By Brandon Card
The Elite Series event on the Potomac River is starting soon and I am excited to get on the water. I have been there three times and each time the swim jig played a big role. The river really sets up perfectly for a swim jig. It is a great way to quickly cover water to find concentrations of fish and then once you find them, it's easy to slow down and pitch Senkos.
Perfect for Swim Jigs
The Potomac is definitely a grass fishery with milfoil in abundance in shallow water. There are scattered patches of grass just about everywhere and it's a great place to throw a swim jig because of all of the scattered grass is in three to four feet or water, which is exactly what I am looking for with these baits.
On the Potomac, you can cast in the lanes of grass and also focus on scattered clumps. I like to fish these clumps like I would target isolated logs, bushes and trees in other places of the country. I see these clumps of grass and feel that each one is holding at least one fish. I will make several casts to each clump from different angles before moving on to the next one.
One of the best things about the swim jig is how you can make it look and act like just about everything bass will eat. By changing the skirt and trailer color, the soft plastic trailer and also your retrieve, you can make it look like a shad or minnow, a crawfish and a bluegill.
If I am trying to imitate a minnow or shad, I will most often use a white or silver skirt for my jig. I’ll use a similar color for my trailer and will switch them up periodically.
The Yamamoto Zako (available late this fall) does a great job of imitating a small fish as does a 4” Swim Senko. Another one I like to use a standard 5 or 6” Yamamoto Single Tail Grub. Each of these will add the perfect baitfish imitator to the back of your jig.
I like to fish my jig by keeping them moving at all times, like a shad or minnow swimming. I fish it with a steady retrieve at a medium speed and will pop it when it bumps into something or hits a clump of grass.
Swim jigs also do a good job of imitating crawfish and I believe this is the predominate forage for bass on the Potomac. I’ll use crawfish colors like greens, browns with some orange for my skirt and plastic trailer. It is always a good idea to research the crawfish colors in your water. They vary based on where you live and some places like the California Delta, they are much more red.
I’ll also use an orange dye like JJ’s Magic to dip my trailer to make it match how they look. A crawfish soft plastic or 5” Yamamoto Double Tail grub does a good job of imitating the claws of a fast moving crawfish.
Since crawfish scurry on the bottom and just above the grass, I try to make my bait do the same. I fish it with a slow roll and will pop it up 10-12 inches a few times during a cast. I try to keep my jig just above the grass and will let it drop into holes of the grass I can see.
I use similar colors to those that I use when trying to match a crawfish, but will use more chartreuse instead of orange. I’ll also mix in blues and purples in the skirt.
Instead of the orange dye, I’ll use chartreuse to dip the tips of my trailers. One of my favorite trailers for this is a 5” Yamamoto Twin Tail grub. It is a wider trailer than others out there and has a good action that looks like the tail of a fish.
When it comes to the retrieve, I’ll pump my jig much more than I do with the other two. Instead of using my reel to impart action, I will rely on my rod to reel in, lift rod and then reel in the slack. I also try to keep it off of the bottom and moving just like a bluegill darting around.
The many different brands on the market are all pretty much the same design with the bullet-style head to help them come through grass easier. For me, the most important thing is finding one with the right hook and weedguard.
Some have really thin hooks and I try to stay away from these. It’s the same thing with a hook that is too big or too thick. I like a medium wire so it will be easier to get a good solid hookset on a long cast.
The weedguard thickness also varies from brand to brand. I like it to protect the hook, but not be too thick where it messes up your hookset. It should be about half as stout as the weedguard of a pitching jig.
Generally I will use the 3/8 oz. for just about all situations. This allows me to fish it quickly and also keep it in the water no matter how fast I reel it back. A ½ oz. model is usually too heavy for most situations, but I will use it when fishing the outside edges of grass and when the water is deeper than six feet. The same thing with the ¼ oz., it is fairly limited for me but does have a place. I like this size when fishing very shallow water, say 1-3 feet.
Rod, Reel and Line
When it comes to a rod and reel for swim jigs my selection is fairly simple. I want a reel that is not too slow and also not extremely fast, a 7.1:1 Abu Garcia Revo MGX reel on a 7’6” MH Abu Garcia Villain 2.0 rod is what I use for all of these swim jigs.
For line, I will use either 15 or 20lb Berkley Trilene 100% fluorocarbon the majority of the time. I’ll use the lighter 15lb when the water is really clear or when the grass is sparse. I am usually using the 20lb because it works when there is more grass around and I am not worried about losing a big one.
I’ll also use braided line, 30lb SpiderWire, when I am fishing a swimjig to imitate a shad. There are times when I really burn it fast just under the surface and I can get away with braid.
The Right Hookset
Another key with swim jigs is to have the right hookset. I think many people try to set the hook exactly like they would if they are pitching a jig and in my opinion that is wrong. I try to set the hook like I do with a swimbait.
When you feel a bite, the fish are often just grabbing the trailer and you should wait until you feel pressure. I do not jerk right away and instead will reel down to them, wait to feel the pressure and then lean into them.
Swim jigs are one of my favorite lures to use and places like the Potomac River set up perfectly for them. Expect to see many of the Elite Series anglers using them at this event, including myself. These tips should make you a better swim jig angler and help you catch more bass when they are in shallow grass.