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 everybody’s 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 day. 

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 “just fishing a jig”.  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 wouldn’t 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 wasn’t 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 can’t 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 shines…., is in providing flashes of color.  Tinsel is typically used as a highlight or flash point in either a Silicon or Living Rubber Skirt. 

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 it’s performance.  The trailer most commonly used is a single tailed 3-6” 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.   Zoom’s 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 7’-0” 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 don’t know what I’m 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 don’t retie with regularity you will loose fish.  You need sharp scissors to cut it.  Don’t 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 it’s side and that’s when bad things happen.