Swim Jig Basics - By: Dan Brovarney
The secret is out. Swimming a jig is no longer the secret
technique of the hot shot Bass fishermen of the upper Mississippi river system
surrounded by Iowa, Wisconsin and Minnesota.
The technique of fishing a swim jig has been
around since about the time that Pitching became popular. The more observant
fishermen like the Tisher Brothers, Dave Snyder and Tom Monsoor realized that
their jigs were getting annihilated as they quickly reeled them back to the boat
for the next Pitch. The technique of swimming a jig evolved from those elbow
jarring strikes. They took home everybodyís entrance fees and when asked they
truthfully responded they were fishing a jig and just left out the swimming part
and details of the special design of the jig.
The next generation of Bass maniacs like Jim
Johnson, Jeff Ritter and Jim Jones took the technique to the next level and
started winning boats and qualifying for the Bass Masters Classic using a swim
jig. All the while they making sure their rods were safely stowed in the rod
locker away from prying eyes when they returned to the ramp at the end of the
Swim jigs stayed a secret until the media
started to climb in the boats with the competitors and recording their every
move on film. Watching the tape it was clear that they were doing something
different than ďjust fishing a jigĒ. With wins on the BASS and EVERSTART
circuits chalked up to swimming a jig the print media started searching for
details on the technique. Hopefully the following will reveal enough of those
details to get you started.
Simply put, swimming a jig is a technique
that combines specific fishing tools together in a combination that allows the
fishermen to quickly cover shallow water in search of aggressive fish, solidly
hook the fish and then get them out of heavy cover.
The most important tool is the one for which
the technique is named. A swim jig has a number of characteristics that make it
a superior tool for fishing the shallow cover laden water where this method
excels. The bullet shaped head design and 30 degree eye placement work to
supply a hangup resistant profile that slides up and over cover without catching
and flopping around. The aerodynamics of the jig body allows the jig to come
through the water tracking both flat and straight.
One of the reasons that the swim jig did not
go mainstream early on was that there were not any quality standard hooks
available that would fit in the bullet head. Most of the early swim jigs were
garage shop specials that fit the needs of the method. If the hook weighed to
much it made the jig top heavy and caused it either to swim sideways or slowed
down the time it took for the jig to return to upright after deflecting off
cover. Either scenario resulted in a jig that fouled up much too easily. Fine
wire bronze hooks were not the answer because they wouldnít take the beating
from the heavy cover. There were 28 degree wide bite hooks but they caused the
jigs to deflect off cover weird and were slow returning to upright.
There wasnít really a good hook available.
Most of the hooks used in Swim Jigs ended up being custom made. This meant that
if you wanted a suitable hook you were either hand bending an existing hook,
using a hook adaptor or spending a bundle on a custom run of hooks. What you
want is a Swim Jig with a small diameter, round bend, needle point, nickel steel
hook that has an eye that comes out of the front of the jig cleanly and with
minimal catch points.
Standard jigs have big bulky shirts with 60
to 80 strands that provide a big profile and helps a jig stay upright when it
sitting on the bottom. These are not characteristics that you want in a Swim
Jig skirt. Swim Jigs have 30 to 50 strands which allow the individual strands to
move and flex more. These sparser skirts and usually hand tied which
accomplishes a number of goals. By removing the rubber band that holds standard
skirts on the jig you allow the Swim Jig to glide over cover without catching on
the rubber band maintaining the Swim Jigs aerodynamics. There is no rubber band
to break and the skirt canít be pulled down the hook.
Swim Jig skirts are made up of some
combination of Silicon, Living Rubber and Tinsel. Silicon has far and away the
greatest selection of colors and is the material of choice for creating skirts
that range from subtle and realistic to loud and gaudy. There are hundreds of
colors with flakes, patterns and two tone variations available. Silicon has a
good reaction time, fluffs or puffs well and is durable.
Living Rubber is limited to about eight
solid colors. Living Rubber has a faster reaction time and is a little heavier
so it puffs and pulses more as it comes through the water. For a number of years
Living Rubber was in short supply because of a bankruptcy by the only
manufacture. Some of the better fishermen bought up all the could find to get
themselves through the shortage. There are now new sources for Living Rubber so
it is now, once again, readily available.
