UPCOMING EVENT: Costa FLW Series - 2019 - Santee Cooper

FISHING LEAGUE WORLDWIDE

How Stefan Dials in with Swim Jigs

How Stefan Dials in with Swim Jigs
Matt Stefan

Folks in Wisconsin seem to have an affinity for swim jigs. While Tom Monsoor is pretty much the world authority on the method, that doesn’t mean there aren’t other ways to do it. Matt Stefan has made the Forrest Wood Cup three of the last four years, and each year he’s put at least a few in the boat on a swim jig no matter where the season has taken him.

“The swim jig would definitely be my go-to bait if I could choose one bait,” says Stefan. “That’s because it’s such a versatile bait that you can really use it through any level of the water column. You can use it in a foot of water through thick grass. You can use a heavy swim jig on ledges. You can fish suspended fish with it around docks and over deep water. It’s really a bait you can utilize at all different levels of the water column and through all different types of cover.”

Through his love of the bait Stefan has formed several opinions about it, from what makes a good swim jig to the best times to put one into action.

Matt Stefan

Bait specifics

Before signing on with Dirty Jigs, Stefan made most of his own swim jigs, and would probably still do so if he weren’t satisfied with what is commercially available.

For the actual jig, the meticulous pro likes a bullet-shaped head and a vertical line tie – one that is in line with the hook. He believes that combination produces the most weedless jig possible. Stefan also likes to thin out the brush guard, sometimes taking out as many as one-third of the strands. He often thins the skirt as well, both shortening and removing some of the strands. Finally, Stefan prefers a jig with a good trailer keeper, be it a nice molded-in barb or a wire keeper. Though he sometimes uses Super Glue to lock trailers in place, he doesn’t like the buildup that can occur overtime.

“The majority of the time I’m throwing a 3/8-ounce jig,” Stefan says. “If I’m in super shallow water I’ll switch to a 1/4-ounce, and up north here we have a lot of deep weedlines, and I’ll switch to a 3/4-ounce in that respect. That can really be a killer in the summer when fish are grouped up in like 14 feet of water.”

Stefan throws the Dirty Jigs Swim Jig or the Finesse Swim Jig 95 percent of the time, relying mostly on the standard model. He also occasionally uses the No-Jack Swim Jig.

“I utilize the finesse one when I’m fishing smallmouths, which is usually in rivers,” says Stefan. “I do that because the hook is substantially smaller on it. It’s still extremely stout. You don’t have to worry about bending it on a fish, but they get it in their mouths better. The smallmouths have a bad habit of just coming up and grabbing the tail, and I think that a bigger hook has prevented some fish in my past from getting the bait.

“For the most part I don’t feel like I need to throw the No-Jack too much, but if I’m down in Florida and using braid I will switch over. It’s such a stout hook that you need something to drive the hook home, and you’ll be using it in cover that’s so thick that you need braid anyway.”

Stefan usually opts for 15-pound-test Seaguar InvizX line and sometimes drops down to 10-pound test in wicked-clear water. He sticks with a high-speed reel and usually uses a custom-built rod made on a St. Croix Legend Tournament finesse swim jig rod blank. The blank is a 7-foot, 1-inch, medium-heavy power with an extra-fast action – heavy enough to manage around cover but light-duty enough to present and work some fairly small baits.

Matt Stefan

For his trailers, Stefan prefers a swimbait.

“I’m a big fan of boot tails,” he says. “I feel like the bait wobbles side to side, and it allows the bait to have more action.”

Most of the time his swimbait of choice is a Reaction Innovations Skinny Dipper, and he starts the process by cutting the head off. Then, he trims up from the bottom to make the bait a little more streamlined before rigging it on he jig. When finished, the process creates a really nice package that will come through grass very easily.

 

Matt Stefan

Two Northern applications

Chucking and winding a swim jig through shallow vegetation is probably the most common way to fish one. It’s also one of the simplest techniques because once you have a good swim jig combo you’re basically set to start winding it back through the grass.

