Big Fish Eat Little Fish (2/6): Jig Swimming Lessons

Big Fish Eat Little Fish (2/6): Jig Swimming Lessons

I don’t eat fish. Big catch & release guy, and animal tastes better anyway. But fish eat fish which is why I keep a range of swim jig and trailer combos ready to rock when bait is schooling up. The Swim Jig offers you a lot more options than rigging a sexy shad Keitech on weighted hook like a peasant. There’s a time and place for that, but this blog is about basking in the shimmering, swaying, magnificent secondary action that comes with throwing around this type of jig. Swim jigs have just slight modifications to the other skirted jigs available. Typically companies design the baits with detailed paint jobs on the jig head. Usually swim jigs come with a lead or wire bait keeper just under the base of the skirt. All swim jigs are made with a lighter wire hook to ensure hook penetration when a fish strikes it as it swims through the water column. Swim jigs are most commonly made to imitate bluegill, pumpkinseed, and various types of shad. Those 3 species are essentially the value menu for largemouth bass across the country. Other dietary staples such as crawdads and adolescent trout skirt patterns are also options, but I don’t feel a swim jig is the best way to imitate them.

Now I want to take a second to discuss what I mean by secondary and primary action. Your primary action in swim jigs is the movement or action from your trailer. So if you’re using a paddle tail as your swim jig trailer the vibrating tail is your primary action because it is the most prominent movement as you swim your bait. The skirt of the jig adds that secondary action which set it apart from an underpin or a naked swim jig. The skirt will flow and puff as it comes through the water which mimics the finer details that are on real baitfish such as gill plate movement or reflection off of the fish’s scales. Just as the skirt action will help you catch more fish, it can also hurt your presentation if you don’t pay close attention to what your bait is doing in the water. You can’t just grab a few packs of boottails and give em’ a go. For example, if you’re throwing a 1/6 oz finesse swim jig paired with a 4.8 inch wide action Keitech, fish will laugh at your lure as it passes them in the water.

I won’t get too far into jig trailers this blog, that’ll be a series of blogs coming shortly, but for now be sure the sizes of your trailer and jig look natural. Possibly more important than that is making sure your skirt is not impeding the action of your trailer. Your trailer should swing freely back and forth without coming near the skirt. If you think it there’s a chance it is, simply flip the jig upside down so the skirt hangs over its head and trim it with a pair of scissors. I’ll also write a blog on jig modifications and how trimming skirts and weed guards effect your action, but for now just make sure your primary action is running perfectly.

Starting with the finesse jig and working our way up I’ll run you through the key differences and when to choose the best one for your situation. Finesse swim jigs are made with lighter weights, thinner skirts, and light wire hooks. I personally won’t buy anything heaver than 1/4 oz and nothing lighter than 1/8 oz for this application. If you don’t fish with baitcasting reels, this is the swim jig you should be throwing at all times. The reason being, the other swim jigs have thicker wire hooks and when fishing these jigs you have to set a single hook through the weedgaurd, all the while the jig is moving. It’s much trickier than swinging on a set of treble hooks. Without getting too into rods, a typical spinning set-up does not have enough backbone to drive any hook thicker than on these finesse jigs. Not to say it can’t be done, but in general your hook-up ratio will fall off big time as you move to heavier jigs.

If your fisheries have a lot of spotted bass or smallmouth this is the jig for you. Also if you’re a bank angler or typically fish ponds and smaller lakes this’ll be your go to because it just matches the size of the prey. Finesse swim jigs, and all swim jigs really, are an alternative to chatterbaits and spinnerbaits. It’s a great search bait, more weedless than a chatterbait or spinnerbait, and offers a more natural presentation.

I’m going to group the original swim jig and the California swim jig together because they can be thrown on similar gear and fished in similar areas. As you can see it’s just a meatier version of the finesse jig. Thick hook an weedgaurd, bulkier skirt, and obviously a heavier weight. You have to fish these swim jigs on a medium heavy baitcasting set up, with braided line to leader or a high pound fluorocarbon. I very rarely use a trailer that doesn’t have a wide action tail. The reason being is this presentation is a power-fishing technique so having a wide vibrating action will help bass key in on your jig.

The retrieve for swim jigs should be tailored to what the bass are looking for. I usually fish it more aggressively in warmer waters, retrieving a bit quicker and every once in a while pumping my rod upward twice-but only slightly. I’ll then move to a straight retrieve at different speeds, and when I really need a bite a stop-and-go retrieve is absolutely killer. The S&G is best when you fish the swim jig close to the bottom, reel two handle rotations, and stop for a brief moment. Ideally, you’ll start reeling again right before the jig hits the bottom, mimicking a baitfish searching for food. Don’t forget to switch up the cadence, the more unpredictable the better. Once water temps drop below 45-50 degrees, the most productive retrieve is fishing this jig like a Huddleston. Wait for the jig to sink all the way to the bottom and slowly creep it along. I can’t stress enough how important it is to just hover above the ground as you retrieve. The reason for this, and when you get the majority of the bites during these colder times, is when your jig bumps into some sort of bottom structure. Bumping into bottom will make the jig skirt quickly puff out. This makes it appear like the fish has been alerted and plays on the bass’s instinctive predatory reaction to strike before they lose a meal. Match the hatch to your fishery, on shad or shiner lakes buy some crystal shad or sexy shad jig patterns, if you’re a pond guy- watermelon or green pumpkin is a lifesaver. If you have no idea what the hell is going on down there then by a bluegill pattern- bass hate those little bastards.

Tight Lines,


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