Tinsel is all about flash. The thinly
sliced colored mylar does not have the pronounced spring and puff of Silicon and
Living Rubber. Where it shinesÖ., is in providing flashes of color. Tinsel is
typically used as a highlight or flash point in either a Silicon or Living
The Swim Jig head can be painted one color
or multiple colors with or without glitter. The better swim jigs will share a
couple of characteristics. They will have an eye. Typically there are yellow
with a black dot for baitfish colored jigs and red with a black dot for crayfish
colored jigs. They will have a durable paint job. Jigheads painted with powder
paint that is then baked on will outlast all other methods. Last but not least
the jigheads eye should not be completely filled with paint.
A Swim Jig will have a weedguard. The
weedguard is also not typical in that it is thinner, sparser and limper than
you would find on a flipping or pitching jig. A flipping or pitching jig needs
the weedguard to prevent hang-ups while penetrating heavy cover and needs to be
stiffer. The weedguard on a Swim Jig needs to be compress easily to assure
hookups while having enough bulk to deflect off cover. The weedgaurd also
serves as a keel to help the Swim Jig run straight and upright. The weedguard
on a swim jig is typically half the size of those found on standard jigs.
The trailer you use on a Swim Jig will
really dictate itís performance. The trailer most commonly used is a single
tailed 3-6Ē grub. The grub will help keep the Swim Jig up in the water column.
The larger the grub and the bigger the tail the higher the Swim Jig will stay in
the water column. The grub needs to be made of a stronger plastic than most of
the grubs on the market. Action Plastics makes a series of grubs that is on
that fine line between durability and flexibility. Zoomís Fat Albert is also
an option when a smaller grub is used. The most important thing about the grub
is that it be rigged straight with the tail pointed down. The tail pointing
down will lift the back end of the jig as it is retrieved while greatly adds to
the jigs ability to run straight and come through cover.
Swim jigs are available in sizes from 1/8oz.
to 7/8oz.. All of those sizes have their uses at one time or another. I would
suggest trying them all after you have mastered the 1/4oz. size Swim Jig. A
full 80% of the Swim Jigs that Brovarney Baits sells are 1/4oz in size.
You do not need an extra heavy rod like you
would use for flipping and pitching to throw a swim jig. A 7í-0Ē medium heavy
graphite casting rod with a quick tip is ideal. You want to be able to load up
the rod for casting distance when you need to reach out and touch someone when
they start busting shad back in a pocket. The stiffer back bone will allow you
to get them out after you hook them.
My reel of choice is the, now out of
production, Curado 200 series. I donít know what Iím going to replace it with
when the stockpile of them in my basement is gone. You want a fast reel, 6.2:1
or similar which will allow you to really get it going. You can always slow you
hand down if you need to go slow.
Braid is the line of choice for tossing swim
jigs. With this rod and reel combination you can cast a country mile using 30lb
or 50lb Power Pro braid. Power Pro is round and limper than most of the other
braids. There are a couple of things that will make using it easier and more
productive. Put some backing on the reel before you tie on the braid. Braid is
slick and will spin on the spool if there is no backing. Remember that it is
fishing line and you using it around nasty stuff. If you donít retie with
regularity you will loose fish. You need sharp scissors to cut it. Donít even
think about using your teeth. The most important thing is how to prevent
backlashes. When the line starts to feel soft and mushy under you thumb a
backlash will happen. When the line feels like that make a long cast, strip of
a little line and squeeze the line between your thumb and finger to create
tension while you reel it in. This will tighten the line up on the spool.
Repeat as necessary.
Combining all of these key elements will
provide you with a quick responding, straight running bait that will start to
work as soon as it hits the water. A rule of thumb is to try and use it
anywhere you would think about using a spinner bait, weedless frog or shallow
running crank bait. You will be surprised at the junk this bait will come
through or across with a nice constant retrieve. Throw it out, start it coming
back at a constant speed as soon as it hits the water. Use the rod tip to guide
it by as many ambush points as possible on the way back. Coming over cover is
easier if you speed up rather than slow down. Speeding up makes the bait hop
over the cover and bottom first. Slowing down or stopping allows the bait to
roll on itís side and thatís when bad things happen.