By Ken Duke
Senior Editor, BASS Publications
If you’re like most bass anglers, you’ve cast jigs, flipped jigs, pitched jigs, hopped jigs, crawled jigs and even jigged jigs, but the only time you ever swam a jig was when you sprinted it back to the boat to make another pitch, flip or cast.
Well, you’re missing out. There’s more to jig fishing than what you’ve been doing. It’s time you started swimming a jig. For that, you’ll want a good instructor. Luckily, we have one of the very best in the business.
Meet Bill Lowen of North Bend, Ohio. What’s that? You already know Lowen — two-time Bassmaster Classic qualifier, Elite Series pro and generally all-around good guy who just happens to be the High Priest of jig swimming.
But did you know that his nickname is “Turtle”? Well, it is. And you definitely need to know when and how he swims a jig because it’ll put more bass in your boat.
Lowen came by jig swimming honestly. He didn’t pick it up from a buddy or take it from a tournament partner. He discovered it the same way most great fishing techniques are discovered. He stumbled upon it by accident.
“I was fishing a jig out on the Ohio River one day years ago and not having much success. After a cast I was reeling my jig back in to make another cast when I saw a bass chasing it. A few casts later, after I was done hopping or crawling the jig along, I reeled it in and another bass took a swipe at it. I thought, ‘Hey man, maybe there’s something to this.'”
Something indeed. After that experience, “Turtle” started swimming a jig more often. And it worked… a lot! He found that he was catching more bass by swimming the baits than by hopping or crawling them; and some of the bass he was catching were big!
Why Swim a Jig?
So why would anyone want to swim a jig when you could just as easily use a spinnerbait or crankbait or even a swimbait? The short answer to that question is, “It works.” Bass will strike a swimming jig, and sometimes they prefer it to those other lures.
For example, the swim jig is more subtle than a spinnerbait or crankbait. It’s not whirring, spinning, rattling or shimmying as it goes through the water. This not only makes it different from a spinnerbait or crankbait, it also makes it a great choice on heavily pressured waters that see a lot of blades and cranks.
Remember a few years back when everyone decided to use square-billed crankbaits in the places they had traditionally fished spinnerbaits? Well, now a lot of bass have seen the crankbaits. It’s time for something different. Swim jigs are that something different.
But what about swimbaits? Why not throw them instead? Well, for one you can put a weedless jig in places that you just can’t work a big, hard swimbait with treble hooks. And soft plastic swimbaits have big tails that kick up lots of fuss. If the bass want something subtler, a swim jig might be the answer.
What’s a Swim Jig?
According to Lowen, you can swim any jig on the market and get bit. But if you really want to succeed, you’ll do much better by using one that’s designed for the job. To that end, he’s worked with the folks at D&L Tackle to design “Bill Lowen’s Swim Jig” with all the right features.
What are the right features? “You really need a bullet-shaped head so it will slip through grass and cover with a minimum of hang ups,” says Lowen. “And the underside of the head needs to have a flat, planning surface. That flat part will help the jig glide over brush and other cover, but, more importantly, it gives the jig a little lift so that it comes toward the surface on the retrieve.”
That lift is more subdued, but similar to the lift that blades give to spinnerbaits and buzzbaits. It’s important to the way that Lowen likes to retrieve his swim jig, and it helps to keep his bait out of trouble.
The Right Stuff
For years, Lowen did all his jig swimming with a flipping rod, and at the end of the day he was exhausted. The rod just didn’t have enough tip action and he was fighting it all day to make accurate casts and pitches.
According to the Ohio pro, the perfect swim jig rod is between 7 feet, 3 inches and 7 feet, 6 inches long and has the butt and main section of a flipping rod, but the tip of a spinnerbait rod. The soft tip allows for more accurate casts and pitches and helps on hook-ups by giving the bass an extra moment or two to inhale the jig. The stout butt and shaft offer plenty of hook setting power with the heavy lines that Lowen prefers.
Turtle likes the Abu Garcia Revo STX in 7:1 for his jig swimming. The fast retrieve gives him the speed he needs to keep the bait up and moving. And, as he puts it, “If the reel’s too fast, you can always slow down.”
For line, Lowen uses Stren Sonic Braid in 30- or 40-pound test for all of his jig swimming. “It acts like monofilament or fluorocarbon,” he says. “I always use braid, no matter the water color or the cover I’m fishing. I just don’t think the extra visibility of braid matters if you’re swimming a jig.”
In Part 2 Lowen covers the best times to swim a jig, his favorite retrieves and how to rig your jig.
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