Each year about this time, as the water cools and bass begin feeding actively on baitfish in the backs of coves and pockets, James Niggemeyer‘s lure choice becomes easier and easier. The Yamaha Pro ties on a 1/4-ounce swimming jig and simply heads to shallow water.
“For me, this time of year, a swimming jig performs just like a spinnerbait but without the blades,” explains the Texas-based angler and part-time Lake Fork guide, “and I fish it in many of the same types of places. A jig, however, has a much more subtle action, and with a swimming-type plastic trailer, it still looks very life-like and natural.
“During the autumn months, bass are already very keyed in on baitfish, so I don’t need the flash of spinnerbait blades to get their attention.”
Although some anglers swim jigs in deep water, Niggemeyer concentrates in depths of less than five feet, primarily on flats, the backs of pockets and coves, or on small points. In this shallow water, the Yamaha Pro looks for cover like vegetation, laydowns, stumps, and boat docks – essentially the same places he would throw a spinnerbait at other times of the year.
“I don’t work the jig along the bottom the way some other anglers do, either,” he continues. “Instead, I like to keep the lure in the upper third of the water column to take advantage of its swimming action. For example, if I’m fishing in three feet of water, I’ll swim the jig only a foot below the surface. This way, I can cover a lot of water, and at the same time on each retrieve I can actually use the surface of the water as an edge where bass can trap baitfish.
“The majority of the time, I’ll make a short, underhand cast to the edge of a weedline or some other target, and just begin a slow, steady retrieve. Every so often I may barely twitch my rod tip for a little extra action, but normally I use a slow to medium retrieve because that’s how the baitfish are swimming.”
Many companies today produce jigs specifically designed for swimming like this, and they’re easily identified by their slightly pointed heads and a line-tie coming straight out of that head, in contrast to other jigs with rounded or angular heads and line-ties on one side. The pointed style head allows the jig to come through cover more easily; Niggemeyer thinks swimming jigs can be more effective than spinnerbaits or crankbaits in these situations.
“Although I’m swimming the jig in shallow water, I’m always retrieving very close to cover, or sometimes through that cover,” emphasizes the Yamaha Pro. “The edges of weedlines are some of the most effective places to fish, because bass hide along those edges so they can ambush the baitfish. The same is true when I fish boat docks piers, where bass will use the pilings as hiding spots.
“My slow, steady retrieve represents an easy, unsuspecting shad or little bluegill the bass don’t have to chase.”
Niggemeyer usually fishes a 1/4-ounce swimming jig, but in clear water where he may fish slightly deeper, he changes to a 3/8-ounce size. His trailers vary in style, but always have tails or swimming legs that create the jig’s action. He matches the trailer’s color to his jig’s color, which is usually black/blue in slightly stained water, white when he’s around large schools of baitfish, and green when the bass are feeding on bluegills.
“I always fish a swimming jig on 30-pound braided line, too,” concludes the Yamaha Pro, “because of the cover. Braided line doesn’t stretch, and as soon as I hook a bass, I can move it away from that cover. Most of the bass I do catch are solid three and four pounders, but I have caught fish weighing as much as six pounds, and on some lakes I know I may hook a much larger bass.
“A fisherman couldn’t ask for an easier or more effective lure to use this time of year than a swimming jig. We all like to fish shallow water whenever we can, and this technique lets us do that.”