Swim Jig School with Justin Lucas

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Swim Jig School with Justin Lucas

National Guard pro Justin Lucas rebounded from a 90th-place finish on day one to finish in second place overall at the FLW Tour event on the Potomac River, Maryland, mid-May, 2012. (Photo: FLW, Gary Mortenson)

Justin Lucas has established himself as a top professional on the FLW Tour after spending years dominating the co-angler side of FLW events from coast to coast. One of his favorite techniques and something that has proven to be very successful for him is the swim jig. The FLW Tour Major on the Potomac River in Maryland during May 2012 was a prime example of the effectiveness of the bait as he was able to come back from a 90th place standing after Day 1, rocketing up intp 2nd place, within three ounces of winning the event on the final day.

Rod and Reel Set Up

The rod and reel used is an important part of fishing the swim jig. Lucas prefers a Powell 765 SBR rod with a high speed Revo SX reel. “The rod I use is really a light swimbait rod, and it makes sense since I fish a swim jig much like I would a swimbait. It’s just an awesome all-around rod and works great for this,” states Lucas. The high speed reel is also important since he wants to be able to retrieve the bait quickly and that reel’s power helps him pull in fish that become covered in grass.

Line

Braided line and fluorocarbon both play a role for Justin Lucas when fishing a swim jig. “Anytime the water is pressured or clear, I like to use braided line with a fluorocarbon leader. Usually it will be just a foot or two of 17 lb test Berkley 100% fluorocarbon leader attached to 30 lb Spiderwire Ultracast braid,” says Lucas. The fluorocarbon leader is something that he has utmost confidence in and believes that it helps get him more bites. “That 17 lb test leader is strong; I’m not worried about it breaking. Even if it helps me get one or two more bites it’s worth using,” states Lucas. The braided line with a leader is not the only way he will fish the bait however. “If the water is a little dirty and I can get away with it, I will use straight braid,” notes Lucas.

Jig Sizes and Colors

“I am very simple when it comes to swim jigs, it’s either black and blue or green pumpkin,” admits Lucas. This simple approach has worked for him across the country in a variety of different situations and he believes that these colors will work for everyone no matter what part of the country they live in. “I have been using a jig made by 4X4 Bass Jigs in 1/4 oz most of the time and a 3/8 oz if the top of the grass is a little deeper,” says Lucas. A good rule of thumb that Lucas follows is that if the grass is within a foot of the surface, he will use a ¼ oz and if the top of the grass is deeper, he will use a 3/8 oz.

Jig Trailers

Swim Jig School with Justin Lucas

The actual bait Justin Lucas was using for a 2nd place finish at the Potomac in May 2012, battle scars and all.

There are numerous trailers that will work for a swim jig, including double and single tail grubs, craws or small swimbaits. Part of the appeal of the swim jig is that it matches the appearance of a small baitfish or bluegill. With that in mind, Justin Lucas prefers to use a Berkley Havoc Grass Pig for his trailer. “The Grass Pig has a great swimming action and the tail looks just like a small fish swimming,” says Lucas.

Modifications

Bass fishermen by nature are always looking for that extra edge or a custom bait that the fish have never seen. The pros are no different than the weekend anglers in that they often believe that a lure straight out the package is not fully ready to be used. Justin Lucas is one who likes to make several modifications to his swim jigs before they are approved for fishing. “First I will trim the skirt so it’s not too bulky. You want it to still look full, but not too big,” explains Lucas. The National Guard pro will also make modifications to his weed guard and the jig trailer. “On the weed guard, I will usually take half of it off, you just don’t need the whole thing and you want to make sure it doesn’t get in the way of you setting the hook on the fish,” said Lucas. When using the Berkley Havoc Grass Pig as a trailer, Lucas will cut off about an inch of the bait and then attach this to the jig using superglue. “The superglue really helps it stay in position, even after a few fish. The other thing I like to do is dye the tail of the bait with a chartreuse color for a little extra color,” adds Lucas.

The Retrieve

Swim Jig School with Justin Lucas

National Guard pro Justin Lucas with two of the fish that helped move him up to a 2nd place finish on the Potomac River in May, 2012. (Photo: FLW, Gary Mortenson)

The swim jig can be effective with a standard cast and reel approach, but there are a few extra tips that can ensure that you maximize the potential of the bait. “When I am fishing a swim jig around grass, I am constantly popping the rod. I am actually trying to get it hung up in the grass so I can pull it free as this is where probably 90% of my bites come from,” states Lucas. The reaction strike that comes from hanging up with the grass is a common occurrence and seems to trigger bass that are in and around the submerged vegetation. “If I had to guess, I would say that each cast I am popping my rod 10-15 times at a minimum,  just trying to make contact with the grass,” Lucas conjectures.

The Right Cover and Seasonal Approaches

The best time to use a swim jig is anytime there is submerged vegetation. The grass must be at a level where the fish are using it for cover, but not to the point where it becomes too thick of matted that you can’t work a swim jig through it. According to Lucas, there isn’t a certain time of year that is much better than others but, “Spring and fall are usually ideal because the grass lines are starting to be defined or are starting to recede,” Lucas points out.

The swim jig has proven to be successful from coast to coast and is one of the best ways to catch bass in submerged vegetation. Following the advice of Justin Lucas can help make it one of your favorite baits for fishing grass.

Tyler Brinks

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