Everything But a Jighead: Every Way to Fish a Swimbait

When it comes to spotted bay bass fishing, fishing a swimbait is one of the most popular ways to target inshore species. However, often people simply fish it on a jighead without realizing the countless other options that are available. This article will cover every way to fish a swimbait for inshore species.

Alabama Rig

The Alabama Rig (commonly referred to as the A-rig) is an incredibly effective bait for inshore fishing.

When it comes to inshore saltwater fishing, it is clear why this bait excels. As small schools of bait roam the bays and estuaries, spotted bay bass, halibut, and corvina jump at the opportunity to feed on them. If the conditions and area allow you to fish the A-Rig, I absolutely would. Fishing in close cover such as docks or when dealing with lots of debris in the water, the A-Rig can prove to be quite frustrating and lack its effectiveness. However, if you find open water, you’d be hard-pressed to find a better bait.

Warbaits war/rig a-rig alabama rig in raw color. Everything but a jighead: every way to fish a swimbait

One of the main reasons why the A-Rig is so effective is because of its drawing power. Drawing power describes the ability of a lure to entice a fish to see it and come closer to investigate it. For example, if you are throwing a single three-inch swimbait in clear water, it is possible that any fish within five feet of it could be interested and potentially commit to it. However, if you are throwing a 5-arm A-Rig, it could be inferred that fish from as far out as 15 or 20 feet would be intrigued by this and force them to take a closer look.

There are wide range of A-Rigs designed for freshwater use that you can find here and will likely do the job well. However, if you are looking for some specifically designed for fishing the salt, I would recommend the Recon A-Rig and the Warbaits WAR/RIG.

Swing Head

Recently the swing head style jig head has exploded in popularity for saltwater bass fishing. Despite being a staple for many years in freshwater bass fishing, with the introduction of the Neck Breaker from Warbaits, the swing head style jig head has taken saltwater bass by storm.

Neckbreaker swing head jig from Warbaits for spotted bay bass instead of a jighead

This design offers many advantages over the traditional jighead. Due to the head being connected to the hook via a swivel, it offers the swimbait more freedom of movement. This results in a stronger kick and body roll from the bait.

The use of an EWG hook means that it is fished weedless so you can fish it tight to cover and not worry about getting hung up. Additionally, if you find that your hook is getting dull or you would prefer a different hook, it is as simple as using a pair of split-ring pliers to switch it out.

Weighted Weedless Hook

Being able to offer a weedless presentation is essential in the bay bass fisherman’s arsenal. Whether it is eelgrass or kelp, being able to seamlessly present a swimbait through cover is a full proof way to get a bite. A weedless jighead is a popular option, however, I find that they often catch bits of debris and are not quite as weedless as they appear to be.

Owner beast hook for weedless swimbaits for saltwater bass

A weighted weedless swimbait hook is a fantastic option for a fully weedless option. Owner makes a great option with the Owner Beast Hook. This hook is available from 4/0 to 12/0 and 1/8 to 3/4 oz. These options give you a wide variety of swimbait choices for spotties in the bay to calicos in the kelp!

owner beast hook with a pickle kick in a calico's mouth

When looking for a swimbait to pair with these hooks, I like the weedless options from MC Swimbaits which are available from three to nine inches. Another good option are the Pickle Kicks from Kicker.

Looking to spice up your weedless hook? Another option is a weedless hook with an underspin. My favorite is the Flashy Swimmer from Owner (shown above). Sometimes this little extra flash can be the difference maker when the fish are proving to be finicky.


In a similar way how a weedless underpin can outperform a traditional weedless bait, an jighead with an underpin can be highly effective. The additional drawing power that comes from the reflection and vibration of the blade is very enticing. This also adds an additional element of customization to your bait.

Read Next: Best Baits for Spotted Bay Bass

Blades can be switched out between the classic willow blade to a colorado or Indiana blade to change their performance. Willow blades will generally give off the strongest reflection of light with much less vibration and come through the water with less resistance. Colorado blades will give off the most vibration and can be highly effective in dirty water or at night. Indiana blades are a nice compromise between these two options.

Two of the most popular options for underspins are Coolbaits (shown below) and Warbaits.

coolbaits underspin jig head to fish a swimbait for spotted bay bass

Drop Shot

When spotties and halibut are keyed in a small bait, a finesse approach can be the key to enticing a fish who would otherwise be lockjawed. Presenting a small bait can often be challenging due to the limitations of casting such a light and small lures. Fishing a drop shot can be the perfect way to get around this obstacle.

Initially, the drop shot was utilized by freshwater bass fishermen to target highly pressured fish that required an ultra-finesse light line approach. The concept is fairly simple. For our readers who are less familiar with freshwater bass fishing, the drop shot rig is essential a mini dropper loop.

dropshot rig visual with a swimbait

When making this rig, I recommend using 6-12 lb line depending on the presence of structure. When fishing in and around docks, definitely opt for 12 lb line. But if you are open water, 6 or 8 lb will work great!

For a knot, the Palomar knot is ideal for this rig and allows the hook to align point up on the line. For hooks, a drop/split shot hook from size #4 to #1 is great for this rig.

In regards to weight, anywhere from 1/4 to 3/4 oz is a good range to start with. You can use drop shot-specific weights or any classic teardrop weight.

By nose hooking a swimbait, you can drag it, hop it, or slowly swim it to offer a great presentation to lethargic or finicky fish.

Next time you hit the bay or kelp beds, instead of throwing a swimbait simply on a jighead, try something new to offer the fish a presentation they likely haven’t seen before.

Now you know every way to fish a swimbait for our local inshore fisheries!

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Ira was born and raised in Portland, Oregon where he first found his love of fishing with trout, salmon, and steelhead. Over the years he grew to target any species he could find in the Pacific Northwest including albacore, musky, and sturgeon. After graduating high school, Ira moved to San Diego to...