Last week, in part 1 of this two-part series on swimming jigs, we covered the basics — why you want to swim a jig, what your swim jig should look like and what gear works best for this technique.
In the finale, we're going to cover the rest of the mix, including when you should swim a jig, the best retrieves and how to rig your jig for action.
The water's always fine for swimming a jig says Ohio Elite angler Bill Lowen. He starts using the technique from the time the water warms up to about 50 degrees in the spring and keeps using it through the fall. In fact, he has one simple guideline for when jig swimming works.
"If you can catch them on a spinnerbait, you can catch them on a swim jig. I'll often throw a swim jig when and where I used to throw a spinnerbait," he says. "With so many other anglers out there fishing spinnerbaits and crankbaits, I think that just makes my swim jig more effective since it's so much subtler and more natural."
With such confidence in a swim jig, is there a circumstance in which Lowen would go with a spinnerbait instead?
"The one thing that's really different about conditions for fishing a swim jig rather than a spinnerbait is water clarity," he says. "You need more water clarity with the swim jig because it's a sight bite rather than a vibration bite. I like water clarity that's anything between gin clear and stained. If it's dirtier than stained, I'll go with the spinnerbait."
You've heard and read this before, but Lowen recommends you let the bass tell you what they want by experimenting with retrieves until you find something that works. For his jig swimming, though, he admits to lots of rod shaking.
"It's pretty subtle, but I do shake the rod most of the time during the retrieve," he says. "It's so subtle, in fact, that most of my co-anglers or marshals don't even notice it. They think I'm just reeling the jig back to the boat. With the right rod, though, the tip will do most of the work for you."
When he's not just reeling and shaking the jig, Lowen will occasionally "kill" it near cover to get a reaction strike from any bass using it as an ambush point. He very seldom lets the jig fall all the way to the bottom, though.
"I also buzz the lure just under the surface a lot. The head on my Bill Lowen's Swim Jig is perfect for getting the bait to lift up and work right under the surface. I like the 1/4-ounce jig for that and try to keep the jig in sight."
Just as buzzing is a popular spinnerbait retrieve, so is another of Lowen's favorite swimming jig maneuvers.
"In the early spring, or when the bass aren't in a chasing mood, I'll sometimes slow roll the jig just like you would a spinnerbait. I crank it just fast enough to keep it in contact with the bottom and any cover. For that, I like to use the 3/8-ounce jig.
According to Lowen, the hardest thing about jig swimming is picking the proper trailer for the job.
"There's no one trailer that's better than another," he says. "You just have to let the bass tell you what they want. Experiment until you figure it out."
Even though he's open to a variety of different trailers, Lowen does have his favorites, and most of his jig swimming is done with one of three: (1) a Berkley Chigger Craw, (2) a double-tail grub like the Strike King Rage Craw or (3) a single tail grub. His new favorite single tail is the Optimum Double Diamond; it's his choice in heavy grass.
In keeping with his theme of threes, Lowen typically opts for one of three different colors of jigs, and a fishing day will generally find three different rods rigged with his swim jigs (manufactured by D&L Tackle) resting on the front deck of his Skeeter. His favorite colors are black and blue, green crystal craw and white.
"Usually, one of those colors is going to work," he says. "Of course, if I'm in Florida I'll probably try junebug, and if I'm somewhere else that has a really strong color, I'll try that. Day in and day out, though, black and blue, green crystal craw and white get most of the work."
Lowen's confidence in fishing this very conventional bait in an unconventional manner is supported by a couple of Bassmaster Classic appearances and lots of other success on the tournament trail. He says that in his first year in the Elite Series he was "scared to death," and the swim jig led him to making his first five cuts.
It's a great big fish lure and technique, too. In 2008, Lowen caught the biggest bass at the Sunshine Showdown on the Harris Chain in Florida (10 pounds, 7 ounces).