Swimbaits have become one of the more popular options among bass fishermen in recent years and one of the questions I hear asked the most is should I use a jighead or a weighted hook on my soft paddle-tail swimbait?
While you might ask 10 anglers what their favorite soft swimbait is and get 10 different answers, it seems a lot less jigheads and hooks get used. And many anglers just always use a certain jighead or a certain weighted hook. Not as much experimentation goes into the head and hook as does the body of the bait.
While experimenting can lead to more effective presentations, better hookups, more landed fish, I think there are a few things to consider when choosing to use and exposed hook jighead or a more snagless presentation with a weighted hook.
I have a few general guidelines that I follow for which I use in various situations. Here are 6 basic bass fishing scenarios and the setups I choose.
When I’m fishing around cover like laydowns, grass, and stumps with a soft swimbait I will have it rigged on a weighted swimbait hook. The hook point usually lays on the back of the swimbait and stays tucked out of the way. In really gnarly cover you can prick just the point into the plastic to keep it from catching on snags.
As is the case with any swimbait and hook, you want to match the size of the hook to the length of the swimbait as well as the height of the swimbait. You want to have enough clearance so when a fish bites, the plastic of the swimbait has enough room to collapse out of the way and expose the hook to catch fish.
In similar fashion, when I’m fishing for suspended fish in open water, I want as much exposed hook as I can get because those fish are usually charging from a distance and they are slashers. The more hook sticking out, the more likely you are to hook those fish.
I have played around with weighted hooks and you get a lot of bites but not as many hookups. Obviously big bass have no problem with the smaller swimbaits but when you are are around schooling fish, it is often a lot 2-pound fish slashing at the bait. So an exposed hook is my usual choice.
When skipping a swimbait around shallow like when fishing docks, a weighted swimbait hook is the ticket. You can fish the jighead, but a swimbait skips so much better with a belly weighted hook tucked into the bait. In fact I will say a swimbait is one of the better baits to learn to skip with a bait caster. It slides well on the water, you can fish it on an unweighted hook to really get a good skip and keep your weight down on the hook.
I almost exclusively use a screw-lock hook. When you’re skipping, you are putting a lot of torque and force on the nose of the bait and that screw lock holds so much better than just an offset bend.
When I’m bottom bouncing out on deep ledges, I will go with a jighead. And I always rig the head on the outside of the swimbait. While a lot of anglers will opt for a head they can put into a bait like a hollow-bodied swimmer, I think the head on the nose of the bait serves the same purpose as the tungsten weight on your worm. You can feel your way around with the bait. You can know when you’re on a real rough bottom or a soft bottom. You can feel what the bait is doing on the bottom a lot better.
I also used a lift and drop retrieve a lot in deep water. And I think a swimbait out deep just acts better with the weight on the nose than on the belly. You can also easily go up to a 1 ounce or 1 1/2 ounce jighead easier than you can a 1 ounce weighted swimbait hook. Usually when you get to 3/4 ounce on a weighted swimbait hook, the hook is gigantic and much too large for a lot of regular paddle-tail swimbaits.
Shallow and big
For the reason I just mentioned, when I’m throwing a really large swimbait, especially one that is real tall, I will always go with a weighted swimbait hook. Most of those large swimbaits like a 13 Fishing Coalition Baits BAMF swimmer or a Battle Shad were designed to specifically fit a large weighted swimbait hook.
Likewise if I’m fishing a really big swimbait, it’s often in shallower water and I like weighted hook because I am more likely to encounter cover that I can’t always see up shallow.
Deep and small
When I’m out deep, I like a smaller swimbait or one with a smaller kick so that it doesn’t ride up. And I will usually be fishing it on a jighead. You can get good small jigheads that hook well and don’t overpower the bait. You can fish small swimbaits deep easier because they have a lot less lift. I’m often fishing the deepest in the winter, a time when bass are eating small baitfish out deep.
That’s the basic scenarios I consider when choosing a weighted swimbait hook versus a jighead for swimbaits. The size of the bait, depth I plan to fish and how I plan to fish it around cover or out over open water makes the decision pretty simple in most instances.
Favorite hooks and heads
I’m always interested to hear what heads and hooks guys have found that they really like. I use the Trokar Magnum Swimbait Hook and Owner Beast weighted hooks and have been experimenting with the new Hayabusa weighted hooks. I use VMC Boxer jigheads, Flat Shad heads and BOSS swimbait heads most of the time as well as the Scottsboro Tackle swimbait head for jigheads.
I experiment a lot with swimbaits and heads. I made a video a few years back about matching a swimbait to jighead. Now I experiment more with hooks, castability shallow and rigging tricks.
I also do weedguard modification on some jigheads to give me another weedless option with an open hook. But that’s a little more than most guys are willing to do to get a bait to the fish.
Keep experimenting and playing with better hooks and presentations coming out all the time. You will eventually find one that fits the way you fish really well.