Jigs and big bass go together. The combination of a rubber-skirted leadhead and a plastic or pork trailer has fooled countless numbers of giant bass. The crawfish-mimicking characteristics of a bottom-bouncing jig is a time-proven winner.
However effective the jig-and-pig on the bottom is, the combo is equally as effective when used in the middle of the water column. The swim jig is a darling on the pro tours. It's a deadly approach for better than average bass. Leave it to a trophy hunter to take something to the extreme.
Matt Allen is a 26-year-old big bass aficionado from Vacaville, Calif. In the past six or seven years, Allen has become one of the rising stars of the trophy-hunting community. In that time, he's caught 46 largemouth bass weighing more than 10 pounds, many smallmouth more than 6 pounds and several spotted bass that eclipse the 5-pound mark — mostly on swimbaits.
However, over the past couple of years, swimming a jig has become not only a go-to tactic but Allen's new favorite. "It started as my way of trying to improve upon the swimbait" said Allen. "Swimbaits are great, but they have action that is generally limited to tail action and a little body movement. From what I've seen on the water, baitfish have gills, fins and a tail that move. The jig better represents that to me."
Another benefit of the swim jig to the young Californian was that it gave him a more effective bluegill imitator. "Bluegill- or bream-shaped lures are notoriously inefficient in strike-to-land ratios," said Allen. "Bluegill colors on minnow- or trout-shaped baits work, but a jig gives me a bulky panfish profile, with the efficiency of a jig on the business end."
His swimbait history in mind, Allen shies away from traditional swim jigs and gear. Because he is targeting the kind of fish that bend hooks and break hearts, his gear is built for the approach. He uses a Dobyns 765 Flip paired with a 7.1:1 Shimano Curado 200DHSV and 65-pound-test braided line with a 20- to 25-pound-test mono leader bonded with a blood knot.
The leader is not for visibility concerns. It's to protect big bass from harming themselves with their brute force. "Early in my experimentations, I saw the potential for bass to injure themselves with so little give in the combo," he explained. "I add a 7-foot leader of mono in 20-pound test around grass and 25-pound test around rock or wood. It adds a little shock absorption."
With such stout tackle, he uses a jig that'll also maintain its integrity in battle. His choice is a 1/2- or 3/4-ounce Dirty Jigs Tour Level No Jack Flippin' Jig in either Alabama Bream or Crappie colors. Then he threads an entire 5-inch Roboworm EZ Shad swimbait on the hook. He uses the Prizm Perch color for matching the bluegill jig and the Hologram Shad when fishing the Crappie color for largemouth, but chooses Stocker Trout when targeting smallmouth and spotted bass.
His lure choices are by preference and not obligation. He has no connection to Roboworm and purchases the baits he uses. In fact, only recently has the owner of Dirty Jigs begun working with him on the jigs. "I fish what I need to succeed," said Allen. "This combo has just the right tail action, and the tail kick makes the jig wobble back and forth enough to create action in the jig."
He retrieves the jig fast enough to see the tail begin moving the jig back and forth. "The weight of the jig will basically dictate the speed of my retrieve," he said. "I only reel fast enough to keep up with the lure. I don't want to overdo it." His favorite situation is to locate a patch of sparse grass clumps and use them to his advantage.
"Anglers are trained to work the lanes between clumps with spinnerbaits, lipless crankbaits and Chatterbaits," he said. "Bass get used to things flying by and over them, and bury in the grass. I use the swim jig to plow through the clumps; the jig often doesn't make it to the other side." That's his favorite situation, but he also uses the technique around wood, docks, rock and for suspended fish, and the depth makes no difference — nor does time of day.
Allen reports incredible success after dark. The approach has accounted for "too many 7- to 9-pound fish to count" and two 10-pounders to date, along with several big smallmouth and spotted bass. "It's a lot of fun, and while you might retrieve it like a swimbait, try to remember that it's a jig," he said. "When they bite it, jack 'em hard and grind them in like you would any other jig." Allen is committed to educating fellow anglers and is actively involved with sharing his tips and techniques.