By Pete Robbins
A lead head jig is typically thought of as a slow, horizontal presenta- tion. Pitch it to dock pilings or to holes in the grass, jig it once or twice and repeat. When fish are on deeper structure you can methodi- cally drag it over ledges. In Kentucky they may “stroke” it off the bot- tom, but for the most part it’s a lure that’s assumed to be most produc- tive when allowed to fall into cover or soak on a productive spot.
Roumbanis believes that if that’s all you’re using your jig for, then you’re missing the boat. Like many top pros, he frequently swims a jig where others would fish a spinnerbait, a chatterbait or a lipless crank. The technique may be popular in pockets of the country, most notably in Alabama, but there are whole re- gions that are primed for this technique where relatively few anglers are utilizing it. For example, virtually “nobody on the west coast does it,” said the California native and former Delta rat. Roumbanis isn’t one to let his mouth write checks that his rods can’t cash. Swimming a jig had him in 3rd place after the first day of this year’s Bassmaster Classic on the Red River. Perhaps more impressively, at the sec- ond Elite Series tournament of the year, on Lake Darda- nelle, he caught all of his fish on it and finished 8th overall. “I had the first limit of the tournament with it,” he recalled. “It took me less than five minutes to catch them.” Slow? Think again.
First, there are waters like Lay Lake and Wheeler, which feature what he termed “bank grass.” When swim- ming a jig around that sort of cover, he likes “to pump it and make it jump, but not out of the water.” By using a 6:1 or 7:1 gear ratio reel, he can burn it the jig within two inches of the surface to provoke jarring strikes. There’s also Guntersville, possibly the best big bass lake in the southeast, owing mostly to its abundant grass fields. “I’ll fish it over the milfoil there, before it gets real high,” he explained. “You want it a little bit slower, so it just barely touches the top of the milfoil.” While Clemons chases largemouths and smallmouths primarily, his sales numbers also show that there’s an application for jig swimming in spotted bass territory. He gets some monster jig orders from the tackle stores around Lake Martin and Logan Martin. So not only does Alabama offer a wide variety of vegetation, but it also has all three major species of bass in abundance – where bet- ter to develop a near-universal technique?
While pockets of the country, like the upper sec- tions of the Mississippi River, have spawned a bunch of jig swimmers, there’s no doubt that the technique has its strongest foothold in the state of Alabama. Some top Alabama sticks have been swimming a jig for two decades or more, but it really got momentum there in the past decade and nationally only in the past five years or so. Tour-level anglers like Randy Howell have made a living by keeping a jig high in the water column and some of that has leaked out onto Saturday morning television. Charles Clemons, owner of Alabama’s Tightline Jigs (www.tightlinejigs.com), has seen his business increase as the technique has taken off, and by charting his sales, he’s managed to conduct an informal market study of why Alabama’s waterways are so conducive to this tactic.
Elite Series pro and shallow water specialist Bill Low- en almost never hits the water without a swimming jig tied on. Maybe at Erie, when subtle offshore drops call for only a tube or a dropshot, he’ll have it in the bottom of the rod locker, but otherwise it’s just about always one of the first rods out of the rod box. Any place other anglers would throw a spinnerbait, Lowen often favors the jig, because “nine out of ten times when they won’t eat the spinnerbait they’ll eat the jig fished the same way. It has no vibration so it’s very sub- tle.” Roumbanis agreed that a swimming jig allows him to cover water at least as efficiently as a blade, if not better. It simply provides him with a greater variety of effective retrieve speeds without changing rods. “You can fish it faster than a spinnerbait or slow it down,” he said. “It’s a universal technique. You can cover
when,where And how?