Let me start off by saying there are roughly a half-million different things you can put on the back of a jig. These are the soft plastics that I prefer, but the options seem limitless. Most soft plastic companies have a version of everything now so I’ll reference the original in each category, though I may actually use a different brand due to personal preference. In my opinion, there are three main categories when selecting a jig trailer: Paca Craw-style bait, Skinny Dipper-style swimbait or Beaver-style bait. The following outlines when I use each to trail a swim jig, football jig, flipping jig and vibrating jig.
Paca Craw-style bait
The original in this category is the NetBait Paca Craw. A true innovation upon its conception, NetBait has since introduced several versions of their revolutionary design. Different sizes ranging from 3-inches to 5-inches make the Paca Craw a great choice when searching for a trailer to pair with any size or style jig.
Although NetBait created the category, there are several other great craw-style baits out there now. Each variation has its own little twist that makes it a viable candidate when really fine-tuning a jig. One in particular that belongs to a subcategory under the craw umbrella is the Zoom Speed Craw. The Paca Craw and others like it have a subtler, floating action. The Speed Craw has a much faster, tighter action. Again, there are several brands that have tweaked the Speed Craw style bait so the options keep compounding.
Skinny Dipper-style swimbait
A masterful design on the part of Reaction Innovations, the Skinny Dipper turned the swimbait category on its head. Rising to fame on the heels of several national and regional tournament wins, the Skinny Dipper was originally thought of as a topwater/sub-surface bait.
Used to trigger ferocious strikes as it was burned across vegetation or waked just below the surface, the Skinny Dipper found its way into innumerable tackle boxes. Naturally anglers began to tinker with the bait, and it was only a matter of time before it wound up on the back of swim jigs and vibrating jigs.
Aptly named for their innovative designs, Reaction Innovations created an entire category once again with their Sweet Beaver. Though I use this style trailer less than the swimbait and craw, it still has its place in the lineup.
When trailing a swimjig I’ll go with either a craw or a swimbait. I’ll use a NetBait Paca Craw when I want the bait to ride high in the water column. For instance, if I’m fishing an area with a lot of vegetation just below the surface, I want to try to keep the bait up high so it doesn’t get bogged down. If the swimjig does hang a piece of grass I’ll pop it free, often times triggering a strike. So you want the swimjig to get caught up every now and then, but you don’t want it getting tangled in the grass every foot of the retrieve.
In instances where the submerged vegetation is a little more scattered or several feet below the surface, I’ll lean towards the swimbait. I primarily use a 3/8ths ounce swimjig and dictate the depth with the style trailer and speed of retrieve. The slower a swimjig is fished with either of the trailers, the deeper the bait will swim. But when fished at the same speed, the swim jig with the swimbait trailer will get much deeper than the swimjig paired with a craw. The swimbait will also come through the vegetation much better so I like letting it get down in the submerged grass.
Primarily I fish a swimjig around vegetation, but they’re great for fishing around docks and wood as well. They also offer more of a finesse style of fishing in high-pressure areas. No matter the cover, swimjigs are a great alternative when targeting fish relating to shad. Used in place of the obvious spinnerbait, crankbait or vibrating jig, the swimjig can help you tap into even more shad-oriented fish.
Typically when fishing around shad I’ll use the swimbait trailer, but again it comes down to desired depth for me more than matching the hatch. The eyes of a bass are on the top of its head, so when I’m fishing a finesse style bait like a swimjig that’s not putting off a lot of vibration or making a lot of noise on the bottom, I like for a bass to be able to see it. If the bass are busting shad and staying high in the water column, I’ll go with as shad color craw. If they’re 5-to-10 feet below the surface, I’ll slow roll the swimjig with the swimbait trailer.
Some of my favorite swimbait trailers are the NetBait Spanky, NetBait Lil Spanky, Reaction Innovations Skinny Dipper, Strike King Caffeine Shad and the Gambler Little EZ, EZ Swimmer and Big EZ. I use them all and base my selection on size, color and action. Each is a little different and all are worth trying. I like the Dirty Jig line up of swim jigs. Strong hook, good colors and nice bait keeper.
When it comes to football jigs, I’m a pretty simple guy. I’ve caught a lot of fish using a full size Strike King Rage Craw for a trailer and I’m of the mindset, if it ain’t broke don’t fix it. I will back off a little when fishing a finesse football jig. For the smaller jigs, I’ll go with a NetBait Tiny Paca Craw or a NetBait Mini Kickin B. But again, 90% of the time if I have a football jig on the deck it has a Rage Craw on the back, typically in some variation of green pumpkin.
