UPCOMING EVENT: PHOENIX BASS FISHING LEAGUE - 2021 - Sam Rayburn Reservoir

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 

Lake Cumberland Midday Update – Day 2

Lake Cumberland Midday Update – Day 2

Wet conditions have defined day two of the Toyota Series Championship on Lake Cumberland. To this point, it’s been cold and rainy almost without a break since takeoff. Somewhat surprisingly, it seems to have hurt the fishing, with fewer fish catches seen and reported, though it’s not the case universally. READ MORE »

Lake Cumberland Midday Update - Day 1

Lake Cumberland Midday Update - Day 1

Fairly calm and cool conditions haven’t provided the longed-for wind, but otherwise, the Toyota Series Championship on Lake Cumberland is off to a good start. After a short fog delay, the field rolled out, and anglers have seen success from near takeoff all the way down to the dam. READ MORE »

Off and Rolling on Cumberland

Off and Rolling on Cumberland

This is the second-straight year the Toyota Series Championship has been on Lake Cumberland, but this time it’s bigger than ever. With $200,000 cash on the line – plus a $35,000 FLW Phoenix Bonus if qualified – the field is more than ready to hit the water. Oh, and there’s also an additional $10,000 bonus for the highest-finishing pro from each of the eight U.S. Toyota Series divisions and the International Division. READ MORE »

Toyota Series Championship Preview

Toyota Series Championship Preview

The 2020 Toyota Series Championship on Lake Cumberland is going to be a showdown of epic proportions. Taking place December 3-5, the event brings together hundreds of pro and amateur anglers from FLW’s various championship events, the best from the eight Toyota Series divisions, plus some international contenders. READ MORE »

 Cox Commits to MLF

 Cox Commits to MLF

The announcement of the 2021 MLF Bass Pro Tour roster finally makes it official: John Cox will fish the Bass Pro Tour and the Tackle Warehouse Pro Circuit. READ MORE »

Top 10 Patterns from Lake Hartwell

Top 10 Patterns from Lake Hartwell

Though some largemouth entered the mix by happenstance, you really had to drop down to Jayme Rampey in fourth place to find someone who made a dramatic adjustment to pursue largemouth. READ MORE »

Top 10 Baits from Lake Hartwell

Top 10 Baits from Lake Hartwell

Most of the fish weighed on Hartwell in the Phoenix Bass Fishing League presented by T-H Marine All-American presented by TINCUP were spotted bass. As such, a lot of finesse baits made the team. Still, a few anglers attempted to mix in largemouths to varying degrees, and even for spots, it wasn’t all spinning rods. READ MORE »

Kimmel Ices Co-Angler Victory

Kimmel Ices Co-Angler Victory

Justin Kimmel has had built up a sterling record from the back of the boat on Lake Hartwell, and today he padded his stats with a win in the Phoenix Bass Fishing League presented by T-H Marine All-American presented by TINCUP. Kimmel, now with three multi-day wins on Hartwell, totaled 26 pounds, 9 ounces and banked $50,000 for the win. READ MORE »

Macy Wins the All-American

Macy Wins the All-American

Weighing 13 pounds, 1 ounce on the final day, Chris Macy totaled 34-10 to win the Phoenix Bass Fishing League presented by T-H Marine All-American presented by TINCUP. Hailing from Diamond, Mo., Macy rose from fifth to first on the final day to claim the $100,000 top prize in his first time in the All-American. READ MORE »

All-American Midday Update – Day 3

All-American Midday Update – Day 3

The final day of the Phoenix Bass Fishing League presented by T-H Marine All-American presented by TINCUP is shaping up to be a nail-biter. READ MORE »

Lake Hartwell Top 5 Patterns – Day 2

Lake Hartwell Top 5 Patterns – Day 2

Though there are some possibilities for interesting shallow things to happen on the final day, so far offshore spotted bass have been the name of the game in the Phoenix Bass Fishing League presented by T-H Marine All-American presented by TINCUP. With most of the action going down in the lower end of Lake Hartwell, the top 10 are packed tight, and one kicker bite could go an awful long way at the final weigh-in. READ MORE »

