By Brad Wiegmann
Swim jigs have a reputation for catching big bass out of heavy cover. There is no telling how many tournaments have been won or giant bass caught on a swim jig. Of all the swim jigs built, Santone Lures’ has a reputation for having the best designed and constructed.
Fishing a swim jig can be as easy as taking one out of the package, putting on your favorite trailer and casting it out towards cover or structure then reeling it back in. Sure you will catch fish doing that, but if you really want to catch big limits or giant bass consistently, presentation is the key to being successful.
“Over the past few years a swim jig has become my go to lure. Of course the only one I will fish with is the Santone Lure Chris McCall Rayburn Swim Jig. Its designed to always track true right out of the package, it never rolls no matter how fast you reel it, you can fish it through the nastiest stuff without getting hung up and the head design gives the trailer a lifelike shimmying action,” said professional angler and recent winner of the FLW Rayovac Texas Division, Chris McCall.
What swim jigs do better than any other jig is come through cover and structure effortlessly while resembling forage. They can be fished in all kinds of aquatic vegetation, around docks, riprap, boulders, wood or any place where bass use to ambush forage. Anywhere you go, a swim jig will catch bass.
Not just any jig can be used for swimming through cover and structure. The wrong jig head style will get hung up on everything it comes in contact with or not resemble forage to induce a strike.
Legendary Texas reservoir, Sam Rayburn, has been an extensive testing site for eminent lure designer, professional angler and fishing guide, Brian Branum. “The Santone Lures Sam Rayburn Swim Jig (www.santonelures.com) gets its name from where it was designed, tested and has become one of the hottest selling swim jigs in the past five years,” said Branum. He noted a numerous tournaments across the United States have been won on the Rayburn Swim Jig since they were first built.
“Earlier in my fishing career, I noticed an angler fishing with a homemade light wire round ball head jig reeling it in fast to catch bass. It wasn’t the best jig head or hook for the application, but it did catch a few fish. I decided to build my own jig for fishing this technique, however, instead of reproducing his jig design, I came up with a completely different jig with a larger head with a different shape and a bigger, stronger hook,” said Branum.
Branum also designed the Santone Lure Rayburn Swim Jig to have a two tone paint finish on the jig head and weedguard. “By making the jig head and weedguard two tone it breaks up the profile resulting in more bites,” said Branum.
He also included Center Eye Technology in the design of the Rayburn Swim Jig. “Center Eye Technology means the eye of the jig is moved back towards the rear of the head towards the hook point. The end result is a better hook up ratio for anglers,” said Branum.
“The Rayburn Swim Jig also features an innovative flat angle head. It allows the swim jig to be hopped around lay downs, stumps, docks or just on the ground without hanging up because the flat part keeps the lure upright. An angler can also put a swim bait on the jig and its design will make the lure have a lifelike shimmy,” said Branum.
Although a swim jig can be fished anywhere successfully, professional bass angler Dickey Newberry noted that on Sam Rayburn Lake or Toledo Bend Reservoir at certain times of the year fishing a swim jig behind the grass line or on top of the grass line can be deadly for catching bass. “You’re really missing out if you don’t fish a swim jig when big bass are in those areas,” said Newberry.
Newberry added one more tip when fishing grass. “After I fish an area with a trap style lure and the bass stop biting, I will change up and fish a white swim jig in the same spot and catch fish,” said Newberry.
Trailer selection is also vital when fishing a swim jig. “A good general rule of thumb for me is when the water is cold I use a flapping twin tail style of soft plastic lures like the Gambler Flappy Daddy, NetBait Paca Crawl, Zoom twin tail or Speed Vibe. Once the water warms up from the spawn forward, I will use a shad imitating soft plastic swimbait as a trailer,” said Branum.
As for swim jig and trailer colors, Branum and Newberry will experiment each day to see what bass are biting on best. Normally they begin with a Rayburn Swim Jig matching the forage color patterns. If that doesn’t work they will try other colored Rayburn Swim Jigs including the just released lite hitch, southern bream, threadfin shad, blue gizzard shad, alewife and sun perch.
As for equipment, McCall, Branum and Newberry agree a high quality strong, heavy action rod at least seven foot in length should be used when fishing a swim jig. McCall will switch up to a seven foot medium heavy action when fishing the finesse swim jig model. They don’t agree on fishing line to use. Branum uses 65 pound braid while Newberry likes 20 pound fluorocarbon line and McCall uses 15 pound fluorocarbon on the finesse swim jig model.
Recently, anglers have requested swim jigs with even larger hooks than what’s in the original Rayburn Swim Jig. To meet the demands, Santone has come out with a swim jig featuring a Gamakatsu Siwash Monster Hook. Branum pointed out that anglers can pull out the stems of lily pads before this hook will ever bend.
Why the bigger hook? “Obviously down on Sam Rayburn where we have lots of big bass it’s a necessity to have a big enough hook to land a giant bass, but that goes for anywhere across the United States where you have big bass like Lake Guntersville, Lake Amistad, Lake Okeechobee or Clear Lake,” said Branum. Currently the Rayburn Siwash Swim Jig is available in 7/16-ounce and soon in 5/16- and 9/16-ounce.
“One of the techniques where a bigger swim jig model with the big Siwash Gami hook is going to catch them is in the grass. Anglers on famous grass reservoirs like Lake Guntersville or Sam Rayburn will be able to slow roll it then pop it out when it gets hung up making it dart to get a reaction strike like a lipless crankbait,” said McCall. McCall noted anglers should start with a red color pattern swim jig when fishing in the grass. “As for a trailer to put on the big Siwash Gami hook, I would use a Gambler Flappy Daddy or Gambler Big EZ swimbait,” said McCall.
Santone Lures also has a new Rayburn Swim Jig built with a finesse hook. “Anglers from across the United States were requesting a swim jig with a finesse hook to fish. They are fishing lakes, rivers and reservoirs with clear water clarity and eel grass or other vegetation easy to pull through,” said Branum. The finesse Rayburn Swim Jig is available in 3/16- or 5/16-ounce model with a 5/0 Mustad light wire jig hook.
“I think the reservoirs like Table Rock, Texoma or any reservoir without lots of grass is where the new Rayburn Swim Jig is going to excel. Anglers are going to use it when bass are guarding fry or when the shad spawn is going on,” said McCall. McCall pointed out he would use a white pattern Reaction Innovations Little Dippers or Gambler Little EZ swimbait on a shad colored swim jig or a bream colored pattern around bass guarding fry.
“The option of having different hook sizes and weight in Chris McCall Rayburn Swim Jigs is really exciting. It’s going to open the door to how and where you can fish a swim jig.” McCall continued, “Sometime to get a bite or win a tournament you have to be doing something different from all the other anglers.”