is believed to have gained popularity on river systems, as anglers soon realized they were potent on largemouth and smallmouth bass alike. Many tried the technique on clear lakes with vegetation, but found few situations where the bait worked as well as it did on the river… that is, until they started using them earlier in the season…

When Should I Use a Swim Jig?

As with most presentations, there is not a “right or wrong” time to throw this bait. However, certain conditions do seem to increase its overall effectiveness.

When bass are holding shallow around the spawn or in early summer – particularly when there is a slight breeze, earlier in the day or under cloudy conditions – it is very possible for a swim jig to outfish finesse presentations like stickbaits or flukes. Prespawn bass can also be taken on swim jigs, as these fish start to push shallow to feed and warm their bodies before looking for spawning areas.

Usually after spawning these fish will seek deeper water, however in some bodies of water this shift or transition never takes place.

In both of these instances one of the main benefits of the swim jig is the ability to cover a lot of water at a medium to fast tempo. Use long casts and a straight, steady retrieve to start. Work the shallows, then fan cast an area. Add in pops and hops by twitching the rod tip if you’d like to speed up and slow down the jig. Keep in mind some anglers say this is a good way to get bit-off by pike up north… but still, it’s worth experimenting – just be sure to add a wire or fluorocarbon (40lb+) leader to avoid losing jigs!

Swim jigs can work most of the season – from early spring and deep into fall.

How Do I use a Swim Jig?

Retrieve speed and cadence are very important when it comes to swim-jigging – as with most techniques. In some instances slow-rolling your jig through stickups and vertical, emergent vegetation (bulrushes, lily pads) is the ticket. At other times, working it quickly along piers and hard edges, or along the side of boat docks can work well. This is especially popular in large reservoirs in summer. Swim jigs are also surprisingly weedless, so don’t be afraid to explore standing timber, toss your bait straight into submerged brush, or work down a rip-rap shoreline poking into pockets and irregularities.

See what I mean? There really isn’t a “wrong way”… to swim jig.

Bites can come unexpectedly – and often violently. Swim jigs have a reputation for generating above-average aggression in largemouth and smallmouth bass for some reason. Hits may come on the straight retrieve, but they will also come as your bait makes contact with other objects. If your jig skims over a log or bounces off of a boulder, stick or stem it can look like something is wrong and signify an easy meal (much the same as a crankbait bouncing off of objects).

Finally, don’t be afraid to work the bait both high and low in the water column. Remember that the top is actually an “edge” that fish use to trap baitfish and other delicious looking forage. Keeping your swim jig high in the water column makes it very visible and an easy-looking meal for active fish.

Moving Forward

Next, we’re going to go over some of the more popular swim jig options that are available today. Then we’ll dive into trailers and even some tips from the pros. We’ll pick out a few new swim jigs to try this season, because where I live the ice and snow are just starting to melt… and you can bet a swim jig is going to be one of the very first lures I tie on this spring.

Last year I became a believer.

2020 Fishing (Resized for Gallery)
One of my first fish from last year on – you guessed it – a swim jig.
2020 Fishing (Resized for Gallery)
Another pig on a swim jig.

Try one out – I bet you’ll become a believer too. Tight lines!

NEXT SECTION: The Top 10 Swim Jigs

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