The vibrating swim jig catches bass. It can mimic a variety of things that are in the bass food chain, from bluegill, to shad, even a crawdad. There is no doubt that media started the phenomena know as the chatterbait, however, it’s bass (the fish) that put this bait in so many anglers tackle boxes. Just like with so many other baits, the branding of the chatterbait caused anglers to refer to any jig with a flat blade attached to the front of it a “Chatterbait”. Take the “Senko”, it’s a cigar shaped soft plastic stick bait, Yamamoto has the market cornered. Now generally all baits of this design are called a “Senko”, no matter what brand it is. The actual name for a chatterbait is vibrating swim jig, and chatterbait is a brand of that bait. I mention this because through the rest of this article on how to fish a vibrating swim jig I’ll be referring to it as such, and just didn’t want any confusion.
Vibrating swim jigs are the ultimate in a “dummy bait”. Simply cast them out and retrieve them and they will catch fish. The reason I call them the ultimate, is that they are more weedless than the previous ultimate dummy bait, the crank bait. A steady retrieve catches fish. Many times, a productive retrieve can be only a matter of finding the speed that bass want this bait. However, that said, there are many tweaks and options to the vibrating swim jig, and I’m going to cover a few.
By varying the skirt of a vibrating swim jig, you can change its appearance just like a standard jig. Many anglers get stuck on the traditional colors, white and or a combination with chartreuse. This is really limiting what a vibrating swim jig can mimic. While these are great colors shad are not the only thing bass eat, this bait can mimic the full spectrum of what bass consider a menu. With watermelon and pumpkin skirt colors, you are now representing a blue gill or bream. With reds and browns, you can give the appearance of a crawfish. The combinations are endless, and we’ve only discussed the skirt. Like a jig, the skirt is only part of what makes up a vibrating swim jig.
Vibrating swim jigs, being basically a jig, work well with trailers. Everything from single or twin tail grubs, to craws, to small swimbaits, make for great trailers. I use a lot of grub type trailers for the added action. You’ll have to experiment with trailers, creating different combinations, to see what you like in varying water conditions. A rule of thumb for me, in calm cooler water I like little to no trailer action, on windy banks or if the water is above 55 degrees I like to have something with quite a bit of kicking action behind it. Trailer colors are endless. Using soft plastics of your choice, experiment with different combinations. In clear waters (obviously this is relative to your region) I like baits that are as natural to what the prey of the day is and with little contrast in color. An example would be, should I feel bass are feeding on bream I’ll use a watermelon and pumpkin skirt with a green pumpkin trailer. If the water is stained with the same feeding conditions, I’ll dip the tail of the trailer in chartreuse. However, if the water conditions are muddy I will go with a black trailer on the same skirt for starters. In muddy water, I like to have obvious contrast with the color. Just like with a jig, colors and trailer combinations are endless. Before you get overwhelmed, do as I have done, start with proven color combinations from your jig arsenal.
This bait is so versatile that it is effective without a skirt at all. Many companies offer a vibrating swim jig with various soft plastic bodies in all shapes and sizes. Small swim bait bodies, soft plastic crawfish bodies, grubs, even the wide range of creature baits work well on the vibrating swim jig. I will remove the skirt from the vibrating swim jig and add a grub when I am confident fish are feeding strictly on shad or minnows. After a cold front is another good time to consider removing the skirt, this will create a bait with a fair amount of action, without the large profile of the skirt.
The only things left to decide are what color jig head and the color of the blade it’s self. I know several anglers that take the color of the jig head into very serious consideration. I personally haven’t seen much to suggest one color is better than the other. I mostly match dark heads to dark colored shirts and light heads to light colored skirts. The blade it’s self, originally, always came silver. However, now many different brands are offering colored blades. Prior to this I never really concerned myself with the color of the blade and figured the flashy finish was and attractant for the bait. I have learned, over the years, that on dark days coloring the blade can help produce more strikes. I simply use a black magic marker and knock the shine off the blade. I have experimented with white, red and blue but really haven’t seen an advantage over simple black.
The retrieve for a vibrating swim jig can be as simple as a slow steady retrieve to as complicated as working a jerk bait with a series of jerks and pauses. More often than not a simple steady retrieve is effective. After you find the position the bass are holding in the water column, adjust your retrieve speed to allow your bait to reach that level and entice strikes. More complex retrieves can involve applying simple twitches and pauses in your retrieve to give the bait a more erratic action than it naturally has. I only add action to the bait if I feel the fish are sluggish and need a little help to make up their mind to strike. The vibrating swim jig naturally has a very erratic action on a basic steady retrieve it will bounce side to side and up and down, creating a very strong pulsating action in the water. If bass will not strike it like this on a simple steady retrieve; twitching the rod will cause the bait to jump to the side a little more violently and then a split second pause as the line catches up. This can be all it takes to make a bass commit to eating it.
I like to fish the vibrating swim jig around cover. It’s very effective in open water as well but really shines in cover situations. Timber is probably it’s most effective presentation. I’ll line up several pieces of timber and make a long cast past all of it. Then working the bait back to the boat, I try and bounce it off of the timber just like I would with a crank bait. A vibrating swim jig is not perfectly weedless. However, I’ve discovered that if you keep it moving it glances off of most objects. If that doesn’t draw a strike, I’ll make the same cast a second time. However, this time I’ll pause the bait next to the pieces of timber. And finally, if that didn’t produce I’ll retrieve it as low in the water column as I can, moving it just fast enough to keep the blade on the front vibrating.
The vibrating swim jig will catch bass very well in grass situations. However, it takes some patience to work the bait though the vegetation. Because of the blade on the front of it, coming through grass isn’t one of its better attributes. That said, you can shake and snap most any vegetation that accumulates on the blade during the retrieve. If you feel the blade stop vibrating, usually, a quick snap of the rod tip and it will free it’s self. I believe it works so well in vegetation because of the hard vibrations it produces. Bluegill and crawfish create heavy vibrations, compared to minnows or shad, when they move through the water. Bluegill and crayfish live and flourish in vegetation, so when the vibrating swim jigs comes swimming by its a very natural presentation to the bass.
When the water is cold and fish are sluggish, a lift and drop presentation is very effective. Simply cast it out as you do with jigs to points, drop offs, and ledges. After the bait hits the bottom, lift it quick enough to feel the pulsating action and then let it fall back to the bottom. You’ll have to experiment to find out how fast and how far you’ll have to lift the bait to draw the attention of the bass in the area. The lifting portion of this retrieve is simply to create a reaction from bass, while the fall is when you’ll get the majority of your strikes. Becoming a line watcher is very helpful with this presentation.
In using a variety of different retrieves, the vibrating swim jig is a very productive bait. I have one tied to my line every time I hit the water, no matter what time of year. Many anglers have vibrating swim jigs in their tackle arsenal, but few use them. This makes them a great bait to turn too when the majority of anglers are tossing spinnerbaits or crank baits. The vibrating swim jig will give the bass in a highly pressured area something new to look at.
The version of a vibrating swim jig I use is called the Vibrashock. I can’t say I’ve used every version on the market, but I can say I’ve used many. The Vibrashock, by far, gives the best vibration, is the most durable, and hook up ratio is fantastic.
Next time you’re out on the water dig that vibrating swim jig out and give it another chance. I have personally found that not only will it catch numbers of bass, it will produce bigger bass. The vibrating swim jig is one of the highest confidence baits I own.