By Steve Chaconas
Take a Jig Swimming
When the FLW Tour brought 160 top professional bass anglers to the Potomac River, anglers wanted to know where and how they fished. Many fished community holes. Most locals already knew swimming a jig is the best way to cover the river’s massive grass beds.
The winner was Ranger Mercury pro Tom Monsoor, coming as no surprise as he is credited with developing jig swimming. For more than 40 years he’s tweaked and honed this swimming method of catching bass into a top technique, especially on the Potomac. About 30 years ago, he started to spread the word and the secret was out.
Until then, jigs were pitched and flipped. Heavy jigs, heavy hooks, presented with heavy line and heavy rods hauled bass out of heavy cover. Nothing secret about jigs for big bass. Monsoor noted fish liked long distance presentations, but jigs needed to be modified for greater efficiency. A narrower head came through grass easier. Line ties in line with hooks enabled snapping jigs from grass. Replacing heavy flipping hooks, with thinner wire hooks and thinned weed guard, allowed hook sets to stick fish at the end of long casts. A bait-keeping wire secures trailers, but Monsoor still carries Super Glue. Looking at over 30 hook styles and manufacturers, Monsoor decided on 3/0, 4/0 or even 5/0 Yamamoto Sugoi hooks, custom made by Gamakatsu. Heating allows bending hooks to fit his original mold. He says ¼ ounce jigs are the most versatile.
Slimmed down swimming jig packages mimic whatever fish are eating, baitfish evading predators or crawfish racing from grass clumps to find sanctuary on the river bottom. Monsoor says contacting grass is the Potomac key! The Wisconsin angler wiggles the jig, threading it through grass allowing it to hesitate and then fall. He says the moments the bait spends in grass actually draw fish to the bait. Sudden freeing either triggers strikes or attracts attention as baits fall, often into bare spots. These are river gold, areas where nothing grows either because there’s a solid object, gravel or a spawning bed. The drop from grass often lands jigs in these hard to find fish spots. Slow presentations are best.
His favorite swim jig conditions are the Potomac’s shallow and weedy waters, but the right tackle is key. Because his hands get wet when removing grass from his jig, Winn grips on Lews rods and on Lews reel paddles help him keep his grip when snapping jigs from grass or setting the hook. Monsoor pairs a 7′ medium-heavy Team Lew’s Custom Lite Magnum Bass casting rod with a Team Lew’s Custom Pro Speed Spool SLP Series casting reel (7.5:1ratio) spooled with 16-pound Sugoi fluorocarbon line. This sensitive set up allows him to feel everything. When feeling a bite or moving fish, he sweeps the rod to the side while winding to drive the hook home.
To find fish he starts with swim jigs tipped with a Swimming Senko, power-fishing to cover water. Then he hops or pitches Flappin Hogs, covering water to locate groups of big fish, while focusing on types of weeds he is catching fish and where tides are. He used to overcomplicate tides. Now he considers tides are either in or out, up or down. “This was the first year I figured this out. You move up and move out, it’s just that simple…first year that hit home for me.”
For colors, he keeps it simple. In stained water, it’s black/blue. Clear water colors, basic white to green pumpkin and rusty craw. Monsoor makes an annual trek to skirt Mecca, Skirts Plus, in Minneapolis. Finding this skirt sanctuary 30 years ago, he doesn’t have to create patterns. They have everything. “I’m like a woman in the shoe store. Every color imaginable. I go there once a year and go nuts.” He says the new Bio-Silk Ultra Tone series is similar to old school living rubber. The flat material really breathes, but doesn’t melt and stick together like the old skirts. Mixing materials creates unique combinations.
Staying on fish in the middle of vast grass beds is a Potomac key. “Power Poles are a big deal when fishing. Put them down as soon as you get a bite because there’s a good chance more than one fish is in the area. Move 30 or 40 feet and put them down again.” His ¼ ounce homemade black/blue swim jig with a black/blue Gary Yamamoto Custom Baits Flappin’ Hog was the winning combination. Monsoor uses several Yamamoto trailers, like 3.5-inch Swimming Senkos, 3.75-inch Flappin’ Hogs (removing side appendages), and 3.5 and 4-inch craws. “I let the fish tell me what they want…depending on what they’re eating to match color to the shape. Just like matching a crankbait.” Monsoor tosses swim jigs just about everywhere he fishes. After 40 years, swimming a jig isn’t a fad.
Potomac River Bassing in SEPTEMBER
Water is cooling and grass is beginning to break up. Low tides are best as it pushes fish to edges of grass beds.
For high tides, try Lucky Craft G-Splash poppers and walking Gunfish. Use 14-pound Gamma Copoly line or 30 pound Torque braid. Look for clear water and make long casts.
For lower water, cover areas with Mann’s Baby 1-Minus crankbaits on 14-pound Edge fluorocarbon line. Try swim jigs with HardNose Mullet trailers. Use white in clear water and black/blue in stained.
Pitch Mizmo tubes, Texas rigged with a 3/0 Mustad Mega Bite hook on 14-pound Edge. Go with the lightest weight to allow baits to drop into the strike zone, 3/16 or so. Target grass edges at low tide and docks at high. Soak in garlic flavor Jack’s Juice Bait Spray. Texas rigged Quiver Stix, weightless, on 3/0 Mustad hooks with 14-pound Edge fall slowly into grass or under docks.
Author Capt. Steve Chaconas is Potomac bass fishing guide & contributing writer for BoatU.S. (BoatUS.com) Potomac River reports: nationalbass.com. Book trips/purchase gift certificates: info@NationalBass.com.