Goade Ahead on Hartwell

Goade Ahead on Hartwell

Though Todd Goade calls the Volunteer State home, he’s got plenty of experience on Hartwell and it's showing in the Phoenix Bass Fishing League presented by T-H Marine All-American presented by TINCUP. Catching 11 pounds, 7 ounces yesterday, Goade improved his catch today with 13-2 to slid him to the top of the leaderboard with 24-9 overall. READ MORE »

All-American Midday Update – Day 2

All-American Midday Update – Day 2

Like day one, day two of the Phoenix Bass Fishing League presented by T-H Marine All-American presented by TINCUP has thrown a variety at the anglers. The day started with rain, which was heavy overnight, and tapered off after takeoff. Then, cloudy and slick conditions set in. Now, it’s turned into a perfect day, with puffy clouds, lots of sun and a nice breeze. READ MORE »

Lake Hartwell Top 5 Patterns – Day 1

Lake Hartwell Top 5 Patterns – Day 1

As projected, Hartwell isn’t giving up big limits for the Phoenix Bass Fishing League presented by T-H Marine All-American presented by TINCUP. Still, there are plenty of fish being caught, and if you want to chase offshore spotted bass around, it’s a pretty good place to be right now. READ MORE »

Lippe Leads on Hartwell

Lippe Leads on Hartwell

Day one of the Phoenix Bass Fishing League presented by T-H Marine All-American presented by TINCUP saw a bit of everything in terms of weather with rain, fog and some brief sun, and the fishing on Lake Hartwell was maybe just as confusing. Catching fish wasn’t an issue, but the quality that calls Hartwell home eluded the majority of the field. Hauling in 12 pounds even today, Dustin Lippe took the early lead after day one, but the weights are stacked tight, with under 1 1/2 pounds separating first and 10th. READ MORE »

All-American Midday Update – Day 1

All-American Midday Update – Day 1

Day one of the Phoenix Bass Fishing League presented by T-H Marine All-American presented by TINCUP hasn’t been quite as wet as anticipated, but it’s still offered far from ideal conditions for offshore fishing on Hartwell. So far this morning, nobody has distanced themselves, but there’s still plenty of time before weigh-in. READ MORE »

All-American Starts on Hartwell

All-American Starts on Hartwell

Day one of the Phoenix Bass Fishing League presented by T-H Marine All-American presented by TINCUP is going to be a wet one. Overnight, a wad of rain and storms moved into the region around Lake Hartwell, and it’s projected to stay wet all the way into Thursday morning, with almost 2-inches of rain in the forecast for today. That rain isn’t what some would like for the fishing, but it’s not going to dampen the competition for the title of All-American and the top prize of $100,000. READ MORE »

Breaking Down the All-American Roster

Breaking Down the All-American Roster

One of the longest-running championships in bass fishing, the All-American is often considered to be the pinnacle of the grassroots level and has launched the careers of anglers like Shaw Grigsby, Jacob Wheeler, Jeremy Lawyer and many more throughout the years. READ MORE »

Previewing the All-American

Previewing the All-American

Originally set for the beginning of May, the 2020 Phoenix Bass Fishing League presented by T-H Marine All-American presented by TINCUP is now slated for November 11-13 on Lake Hartwell. The All-American brings together the best of the best from the Phoenix Bass Fishing League ranks as well as top anglers from the TBF, college and high school ranks.  READ MORE »

Curtis Locks Up Southwestern AOY

Curtis Locks Up Southwestern AOY

This year, things lined up for Curtis to fish a full season of Toyota Series competition for just the fourth time since 2011 (when he finished fifth in the points). With a pair of top fives and a 16th place showing at the finale on Sam Rayburn, Curtis cruised to the Strike King Angler of the Year title. READ MORE »