(Editor's note: The following is the latest installment in a series of fishing tips presented by The Bass University. Check back each Friday for a new tip.)
FLW Tour pro Brian Schmitt, a tidal water expert, started throwing a swimjig in earnest about a dozen years ago, and now it’s near the top of his favorite techniques. He’s developed a “finessey” prototype jig with a light hook and light weedguard for Hayabusa, but his tackle hasn’t changed much over the years.
He starts with a 7’1” mediu- heavy signature series rod from Fitzgerald Fishing. It has “a little bit lighter tip” than some others’ swimjig rods. That way, with the light wire of the hook, his quarry is “hooked before he even knows it.” He pairs it up with an Ardent Apex Grand reel with a 7.3:1 gear ratio – he can still slow the jig down when necessary, but if a fish knocks slack into his line and runs toward him, he can quickly catch up.
With that lighter-than-normal tip, it’s possible to use braid, but most of the time Schmitt employs 15-pound fluorocarbon. “I like the fluorocarbon simply because I feel like it’s invisible,” he said. “I feel like I get more bites. It still has the sensitivity that braid does, but probably gets you a few more bites, especially if you’re crawling it through grass.”
The last part of that equation is critical – the fish often seem to have changing retrieve preferences from day to day, depending on conditions or just mood. “You’ve got to play with the retrieve sometimes,” he said. He recalled one tournament where the fish were heavily pressured and bites were tough to come by. When he got his jig stuck in the grass and ripped it free he got a bite. Thereafter, he continued to pop the jig throughout the retrieve and went on to win. If fish are knocking slack in the line, he’s likely to burn the jig, and if they’re barely getting it he’s more likely to slow it down.
He’ll start throwing the swim jig early in the season, when the water may only be 48 or 49 degrees, looking for early or leftover grass. “They don’t have a million miles of vegetation,” so if you find those sweet spots you can load up. Usually you won’t catch many this way this time of year, but they’ll be big. The peak time for this technique, he said, is when you get near the spawn through the post-spawn.
He keeps colors and sizes simple, usually starting with a 3/8-ounce model, but going up to a half-ounce in instances of flood tides, heavy winds, or when he wants to get the jig deeper. Black and blue and green-pumpkin are his mainstay colors, but during the shad spawn or in the fall, when bass are chasing baitfish, an all-white version gets the nod. When bass are feeding on crawfish, he uses a Missile Baits Twin Turbo on the back, but when it’s a baitfish-oriented bite he’ll switch to a Missile Shockwave swimbait.
If you want to learn some of the other keys to Schmitt’s swimjig system, including the color adjustments that he makes in cloudy conditions for confidence, along with his advice for ultra-high or ultra-low tides, check out his full video, available only by subscribing to The Bass University TV.