Jigs are regularly tied on by bass fishermen year round, but they are especially important tools during the spring. Hopped and crawled along the bottom, they imitate the movements of a crawfish, a favorite food of largemouths, smallmouths and spotted bass.
Unless they’re swimming along like a baitfish.
That’s the technique that North Carolina bass pro Hank Cherry has made famous: swimming a jig above a bass to draw strikes.
“I don’t throw a swim jig — I swim a regular jig,” Cherry said. “I’ve caught them from right under the surface down to 30 or 40 feet deep.
“You start out retrieving it close to the surface, and from there you work it down until you figure the depth they want it.”
Cherry, the 2013 B.A.S.S. Rookie of the Year, swims a jig on a 7-foot-3, medium-heavy baitcasting rod with a reel spooled with 20-pound fluorocarbon.
The reel has to have a high-speed retrieve; Cherry likes 7.9-to-1, which will bring the line back in a hurry — even though that’s not necessarily the speed he uses when bringing a jig back to the boat.
He fishes it around any kind of horizontal cover, including laydowns, docks and riprapped banks. He casts toward or past his target, engages the reel, keeps his rod tip down and winds it just fast enough to swim the jig back toward his boat with an even rhythm.
He’s not trying to burn it back, but he’s not slow-rolling it, either.
Cherry doesn’t want any herky-jerky motion; he’s trying to imitate the regular swimming action of a baitfish swimming parallel to a piece of cover.
“I’ve always used a Zoom salty chunk as a trailer, because I don’t want anything with a lot of kicking. I just want an undulating motion,” he said.
And swimming a jig can gain you some extra bites when everyone else is throwing flash baits.
“The most-effective time to fish it is when fish are up shallow and they’re getting a lot of spinnerbait pressure,” Cherry said. “That’s when you can really catch them by swimming a jig.”