Two ways that Stefan likes to make use of the swim jig’s versatility are in shallow river situations and on deep weed edges. Both require a bit more refined technique.

1. Cut bank swimming

One of Stefan’s favorite times to fish a swim jig is when he’s keying up shallow in rivers such as the Mississippi and the Wolf in Wisconsin and Minnesota.

“I love it for fishing cut banks and current-type conditions where I’ve got some wood up against the bank and a little bit of depth,” he says. “I’ll throw it up to the cut bank or the log and let it drop to the bottom and then slowly start retrieving back. It’s a killer for smallmouths or largemouths.”

Stefan says the key to finding cut banks is using your eyes and looking at places that have or had current flowing by.

“It doesn’t have to be main river; there just needs to be current at some point in the year,” says Stefan. “In the spring there may be a lot of current that shoots through a backwater, but in the summer there may not be. The biggest thing is you want to find those undercut banks. A lot of it is visual. You’ll go down the bank and see sand, and then there will be a 10-foot stretch where you see black water. It may only be a foot deep, but they will get under that little bank.”

The season and target species determine whether he focuses time in the main river or the backwaters.

“The main-river stuff is usually better for a mixed bag, and the stuff in the backwater is usually more of a largemouth deal,” Stefan says. “If it is mid- to late summer when largemouths are usually winning in the Midwest I’ll fish the backwaters. If it’s the fall of the year or the spring I’ll usually fish the main river.”

Stefan mostly targets cut banks that are 2 to 3 feet deep and likes the 3/8-ounce Finesse Swim Jig because he wants to be prepared for smallmouths, and he wants the bait to fall fairly quickly and not be swept away like a ¼-ounce bait would. He likes chartreuse and white for smallmouths or a mixed bag and black and blue or green pumpkin when he’s more dialed in on green fish.

“If they bite it on the fall, that’s like if you are throwing any pitching jig,” says Stefan. “But especially when you have smallmouths, quite often you’ll get bit on the way back, and the swim jig allows me to get those bites in between the fall and the boat.”

Regardless of where they bite, Stefan likes to put the bait right up on the bank, with about 90 percent of his casts being some kind of underhand pitch or skip.

2. Deep weedline swimming

Another of Stefan’s more Northern techniques is tossing a swim jig on deeper weed edges in the summertime. It’s a great way to go for numbers and size, and makes for a good excuse to get some 3/4-ounce swim jigs.

Though a swim jig is a good tool to cover water, finding the right types of places is key.

“Up north it’s all natural lakes with deeper water,” says Stefan. “So, main-lake points and submerged islands are probably the two areas I would start on, rather than being back in a spawning bay. I want deep water, and I’m usually looking for more defined breaklines.”

Once he has a rough starting spot, Stefan typically concentrates on irregularities in the weeds.

“If you have a straight weedline for a while and you have a nice defined point or a stretch where some sparse weeds taper out deeper or even an indentation, that’s good. Probably my favorite is where I can find some rock mixed in or a harder bottom.”

Stefan also likes to fish the ends of weedlines, where a sharper edge begins to flatten out into a weed flat. He imagines it like fishing underwater bluff ends, and says that those transition areas can be particularly good.

For the bait, Stefan uses the standard Dirty Jigs Swim Jig in a 3/4-ounce model with a fair number of strands plucked from the skirt and almost always throws black and blue, green pumpkin or a combination of the two. Most weedlines up north finish off in 8 to 14 feet of water, and it takes a pretty heavy jig to stay down where Stefan wants it.

“It’s a slow-roll, parallel to the grass or in an indentation,” says Stefan of the presentation. “You want that bait to be close to the bottom. You don’t want to be ticking off of the tops of the weeds; you want to be down by the base of it. You throw it out and slowly retrieve it and then rip it free when you hit something. You just have to keep that bait as close to the bottom as possible.”

