Fishing a Swim Jig: The Alabama Shake

A swim jig is a versatile lure that will catch fish all year. Each angler gives his or her own unique flair to how the jig is presented. One method is finally sneaking its way to the mainstream – The Alabama Shake.

To fish a swim jig with the Alabama Shake, you will need to spool your baitcaster with braided line for the best results. Hold the rod at about the 10 o’clock position and bounce the lure continuously all the way back to the boat.

In this article, I will explain the lure, the retrieve and the setup I use to drive bass crazy.

The Swim Jig

I have written many articles and filmed several videos on swim jig fishing. It continues to be a popular topic because the lure works. It’s that simple. 

It doesn’t matter if you are an expert bass angler or a complete novice to the sport, you can pick up a swim jig and catch fish. Most likely on your very first time using it. 

The lure itself looks similar to a regular flipping or pitching jig, but the head design is different. The slender body style is more adept at coming through cover. It really does well when working its way through grass.

The head design also provides for a stable platform as the lure is retrieved back to the boat. A swim jig is considered a horizontal lure, much like a crankbait or a spinnerbait.

Why it Works

Bass are creatures of instinct. They are always on the lookout for an easy meal. This includes times when they are not actively searching for something to chomp on. Big fish are opportunists and if they see something that is going to provide them with needed calories and is easy to take – they often times will.

A swim jig presents itself as prey, notably a baitfish of some sort, that is struggling to stay afloat in the water column. Wounded or struggling fish do not last long in the wild. They are devoured by some sort of predator shortly after their struggles begin. 

This is where a swim jig shines.

The Retrieve

Most swim jig anglers, including myself fish the lure most often with a steady pulsing action. As mentioned earlier, I try to mimic a baitfish that is having a hard time not sinking to the bottom. 

I have written before about using Tom Monsoor’s method that involves the phrase, “Float like a butterfly – sting like a bee.” (Here is another article on Swim Jig fishing.)

The Alabama Shake

I first mentioned this method in the summer of 2019. Randy Howell, a noted Bass Pro Tour professional and Alabama resident, has talked about this retrieval style quite often.

Most recently, in a Major League Fishing article, Mark Daniels Jr. mentioned the Alabama Shake. 

Daniels, originally a native of California, moved to Alabama to centralize his tournament fishing and ease the long drive from the west coast. He picked up the style from another native, Clent Davis, who was fishing with Daniels.

He goes on to mention in the MLF article that he rarely sees this method being used outside of his adopted state.

How it is Done

I like to use a swim jig in the ¼ oz range. Many anglers prefer a ⅜ oz, but you can experiment to see what you have the best luck with. 

You also want to match the jig with a trailer that allows for plenty of action. I have found that a twin-tail grub, craw, or creature bait all work well. The appendages are easy to bounce and draw plenty of attention. 

Keep the rod at about the 10 o’clock position and bounce the tip as fast as you can. It doesn’t take much action with your wrist to get the lure to dance in the water. Keep a steady retrieve to reel up the slack line that you create with the bouncing lure. 

It can be an exhausting way to fish a swim jig, but you will quickly build up the endurance needed. 

Braided line is the best choice for this presentation. It has zero stretch and transfers energy right to the lure.

The Line

To transfer the most energy to the lure, braided line is by far the preferred choice of Alabama Shakers. There is no stretch and it allows for maximum sensitivity. Fluorocarbon can also be used, but there is little need to be invisible with this style. 

Monofilament is not a great choice because of the stretch that is inherent to mono. 

Using braided line also helps on the hookset. 

With the rod in the position needed to bounce the lure, it is easy to let your mind wander and put yourself in a situation where a hookset may not be easy to do. The braided line will transfer your kinetic energy right to the lure quickly and efficiently. 

The Rod

For this technique, I like to use a Medium Heavy power rated rod with an Xtra Fast or Fast action. Just like with the line, using a rod with a little more backbone transfers energy to the lure. 

I do not want a parabolic rod that absorbs the energy I am using. It will only make it that much more difficult to get the shake needed on the lure.

The Reel

I have fished this particular style with a range of reel gear ratios and find that I prefer something around that 7.2:1. You can experiment with your different setups and let me know what you like.

Final Thoughts

There is no doubt that the Alabama Shake can drive bass crazy. It takes time to build up the endurance needed to fish this way for any length of time, but when you get the arm-ripping strikes it can draw from bass, I’m guessing you may find the energy to keep going.

Experiment with this retrieve around different types of cover and structure. See where it has the best response on your home waters. 

Good luck, be safe and make sure to go out and encourage someone today. You never know how you may just change their life forever. 

Isaiah 6:8

Steve Rogers

Steve spends his time filming and writing about bass fishing. You may even see him in your area. If so, stop and say "hi."

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