(Editor's note: The following is the latest installment in a series of fishing tips presented by The Bass University. Check back each Friday for a new tip.)
Twenty-plus years ago, Bill Lowen caught his first swimjig fish, and he hasn’t looked back since.
That first catch was accidental. He’d been flipping his standard black and blue jig all day without any success, but while reeling it back to the boat a 2-pounder swirled on it. Shortly thereafter, a 3-pounder grabbed it, and on the Ohio River a 3-pounder is like a 10 in Florida. He went from zero bites to about 20 in just about an hour.
Later, when he started his Elite Series career, it was his go-to when he was lost at his initial event on Lake Amistad, producing his first 50-cut and his first check. “I thought I’d just won the lottery,” he said. It hasn’t left his boat since, and he never leaves the dock without one tied on.
He’s developed a system for throwing them that he believes maximizes strikes and landings, and it starts with the rod, a 7’6” Castaway Skeleton V2 model. He initially used a flipping stick and found himself worn out at day’s end from shaking it. This rod combines the butt power of that flipping stick, but the upper end of a spinnerbait rod, which imparts the action without any effort at all. Furthermore, that softer tip "gives" the lure to a fish when it bites.
He pairs it with a Lew’s Team Lite reel with a 7.4:1 gear ratio, and noted that the fast retrieve speed is critical because the “bites are fast and violent.” He spools it with 30-pound braid, which cuts through vegetation like a knife, but still allows the lure to act naturally.
He uses two different swimjigs – his traditional “Backstroke Model” and his Bill Lowen Signature jig – usually in 1/4- or 3/8-ounce. No matter which one you prefer, the key is that it has “a chin or a belly” to keep it upright and swimming straight. You also want the leading edge of the head to be bullet-shaped, or nearly so, to keep it from getting hung up on wood or vegetation. “You don’t want to have to fight it,” he said.
While Lowen acknowledged that “the sky’s the limit” when it comes to trailers, he generally limits himself to four basic categories. When it’s cold out – and he’ll fish a swim jig when water temperature is as low as the high 40s – he likes something with minimal action, like a Tightlines UV Bubba Chunk. As the pre-spawn approaches and fish get aggressive, he’ll turn to the UV Bubba Craw, which features hard-flapping claws. During the shad spawn, or around bream beds, he likes a paddle-tail or boot-tail swimbait, and the Optimum Double Diamond usually gets the nod. Finally, he never discounts the power of a single- or double-tail grub, an option which has long been the standard in northern swimbait strongholds such as Wisconsin. He keeps his colors simple – some form of white, black and blue and green-pumpkin – but he varies them slightly with tinsel and flash to account for water clarities and changing conditions.
Finally, while you’ll need to adjust your retrieves to account for the mood of the fish, if you find yourself at a loss about where to start, just go back to a tried-and-true staple. "Whatever you do with a spinnerbait, do that with your swimjig,” he advises. With less water displacement and minimal flash and vibration, it’s often the key to locking huge numbers of pressured bass.
If you want to learn some of the other aspects of Lowen's swimjig system, including why, when and where he chooses it over a vibrating jig, check out his full video, available only by subscribing to The Bass University TV.