Swing-jig walleye

by Tim Allard | May 14, 2019
swing jigs - bait

Swing jigs are trending. Big on the bass scene, these articulating jigs can be just as good for walleye. Here are some of their advantages, along with a few proven presentations for ‘eyes.

Articulation = better action

The big deal about a swing jig is that the hook moves separately from the head. This results in more bait action compared to a traditional jig with a fixed hook.

Added action is one reason Fishing The WildSide’s Chip Leer of Walker, Minnesota, likes Northland Fishing Tackle’s Swivel-Head Jig for live bait and plastics. It features a stand-up, football head with a swivel linked to a Crawler-Hauler slow-death-style hook.

“When you pull it across bottom, it [the hook] rotates, or thumps, and spins and adds a slow, enticing, little, lifelike action to whatever you’ve got on the back. And, the slow-death roll, for whatever reason, is incredibly deadly,” Leer said. “It provides action, so it gets the fish’s attention, but it’s going at a slow enough rate that a fish doesn’t have to overly exert itself to make a meal of it.”

Swing out of snags

Swing jigs are more snag-friendly than a fixed jig, says JP DeRose, Ontario professional angler and TV host of JP DeRose, Breaking Boundaries.

swing jigs
JP DeRose: Photo courtesy of Breaking Boundaries

“The hook point is really what catches you, and that’s the attraction of a swing head,” said DeRose. “If your bait with the hook happens to hit structure, it has the ability to swing up and away, and you get less snags that way.”

DeRose uses Freedom Tackle’s line of swing jigs.These feature a recessed brass chamber pocket that prevents the hook from swinging more than 90 degrees in any direction. This ensures the hook can’t flip around and snag the line, but will still move freely to add action to a bait.

Easy to eat

Another plus of a swing jig’s hinged hook is it makes it easy for bottom-feeding walleye to take the bait, says Leer. When a walleye sucks in the bait to feed, it only needs to exert enough force to make the baited swing-hook enter its mouth. It’s a different story with a fixed-hook jig, where walleye must eat the weighted head, along with the baited hook.

This is moot when walleye are aggressive and smashing jigs, but for light-striking fish a swing jig is likely to result in more positive hook-sets.

Leer’s bait picks

swing jigs
Chip Leer: Photo Courtesy of Fishing the Wildside

Leer most often fishes the Swing-Head slow-death style with a night crawler. He threads the worm on the hook past the keeper barb, then pinches off the worm tail, leaving a couple of centimetres dangling beyond the hook bend.

In clear water, Leer may also use a shiner minnow. The corkscrewing action of the hook causes the minnow to roll side-to-side and flash, which attracts walleye. He rigs the minnow by running the hook through its mouth and out the gill slit. Then turns the minnow and inserts the hook into its side, leaving the hook point buried under the skin.

Lastly, when fishing quickly for reaction bites, Leer reaches for worm or minnow plastics.

Straight-down slow death

JP DeRose

For fishing shallow:
• 1/8- or 1/4-ounce swing jig
• 7’1″ medium, extra-fast spinning rod
• 2500- or 3000-sized reel
• 10-pound braid
•6- to 10-foot, 12- to 14-pound fluorocarbon leader

When rip-jigging weeds:
• 1/4-to 3/8-ounce swing jig
• medium-heavy rod

In deep water or fast current:
• 3/4-ounce football jig
• medium-power casting rod
•20-pound braided line and a 14- to 16-pound leader

While the Swivel-Head jig was designed for bottom-contact presentations, Leer says it can be fished vertically in rivers with slow to moderate current. Hold the boat over walleye marked on the fish finder, then lower the jig into the strike zone. Keep the line vertical and the hook will slowly, seductively spin in the flow.

Seductive swimbaits

Using a swing-jig makes paddle-tail plastics even more potent.

“Walleye are so good at picking up on vibrations,” said DeRose. “When you can add side-to-side wobble with tail kick, you’re better off than with a fixed jig head.”

For shallow and mid-depth areas with minimal cover, he prefers the Freedom Tackle Zodiac jig. If it’s a rocky bottom, he’ll use their football jig. The Hydra jig is reserved for heavy cover.

Freedom’s interchangeable hook design lets DeRose tinker with different hooks. Swapping hooks just takes a flick of the wrist to slide it on or off the stainless steel wire clip. Currently, DeRose is using a Mustad No. 1/0 straight worm hook for a 2.8-inch Jackall Rhythm Wave and a No. 3/0 for a 3.8-inch model. The hook’s longer shank means fewer short-striking walleye get away.

Chip Leer

All-around good set-up:
• 1/8-, 1/4-, or 3/8-ounce Swivel-Heads
• 6’6″ to 7′ medium spinning rod
• 2000-sized reel
• 6-pound braid
•3- to 4-foot, 6-pound fluorocarbon leader

DeRose catches walleye from a range of areas using this rig. He’ll cast and swim it along bottom when fishing flats, breaks, and bars. It’s also deadly when rip-jigged around vegetation. He’s even caught walleye trolling a 1⁄16-ounce version of the rig behind a Dipsy Diver and downrigger with charter Captain Paul Powis on Lake Erie using that whole “show them something different” theory.

If you haven’t cast a swing jig yet, consider them this season. They won’t replace traditional jigs, but the advantages are too good to ignore.

Click here to learn how to use jerkbait to catch walleye

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  1. william caverly wrote: So far have not found where to purchase these swing jigs any ideas I was told Cabellas but the store in Ottawa does not carry them
  2. JJ Fortier wrote: Where can I buy the swing-jig walleye in the ottawa area? Thanks
    • Meghan Sutherland wrote: JJ, have you tried the Canadian Tire in your area?
  3. J.L. Baker wrote: The article is very interesting. Would like to know more about walleyes and fishing...