I recently had the opportunity to talk with Spencer Clark about how and when to fish a Swimming Jig. I know it’s a popular bait choice among the professional anglers for the spring months and thought it would be a great subject since spring is just around the corner. A little history on Mr. Clark, he is a collegiate angler who fishes for Truman State University. He qualified for the National Guard FLW College Fishing National Championship by placing second along with Mike McCarthy Jr. in the College Fishing Central Division Regional Championship. Last year Spencer and Mike McCarthy placed 2nd and 5th at Lake Ouachita and Bull Shoals lake respectively in College Fishing
UB: Spencer, what do you look for in a swim jig? Head shape, weed guard strength, hook, and any other characteristics?
Spencer: When it comes to selecting the perfect swim jig I look for one that has a head shaped like the keel of a boat. That kind of a head design is going to allow the jig to cut through the water a lot easier and ride higher in the water column. I want my swim jigs to have a weed guard that is soft enough for easy hook penetration with just the right amount of stiffness to keep it from hanging up. When it comes to hooks the jig needs to have one that is ultra sharp and one that is heavy enough to pull big bass out from vegetation or out from under boat docks. I really like to throw one that has a 5/0 light wire Mustad Ultra Point hook in it with a 30 degree angle. When you are fishing vegetation it is a necessity for the line tie to be vertical instead of horizontal. The vertical line tie allows the jig to cut through vegetation a lot easier and keep it free. All of these features can be found in the OMEGA Custom Tackle Revelation Swim Jig and that is why it is the only swim jig that I ever use.
UB: If you do, how do you recommend the weed guard be trimmed on a swim jig?
Spencer: The great thing about using the OMEGA Custom Tackle Revelation Swim Jig is that the weed guard is ready to fish right out of the package. I do not make any modifications to the weed guard.
UB: What is a good all around trailer to use on a swim jig, something someone that is learning the technique can use to catch fish and build some confidence with?
Spencer: One of the best all around trailers to use on a swim jig would have to be the Hyper Freak from Lake Fork Trophy Lures. The bait has a large paddle tail which gives it a lot of action and vibration in the water and the underside of the bait is flat which allows it to skim real easy over cover. The vibration that it puts off in the water really draws the bass out of vegetation and it comes through brush really well.
UB: I’ve been told not to use a thin tailed grub as it will get tangled in the skirt and on the hook easily, agree or disagree? and do you have any other does and don’ts in selecting a trailer that you can share?
Spencer: I would have to agree. If you are fishing a thin tailed grub a lot of times it will get balled up on the hook which will give your bait an unnatural presentation. When I am fishing I try to be as efficient as possible and wasted casts do not help you put bigger and better fish in the boat. Big bass are not dumb and if you can’t make the perfect presentation on your very first cast to a piece of cover you are not going to be able to have a very successful day. When it comes to selecting trailers you want to be sure to select them according to the type of cover and water clarity that you are fishing. The darker the water the more bulk I want to add to my jig with the trailer. The clearer the water I want to have a smaller profile along with a lot of action.
UB: What are some of the larger trailers you have used to generate a slower fall or allow for a slower retrieve?
Spencer: When I want to create a slower fall or allow for a slower retrieve I will put a Lake Fork Trophy Lures Fork Frog on the back of my swim jig. The Fork Frog has legs that are at a 90 degree angle to the body which creates a lot more resistance and allows me to craw my swim jig back to the boat at a really slow pace.
UB: What different types of retrieves are used when fishing a swim jig?
Spencer: Most of the time when I am throwing a swim jig I will reel it back just fast enough so that the bait is just barely visible while giving it small twitches of the rod tip. Another retrieve that I do is reeling it fast enough with the rod tip high so that it will bulge the surface. If you are fishing docks a great way to retrieve your jig is to reel it quickly down the side of the dock and whenever you come to a post be sure to hit it and kill the jig. That dying action will a lot of times elicit strikes from the big ones. One last technique that I try and keep on the down low is cranking a jig. I will actually use a 3/4oz OMEGA Custom Tackle Derek Remitz Signature Series Football Head jig for this technique. I will throw the jig across a rocky bank and reel it back making sure that the jig is hitting every rock on the bottom like a deep running crankbait. I have caught a lot of big fish utilizing this technique and it is one that your average angler just isn’t going to go out there and try. It works wonders around highly pressured rip rap spots where bass see all kinds of crankbaits and spinnerbaits.
