B ass university instructor Bill Lowen learned his trade on the fish-poor Ohio River, but when he started traveling to Texas for big events he didn’t really alter the swim jig style that had gotten him there. He might’ve turbocharged his presentation for the bigger fish, but as a general matter he brings a heavy dose of Ohio to the Lone Star State.
“A lot of people might think that you’d make the lure bigger,” he said. “But that just ends up overpowering the lure. It takes away from its natural subtleness.”
Although others may turn primarily to old school spinnerbaits, newer school Chatterbaits or new school swimbaits, Lowen said that the swim jig remains his primarily tool when he’s winding in Texas in April. He looks for bass that have recently completed the spawning ritual and are either hanging around the old beds, guarding fry or stalking the bluegill beds.
“They’re usually on the first piece of cover closer to deeper water,” he said. “It could be a laydown or a weedline, but it’s whatever is the last thing to hold on before they finally make the push offshore.”
Although some anglers just reel their swim jig straight back to the boat and others shake the rod tip violently, Lowen finds himself in between those extremes. He worked with Castaway to develop a signature series Skeleton V2 rod specifically for swim jigs. It may look like a flipping stick, and indeed the lower 80 percent of the rod resembles the one he flips with, but he’s married it to the top 20 percent of a spinnerbait rod.
“When I get marshals or co-anglers in my boat, they always say they can’t believe that I just throw it out there and reel it back,” he said. “But that’s not the case. I used to swim my jig with a flipping stick, and I’d be worn out from shaking it by the end of the day. Now the tip of the rod does all of the work for me.”
He pairs the rod with a Team Lew’s Lite reel (7.5:1 gear ratio), which at 5.6 ounces also helps him avoid getting worn out. “The bites are so fast, and so violent, that if you don’t have a high speed reel it’s easy to get out of position really quick,” he said. Early in his career he used 20-pound fluorocarbon, but during his rookie season on the Elite Series, during the second event of the year, he got a rude awakening. He ultimately finished fourth behind superstars Greg Hackney, Dean Rojas and Kevin VanDam, but he lost a fish that he estimated at between 12- and 15-pounds on the bite. “She cut my line like she was using a pair of scissors,” he said. Now he sticks exclusively with 30-pound test Hi-Seas braid.
He’s also worked with Lure Parts Online (www.lurepartsonline.com) to develop a swim jig that meets his exacting standards. It’s based on the jig that he relied upon during his amateur days, and improves upon it.
“I’m back where it all started but I’ve jazzed it up,” he said. “It has big eyes and perfect skirts, but the most important thing is to make sure that it balances. It doesn’t have a tendency to lay on one side.”
He relies mostly on the ¼ ounce model, which has a 4/0 Mustad hook, and the 3/8 ounce model, which comes with either a 4/0 or a 5/0 hook. Surprisingly, much of the time he prefers the 4/0 even when he’s around bigger fish, because he believes that “the 5/0 has a tendency to spring open because it has such a wide gap. The hookups are a lot better with the 4/0.” He will go to the larger hook if he’s using a large trailer like a Horny Toad, although he feels that he can get away with the smaller hook even with Texas-sized trailers like a Rage Craw, twin tail grub or Optimum Double Diamond swimbait.
“They all have just a little bit bigger profile,” he said. “But you still want to keep it simple.”
With his flipping jigs, he often mixes and matches color schemes, pairing a black and blue jig with a green pumpkin trailer, but with his swim jig he wants both parts to match. Day in, day out, his preferred color schemes are simple. You’ll often see his deck lined with three swim jig rods, one black/blue, one white, and one some shade or green.
As noted above, his rod imparts a shaking action to the bait, but other than that his retrieve is simple. Eighty percent of the time he wanted to “keep the jig where I can see it or where it’s just starting to fade away.” The other 20 percent of the time, usually around milfoil or hydrilla, he brings it back out of sight where it’s just ticking the top of the grass. For an angler who has qualified for seven straight Bassmaster Classics, and nine overall, it might seem like he’s hiding the ball, but when he visits Texas in April he keeps it simple, covering water at a quick clip whether he’s looking for a limit of two-pounders or an eight-pound kicker.
Email Pete Robbins at
Email Pete Robbins at [email protected]