It may not be the most common way to fish a swim jig, but it works, and it’s a good statement about the versatility of the lure. Depending on how you set it up, a swim jig can be used for almost any situation. If you aren’t swimming a jig, you’re missing out on fish somewhere for sure.

Tags: jody-white  pro-tips-weekly 

Review: iRod Genesis II Legit’s Finesse Swimmer

Review: iRod Genesis II Legit’s Finesse Swimmer

Built to FLW Tour pro Aaron Britt’s specifications, the iRod Genesis II Legit’s Finesse Swimmer rod is a mid-priced spinning rod that’s specifically designed for tossing small swimbaits on light heads. READ MORE »

How to Choose a Swim Jig for Bushes

How to Choose a Swim Jig for Bushes

Allen Boyd’s spinnerbait tactics are featured in the Spring 2019 issue of FLW Bass Fishing magazine. Here’s his advice on choosing and using swim jigs in flooded woody cover. READ MORE »

AOY Update – Cherokee Lake

AOY Update – Cherokee Lake

This year’s FLW Tour Angler of the Year race is hurtling toward one of the most dramatic finishes ever. After finishing 46th at Cherokee Lake, rookie pro Miles “Sonar” Burghoff took advantage of a stumble by Terry Bolton to move into the top spot in the standings. If Burghoff can hold on through the final two events, he’ll be the first rookie since Shinichi Fukae in 2004 to win the AOY award. READ MORE »

Get to Know Cherokee Lake

Get to Know Cherokee Lake

The fifth stop of the FLW Tour is presented by Lowrance and sure to be fun if you like east Tennessee, smallmouths and good fishing (who doesn’t?). Cherokee Lake plays host and promises to both challenge and delight anglers. READ MORE »

Beavers Breaks Down Cherokee

Beavers Breaks Down Cherokee

Beavers started the year off about as badly as he could, finishing 121st at Rayburn, but he’s been on a tear ever since, finishing 54th at Toho before banking back-to-back top 10s at Seminole and Grand. READ MORE »

Scouting Cherokee with LeBrun

Scouting Cherokee with LeBrun

Now in the second half of the Tour season, LeBrun is up against another new lake, and sort of a new species. He says he’s never seen a smallmouth on a bed in his life, and has spent just two days on Cherokee in pre-practice. READ MORE »

2019 Cherokee Lake Preview

2019 Cherokee Lake Preview

Nestled in the hills of east Tennessee, Cherokee Lake is a TVA impoundment on the Holston River, and it sits roughly between Norris Lake (to the northwest) and Douglas Lake (to the southeast). READ MORE »

How Buddy Rigs a Hollow Swimbait

How Buddy Rigs a Hollow Swimbait

Gross has been fishing hollow-body swimbaits for a long time, and for most of that time, he’s also cut the belly of those swimbaits to allow for better hook penetration. It’s a simple concept a lot of anglers either don’t think about or wouldn’t consider if they did think about it, due to durability concerns. READ MORE »

Top 10 Baits from Grand Lake

Top 10 Baits from Grand Lake

If you’re going to fish Grand Lake this time of year, you’d better be good with a spinnerbait. The FLW Tour event at Grand Lake last week sure showcased that. READ MORE »

Get to Know Grand Lake

Get to Know Grand Lake

The fourth stop of the 2019 FLW Tour is presented by Mercury at Grand Lake. Though the Tour last hit the big Oklahoma lake in 2013, Grand sees plenty of tournament action, especially in the spring, and it never fails to deliver drama. READ MORE »

Poking Around Grand with Cortiana

Poking Around Grand with Cortiana

Since starting to fish Costa FLW Series events in 2016, Kyle Cortiana has banked over $100,000 with FLW and finished in the top 10 of the Southwestern Division three times. On the FLW Tour, he’s been a bit less successful, with no top 10s and no FLW Cup qualifications … yet. This year, he’s sitting 35th in the points, with a good chance to go to the Cup, and the FLW Tour presented by Mercury on Grand Lake finally gives him a shot at a Tour event with home field advantage. READ MORE »

Day 1 Practice on Grand with Warren

Day 1 Practice on Grand with Warren

There’s a good crew of Oklahoma anglers on the FLW Tour, but of them, Chad Warren is definitely one of the favorites at Grand Lake. Stop No. 4 of the 2019 FLW Tour, which is presented by Mercury, heads to Grand in the early spring for a prespawn tournament that might feature really good fishing. READ MORE »

The Trixie Shark: Get Explosive Strikes

The Trixie Shark: Get Explosive Strikes

Reaction Innovations got the name right when it created the Trixie Shark. The soft-plastic topwater bait has a literal shark-shaped body with side “wings” and two flapping rear legs similar to what you find on a traditional topwater toad, yet with enough differences to make the bait unique. READ MORE »

Setting Up a Slugfest at Chickamauga  

Setting Up a Slugfest at Chickamauga  

The second stop of the Costa FLW Series Southeastern Division promises much better fishing than the first. Moving north from a cold front-plagued Florida swing, the field will visit Lake Chickamauga for the middle event of the season. The tournament, which is presented by T-H Marine, should feature excellent fishing, as the east Tennessee reservoir pretty much always kicks out giants. READ MORE »

Review: Lew’s Speed Spool LFS

Review: Lew’s Speed Spool LFS

The Lew’s Speed Spool LFS is a re-design of the Speed Spool, and it’s a very affordable casting reel that works quite well. It hit the market in the fall of 2018, and though it doesn’t visually stand out and it’s lacking in nonessential bells and whistles, the reel is more than capable of getting the job done for under $100. READ MORE »

AOY Update: Lake Seminole

AOY Update: Lake Seminole

Bryan Thrift’s bomb at the third stop of the FLW Tour on Seminole may ripple through the minds of fans for a while, but the other contenders for Angler of the Year pretty much stayed on fire. In the lead, Terry Bolton banked his second top 10 of the year and padded his lead. Behind him, Scott Martin earned his second top 10 in a row to push him into the runner-up spot as he pursues his second AOY title on Tour. READ MORE »

Top 10 Baits from Lake Seminole

Top 10 Baits from Lake Seminole

Vibrating jigs and Texas-rigged soft-plastic creature baits, along with a few finesse baits, were the primary tools used to catch prespawn bass from hydrilla beds on Lake Seminole in March. Learn how to put more early spring fish in the boat with the lures used by the top 10 pros. READ MORE »

Britt’s Final Practice Day on Seminole

Britt’s Final Practice Day on Seminole

Fishing his third year on the FLW Tour, Aaron Britt is off to his best start yet, sitting at 26th in the points and fresh off a top 10 at Toho. As is the case for many of his peers, Britt has never fished Lake Seminole, the site of the third stop of the FLW Tour presented by Costa. READ MORE »

Get to Know Lake Seminole

Get to Know Lake Seminole

The site of the third stop of the 2019 FLW Tour is Lake Seminole, a bass fishing gem sprawled through the pines and swamps of north Florida and south Georgia. Anglers will take off out of Bainbridge, Ga., in this tournament, which is presented by Costa, and should enjoy some really phenomenal fishing. READ MORE »

First Look at Seminole with Upshaw

First Look at Seminole with Upshaw

Stop No. 3 of the 2019 FLW Tour takes place at Lake Seminole and is presented by Costa. Though Seminole is a historic lake that is well-trafficked by the Costa FLW Series, the Tour hasn’t been here since 1996. It’s relatively unfamiliar for many pros, and Andrew Upshaw is one of them. In his eighth year on Tour, Upshaw has qualified for the FLW Cup in back-to-back years, and he’s off to a great start in 2019, sitting at 15th in the points through the first two events. READ MORE »