How to Rig a Swimbait

Brandon Palaniuk | BMP Fishing • August 15, 2023

Brandon Palaniuk here and I'm going to give you a quick rundown of fishing a swimbait jighead. Specifcally, I'll talk about what makes that technique work, where I like to fish it, and some of the heads and baits that I like to use.

I understand that when you're starting out trying to decide what to get first, it can be a daunting task. Which jighead? Which bait? How do I know which ones to use together? So, I'm just going to give you a good baseline to give you the understanding of what I look for and how I match those components up. You can take it from there.

The biggest thing is selecting your jighead. A swimbait jighead is simply just going to be a hook with either lead or tungsten molded on to its head. It looks like a little fish head with a fishhook for a body and tail. Typically, swimbait jigheads will have eyes molded into them and they may have a little bit different head style or bait keeper style. The bait keeper is going to be what holds the bait on and is always located behind the 'head' of the hook. The line tie comes out the "nose" of the head and they come in various shapes and sizes as well.

I use a VMC hybrid jighead. It's just a round ball style jighead--the most universal style. It allows that bait a lot of movement, and your weight is dispersed evenly so you've got a lot of tail action. It still gives it a little bit of roll, but not too much. It's not too aggressive.

When selecting your jighead, consider the hook size and the weight, so that it matches up evenly with your bait. For example, you don't want this hook that's so long it stifles the movement of your bait. You'll want movement in the tail. Conversely, if you put a great big five and a half inch X Zone Mega Swammer on a small jighead, you're not going to get enough bite; the fish will nip at your bait but never quite hit the hook. Your goal is to pair up your hook and bait so the balance movement with bite.

I take my 3/8-ounce hybrid jighead and pair it up with a four-inch X Zone Pro Series Swammer. So far, those sizes work together really well. The big key is making sure they are straight. One thing I do is take the hook point and make a little mark in the back of my bait where I want the hook to come out when I push it through.

You want your bait straight along the hook, snug on the bait keeper, and with the right amount of tail hanging off the back so you'll have plenty of tail movement.

Another type of swimbait jighead is the boxer jighead--so named because its head is shaped more like a boxing glove. The shape and weight placement of the head causes a lot of roll in addition to the tail kick as it swims through the water. A little pro trick I like to do here is look where that bait is going to match up perfectly with that jighead and then I'll just take a pair of scissors and actually cut the front end of that bait so when I push it up on the hook, it will be flush against the back of the jighead with no gap. That way you still have plenty of bait on the hook, but also plenty of length on that hook so it hooks the fish's mouth.

So, where and how do you fish these? I like to fish them along any type of edge, or place where fish can ambush their prey. That could be the edge of a dock, that could be standing timber, or it could be a long grass line--any sort of edge where fish can hide and ambush prey swimming by... or, in this case, where my swimbait is passing by. I'll cast my swimbait jighead out there by such an edge and slowly reel it along right at whatever depth I choose. Sometimes it's on the bottom, sometimes it may be right on the surface. You be the judge of that. Let the fish tell you where that ideal depth is, because day in and day out it may change.

You want to select your jighead for the appropriate depth. The deeper you want that bait to be, the heavier you need to go on your jighead. The shallower you want the bait, the lighter the jighead you're going to use. That is a simple but useful parallel to keep in mind when you're out there trying to select the right bait for the occasion.

Once you've settled on which bait and jighead to use together, make sure you pair up your line and your rod with those as well. You wouldn't want to throw a smaller 1/4- or 3/8-ounce four-inch bait on a seven-and-a-half-foot heavy action rod with twenty-pound test. Instead, maybe try throwing it on twelve-pound test and as 7' 5" medium action bait caster, something smaller or even a spinning rod. Of course, the converse holds true with this bigger swimbait; I don't want to throw it on a light rod and not have the power to drive that bigger hook. So, you want to step up heavier fluorocarbon line, heavier rod, bigger reel to allow you to get the best performance out of heavier baits.

I hope that helps you figure out which jigheads to use and how to pair them up with the right baits.

--Brandon Palaniuk