Across much of the country, you’ll find a lot of lakes with shoreline vegetation. This stuff looks good, but it usually all looks good. There will often be miles and miles of water-willow, hydrilla, coontail, milfoil, dollar-lilies, lily pads and the list goes on. The problem? All too often, there’s way too much of this cover to breakdown. Especially with slower presentations. The answer? Search baits. Spinnerbaits, chatterbaits, buzzbaits and frogs all make great search baits given certain conditions. Another such search bait technique, swimming a jig.
Around the spawn, a swim jig can be deadly in shoreline vegetation. As soon as the water warms and the bass come off of their bed, I prefer a frog in shoreline vegetation but even then, a swim jig offers a great alternative when the bass won’t quite commit to a frog. But in the pre-spawn, a swim jig is hard to beat.
The Technique to Use When Swimming a jig in Shoreline Vegetation
The key when swimming a jig is not simply chuck and wind. You want to put a little action into the bait by working your rod tip. Quick pops of the rod tip also keep vegetation from piling up on the bait during the retrieve.
When you see a bass boil on the bait, it’s best to give just a half second’s pause if you can to make sure it gets the bait in it’s mouth before setting the hook. Sometimes this isn’t possible as the bass engulfs that bait and takes off with it and feels you right away.
If that’s the case then by all means set the hook!
But in thick cover like this, the bass very seldom have the ability to hit the bait coming towards you to cause slack in your line, so if you don’t feel the fish right away, it probably doesn’t have your bait. Snatching it away from the bass makes the fish less likely to bite again. But a couple more twitches after a miss and the bass is more likely to get the bait on a secondary strike.
When fishing high in the water column overtop of the vegetation that is almost topped out, a swim jig strike is more vertical. Similar to a frog bite. However when getting down into sparse vegetation in 3 to 5-feet of water, a bite may come from any side. That’s when you’ll often just feel the weight of your bait go away as a bass swims up behind it and eats it.
When fishing these lakes with massive amounts of shoreline vegetation, you’ll find that there are certain irregularities that can help you narrow down a pattern.
It may be holes in the vegetation where bass are trying to spawn or points in the vegetation that bass are using to ambush prey. One other key is to look for places where multiple types of vegetation converge. For instance, when water-willow meets lily pads or clumps of reeds in hydrilla lines. Those clues will often help you develop a pattern and eliminate a lot of water.
Gear for Swimming a Jig in Shoreline Vegetation
When putting together a swim jig setup, you have to take a few things into consideration. The density and depth of the cover you’ll be fishing plays a huge role in deciding whether to use braid or fluorocarbon. I prefer 40-pound braid when possible if the cover is heavy. Braid cuts through most vegetation and gives you the upper hand when trying to keep the bass from pulling you down into heavy vegetation. But in certain situations where the water is extremely clear, the vegetation is sparse and I need to get the swim jig a little deeper, I’ll move to 17-pound fluorocarbon.
Selecting the Right Trailer for Swimming a Jig
You also have to look at what depth you want your bait to reach when you’re deciding which trailer you want to use.
There are two basic styles of trailers for swim jigs, craws and swimbaits. Swimbait style trailers like the MISSLE Baits Shockwave offer less resistance and therefore allow the bait to get deeper in the water column.
Craw style trailers like the MISSILE Baits Turbo Craw have two big flappers which cause the jig to ride higher in the water column, allowing you to fish over vegetation that has grown up towards the surface a little easier.
So, I don’t use the trailer style as much to match the hatch as I do to assist in what I’m fishing. If I want the bait to get down in the vegetation, I go with a swimbait. If I want to fish over the vegetation, I go with the craw.
You should however use the color to match the hatch.
That goes for the jig and trailer. I’ll use black and blue or green pumpkin when trying to mimic bream and bluegill. When shad are the main forage, I’ll lean towards whites and shad patterns like blue glimmer.
Selecting the Right Rod and Reel for Swimming a Jig
Rod choice for me is typically a 7-foot, 3-inch medium-heavy. That rod size offers enough backbone to get fish out of heavy cover but also has enough tip to make accurate casts and prevent premature jerks that often lead to missing a bass when swimming a jig. A fairly high speed reel is key too to help cover water and catch up to fish when they make big runs. I prefer a 7.5:1 Lew’s Super Duty.
I like to throw a 3/8th ounce swim jig the majority of the time in shoreline vegetation but I don’t really have a favorite swim jig brand, just one main rule: it has to have a big strong hook. I’ve listed a few of the ones I have used over the years interchangeably below. They are all built with quality components and have a good hook.
My Setup for Swimming a Jig
Swim Jig Trailers:
Swim Jig Rod:
Swim Jig Reel:
Swim Jig Line: