Swim Jig & Lipless Crankbaits for Spring Bass Fishing

Looking to catch a trophy bass this spring? Swim jigs and lipless crankbaits are excellent baits to use as they are extremely versatile and can be fished around many different types of cover.  Both baits can be worked shallow or deep depending on the weight of the bait, rod, line selection, and presentation with which they’re fished. TFO Ambassador Ben Nowak shares some tips for how he’s targeting spring bass with these techniques.

Why Swim Jigs and Lipless?

Bass in the spring tend to be in transition – moving from winter patterns into shallower water to feed and spawn.  Using techniques that have multiple applications keeps things simple and can target fish in various zones.  Weather conditions also are big factors in the spring and can change hourly, so being able to follow fish throughout the day in different depths or styles of cover is important.

*Water Temps for these techniques, Upper 40s to low 60s*

Swim Jig:
Even in cold water, fish will be roaming and feeding up in the water column – particularly in the northern region.  Swim jigs can easily be fished around shallow cover and are fairly weedless/snag proof with a weed guard.

Where?

  1. Specifically targeting cover in water less than 15 feet deep. Includes grass, wood, docks, gravel bars
  2. Best locations often have irregularities or stand out from everything around them. It could be the first or last dock in a pocket, grass that stands up taller than surrounding patches, or wood that is isolated or lays down further into the lake.

Pay attention to the depth that you get bit this time of year. What depth was the cover in that you were fishing?  This is the easiest/best time of year to pattern fish around a body of water, and depth can be a key indicator.

How?

Swim jigs can be fished with different approaches based on the angler, but these are my three favorite:

  1. Slow & Low – Cast the swim jig out and use a slow retrieve keeping the bait low in the water column. Occasionally pop the rod or flare the reel handle to make the bait speed up or lift, which is typically when the bites happen
  2. High in the column over cover – Swim the jig high in the water column over the shallow cover you’re fishing. Keep the bait just above the wood, grass, or high around docks where you can barely see the jig swimming.
  3. Drag and Swim – Best Retrieve around docks. Let the jig settle to the bottom at the end of your cast and then drag the jig for a few feet before slowly swimming the jig out from the dock imitating a bluegill or other baitfish in the water.

What Gear?

  1. TFO Tactical Bass or Tactical Elite Bass 735 Baitcasting Rod (7’3 MH)
  2. 7:1 Gear Ratio Baitcasting Reel
  3. 15lb Fluorocarbon Line
  4. 3/8 or ½ oz swim jig (3/8 less than 6 feet of water; ½ less than 15 feet of water)

Lipless:
Lipless crankbaits are a better open water approach than a swim jig, but equally as versatile.  Lipless crankbaits perform best when fished around grass or can be fished in open water areas on flats where smallmouth roam in the spring months.

Where?

  1. Work in varying depths, but fish best around open water or sparse cover.
  2. Not made to fish around wood or extremely thick cover due to the treble hooks.
  3. Great for covering water with a steady retrieve or a yo-yo approach (lift & drop). It can also be effective in deep water, with a slower bottom contact presentation.
  4. The vibration that this bait has when it is being fished will draw fish to the bait and can be used to imitate a variety of forage, from baitfish to crawdads, or even gobies.

 How?

The approach I use with a lipless crankbait depends on cover I’m fishing around and activity level of the fish. Activity level is often driven by rising or falling water temperatures.  Typically during the spring, once I catch a fish in an area using these approaches, there will be more fish nearby

  1. Cold water with no cover – I let the bait sink to the bottom and use a lift and drag approach, much like a jig. The vibration from the bait will help draw in fish and is a different presentation than typically baits that are fished along the bottom
  2. Cold water with cover/grass – I will use a moderate retrieve while trying to stay at the top of the grass. Using a slow yo-yo style approach, I’ll cast the bait out to let it hit the top of the cover before lifting my rod to cause the bait to rise up.  I’ll let the bait sink again to the top of the grass and repeat this over again.
  3. Warming water – I will experiment with a faster, more aggressive version of the yo-yo retrieve mentioned above, or use a moderate steady retrieve, reeling the bait mid column or above the cover in the water. This approach targets those active, aggressive fish, that are feeding heavily and allows me to cover water quickly.

What Gear?

  1. TFO Tactical Glass Bass 745 (7’4″ Medium Heavy) or 7105 (7’10” Medium Heavy)
  2. 7:1 Gear Ratio Baitcasting Reel
  3. 15lb Fluorocarbon Line
  4. ½ oz Lipless Crankbait
    • Reds or chartreuse in dirty water
    • Whites or solid colors in overcast conditions
    • Chrome or clear colors in clean water with sunlight

Closing

Swim jigs and lipless crankbaits are two approaches in my tackle box that target the biggest, most aggressive fish in the lake during spring months and are baits that I can fish in varying conditions.  Having versatile approaches during the spring is important because fish are constantly on the move.  With these two techniques, and using the gear and information in this article, hopefully you’ll find success on your bodies of water this spring!

Blog and photos by TFO Ambassador Ben Nowak. Follow him on Instagram here and check out his Youtube channel here.

Photo: Ben Nowak

 

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