You can overload yourself worrying about color selection so I keep it pretty simple. My favorite color would have to be Blue Craw. Road Kill is another great one. With a chartreuse tint to the claws, I’ll use Road Kill when the water starts getting a little color to it. As per usual, matching the hatch is a good game plan. But I’m no marine biologist so I have a hard time keeping up with what color a crawfish is supposed to be from month to month and what species is in each fishery. Unless I have a fish spit a crawfish up in the livewell, I try not to overthink things. And even then, he obviously fell for whatever color I was throwing so I’d still be hard-pressed to change. Taking all that into consideration, you may have an entirely different outlook on color selection due to where you fish and that’s fine. These are just things I’ve noticed fishing in and around the southeast.
My favorite football jig is actually made by a guy here in Alabama. It’s the one I use most of the time and the one I caught all these fish on in this video below. You can get in touch with Randy BoBo to order your own by calling him at, 256-435-1556. Tell him I sent you, he'll get a kick out of it. I don't have any relation to the guy or any kind of deal with him. He's just a good ole boy who makes a good jig.
I’ll probably experiment more with a flipping jig than any other jig when it comes to trailers. I’m not sure why that is really. It may be just that I’ve never found the perfect all-around flipping jig trailer. If I had to pick a go to it would probably be some sort of chunk craw like a NetBait Paca Chunk. But really the options abound when it comes to a flipping jig.
There are a few parameters I have set though. If I want the bait to have a slower fall, I’ll go with a Rage Chunk. The pinchers on the Rage Chunk have a little more resistance so the bait falls a little slower. If I want the jig to fall faster, I’ll go with a Beaver-style trailer.
If I’m flipping a smaller jig, like a Missile Jigs Ike Mini Flip, I’ll adjust my trailer accordingly. I’ll go with a smaller craw or Beaver-style trailer. Missile Baits actually makes a couple soft plastics that fit their jig really well, the Twin Turbo and Baby D-Bomb.
If I’m flipping a massive jig like the Medlock Jigs ¾ ounce or 1 ouncer, I’ll put a bigger craw on it. Typically I’m targeting bigger fish with this jig so I’ll go with a full size Rage Craw or a Gambler MegaDaddy, which is the biggest craw I’ve found. I’ve caught some good fish on Toho with the Medlock/MegaDaddy combo.
I like to mix it up when it comes to trailer color on a flipping jig. I’m still pretty basic in the sense that I use some variation of black and blue or green pumpkin, but I’ll use a green pumpkin trailer with a black and blue jig for instance. I prefer this as opposed to a one-color combination unless I’m fishing extremely clear or extremely muddy water. In those two instances you either want the combo to be particularly realistic or something very dark.
Okay, I’ve been fighting typing the word ChatterBait this entire article. I wanted the article to be about jig trailers so vibrating jig was the proper terminology, but I would be remised if I didn’t give Z-Man the appropriate acknowledgment for having the original vibrating jig, the ChatterBait. The ChatterBait ushered in a whole new genre of fishing lure. With action and appeal unparalleled by any previous bait, the ChatterBait set into motion a whole new style of fishing and is one of the most significant lure creations in the last century.
Whew. There, I said it. Now back to the jig trailers. For a vibrating jig, from this point forward referred to as a ChatterBait, I like two styles of trailer: swimbait and craw. More a subcategory of the latter, a Speed Craw style craw. And my favorite ChatterBait is their latest creation, the Z-Man Custom ChatterBait.
As with the swimjig, I go more with function over fashion on selecting my trailer for a ChatterBait. When I want the bait to ride high in the water column, I go with the Speed Craw-style trailer. My favorite for this is a NetBait Mini Kickin B. When fishing in clear, submerged vegetation I love the Mini Kickin B in Magic Craw with a Green Pumpkin ChatterBait. That combo has worked really well for me in the past. If the water is slightly stained I’ll stay with the Magic Craw Kickin B but swap to a black and blue ChatterBait. Typically in these areas I’m targeting bass relating to bream or bluegill.
When fishing in Florida where gold shiners are the main forage, I’ll go with a green pumpkin ChatterBait or one that has some gold in it. I trail both colors with a Houdini colored Reaction Innovations Skinny Dipper or something similar from another brand.
When targeting fish around shad in clear water, I’ll rely on shad colored trailers in the swimbait variety. In really stained or flat out muddy water, I move towards the paler shad colors or straight white, sticking with the swimbait style trailer.
So that’s a wrap. That’s the basic break down of what goes on inside my head when it comes to selecting a jig trailer. Just remember that every body of water is different and there’s not really a bad combination to take for a test drive. Keep an open mind and pay close attention to what works and what doesn’t and you’ll be good to go.