UB: In regards to the retrieves you just listed can you elaborate on when you might use each, what time of year, what water conditions?
Spencer: The steady retrieve works great during all times of the year. I really like to bulge my swim jig when I am fishing shallow cover and the water is dirty. It is also a deadly retrieve when working grass lines and around bedding fish. The fast retrieve with the kill works great like I said on docks and when fishing any vertical cover. It can be great on fish that have pulled out on standing timber. Banging a football jig along the rocks works really well during the shad spawn as well as when the crayfish are out and about in the spring time. There isn’t really a wrong time to throw a swim jig. If the water is cold in the spring just be sure to slow your retrieve down. The fall is a totally different story. During the fall you might have water that tops out at only 50 degrees but the bass will chase down your swim jig and crush it.
UB: Which retrieve is probably the most productive?
Spencer: The most productive retrieve for me is the steady retrieve to where you can just barely see the bait with a series of small twitches.
UB: What kind of fishing conditions will guarantee there is a swim jig on your deck?
Spencer: A swim jig is always on my deck from the time the fish start hitting the banks till early winter when they start to move back out on deep structure. I fish at a fast pace and like to cover a lot of water so the swim jig fits my angling personality. When a lot of anglers might pick up a spinnerbait that is when I will pick up the swim jig. My best swim jig days have been when there is a little bit of wind on the lake. Cloudy days can be phenomenal because they will typically move the fish shallower but I have had a lot of great days on the Ozarks throwing jigs around boat docks when it has been blue bird.
UB: Are there fishing conditions when a swim jig just isn’t a viable option?
Spencer: When the water is really cold, say in the 30’s, I believe that there are a lot of better options to put bass in your boat. When the water starts to hit the 50 degree mark I think that the swim jig is something to really consider trying. I have caught fish in water as cold as 40 degrees in the fall on the swim jig.
UB: If you could only have three color swim jigs, what would they be and why?
Spencer: If I could only have three colors they would have to be black and blue, chartreuse shad, and bluegill in that order. I have caught way more fish swimming a black and blue jig than any other jig. The reason why I believe it works so good is that the bass in off colored water do not get as good of a look at the jig as they do a white one. When I throw a swim jig it is also during the times of the year when a lot of people are throwing spinnerbaits. Most people throw a white or a white and chartreuse spinnerbait and by throwing a black and blue swim jig I am giving the fish a different presentation and throwing a color that they are not constantly seeing. The bluegill color is more of a seasonal one for me. It works wonders when the bass are spawning or hanging out around the bluegill beds.
UB: If you’re getting bites but seem to be missing fish, do you adjust your jig color, jig weight, or trailer first?
Spencer: If I am getting bites but seem to be missing fish the first thing that I will adjust is my retrieve. I might have to adjust my trailer or jig size in order to get the speed that I am looking for but speed is one of the most crucial parts of the equation. If fish are short striking my jig a lot of times that means that I have to speed it up or slow it down and changing the jig weight or trailer are two ways to do it.
UB: With get out and practice being the number one way to learn to fish a swim jig, what would be your number two recommendation?
Spencer: My second recommendation would be to check out some of the online videos about swim jig fishing that OMEGA Custom Tackle has to offer on YouTube.
Mr. Clark I would like to thank you for taking the time to answer some questions and give us all some great tips that I know will help improve my fish catching arsenal. Spencer gets to visit the Ultimate Bass Forums once in a while, so if you see him there be sure to thank him for his support!
Get the Net it’s a Hawg