Thanking Field & Stream Magazine for their highlights of Southern Trout Eaters and our work.  I was surprised by the article and had some online communications with Mark Hicks, but didn’t realize what they were up to.  I find it amazing that Field & Stream has been around since 1895 and is likely America’s longest running outdoors media (don’t quote me on that).  Check out the the Wiki HERE

Here Goes:








Ledge Zeppelin: Physical Graffiti. This 5″ Bay Smelt Big Hammer on a 1 oz head got tore up. This is the baseline, the 5″ Hammer. Go bigger from here is my advice.


I’ve been sitting on this footage, unsure of how or when exactly to release it, and finally just sat down and cranked it out.  I was concerned this information might hurt me, but I’m starting to think completely differently than I used to about sharing information and ideas..  I am not headed to Kentucky Lake anytime soon, and it appears to be ‘good timing’ all things considered.   Stroking baits is something you don’t learn in San Diego.  Stroking a bait, literally means jerking/ripping it 1-8 feet off the bottom and letting the bait settle back down to the bottom.  Think about snatching rattle traps in the grass, where you snatch the bait clean of the grass and the fish eat it on the fall.   Stroking football head jigs and spoons on the Tennessee River is a staple and it took me some years to clue into.   Some local tricks you pick up instantly at the gas station, other things, you somehow miss for years.  Stroking is not something I’d done ever, until I arrived at Kentucky Lake in 2011.    Stroking is now one of my presentations of all baits I fish. It just makes sense.  To really snap and snatch your bait hard off the bottom, and then let if free fall back to the bottom seems to be a truth of fishing….it just works at times.

Stroked and Choked Big Hammer Swimbait on the ledges of Kentucky Lake, but ultimately a good choice for any of the TN River, or any open water offshore bite.


So here goes, another meandering, long winded, ‘first chapter’ of a thing I’m calling Ledge Zeppelin I, Stroking Swimbaits.   This footage is post 2011 FLW Tour on Kentucky Lake, and my 2011 summer in Southern California, where I did some saltwater fishing.  I blended things together to share how and where I got the methods and tools that ultimately led me to start stroking my Big Hammer swimbaits, instead of just swimming and jigging them along:



If you are ready to stroke swimbaits off the ledges of the Tennessee River, or any other offshore lake, this stuff applies lots of places (the Ozarks, Champlain, Great Lakes, etc), here is what you need:

I was stroking my Big Hammer swimbait on a Medium Action 8 foot rod and Shimano Calcutta 300 TE reel, and 20# P-Line CXX….however, this is something you can do with standard low profile reels and I always recommend 8 footers, and braided line.  Especially adding a short leader section to your braid.  I am slowly migrating all my fishing over to braid, in case you haven’t noticed.  You have more sensitivity, more hookset, more torque, and more guts to do more with your bait with braid.

My buddy Brian Somrek was as stoked as I was on the bite. We were learning as we were going. Brian was catching them on the 5.5″ Big Hammer, which to many out West is the best Big Hammer swimbait.


We speak to Warbaits and the effect their swim jigs will be having.  You are seeing the future now.  When Strike King, Spro, and Berkley come out with a swim jig that is >1 ounce, it will be as a result of the Warbait Slayer Swim Jig.  These things are legit and taking the West by storm.  You have an early warning and heads up. You need to check their Slayer Swim Jigs and Weedless Swim Jig Heads out.  Just by having a weedguard, you are helping yourself out in some cases, because exposed top hook single swimbaits are really sticky around wood.  Swim jigs are just awesome and popular and catch fish, so why not fish them out at 20-30 feet, instead of 1-3 feet?   You can stroke them or just fish them on the slow grind, and look out.  Fish love baits with skirts.

I cannot say enough about the Warbaits Swim Jigs, and I’m finding the more rounded paddle tail of the Robo Ocean Swimbait Tails are a fine swimming and stroking combination.


Stroking Swimbaits Photo Gallery:

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Just like Dolly Parton’s coat, my 3″ Big Hammer swimbait box, is of ‘many colors’.

The Big Hammer family of swimbaits has some prime real estate in my tackle boxes, boat, and ‘office’.  I spend a lot of time tinkering with the various flavors of Big Hammer swimbaits on and off the water.  The 3″ Big Hammer swimbait is a neat little bait, that fits into the “swimbait fishing with spinning rods” category. You can consider this a tackle review of the 3″ Big Hammer if that is what you’re after.  I score this bait a 9.99  (the only .01 deduction is because at times, a more rounded paddle/boot tail seems to be a better choice of swimbait for super finicky highly pressured fish) and give it an A+.   We shared how we fish bridge pilings with the 3″ Big Hammer swimbait in Southern Trout Eaters…one of the things that ‘just happened’ during the filming window we had.  I put together a little video clip of me fishing the 3″ Big Hammer swimbait on a spinning rod, with braided line + florocarbon leader, fishing the water intakes at the Kentucky Lake Dam.  Here are the highlights:



Get the Lead Out

Swimbaits with an exposed lead head are something you need to pay particular attention to.  Exposed lead, like what the Hammer Head provides in the setup and rigging does some things that baits with internal weighting cannot.  Namely, the exposed lead head of the Hammer Head helps the bait fall straight down vertical, there’s no buoyancy or dampening of the weighting system by surrounding it with soft plastic.  Falling straight down makes a swimbait fish really well next to steep things, for example:  bridge pilings, dam walls, steep walls, man made structure, and fishing deep and straight vertical like you do in winter.   Also, you can fish the bait vertically under your boat and electronics really well, so when, for example, I was on Beaver Lake in the FLW Tour Major in 2011, the fish were in 15-35 feet of water suspended over cedar trees, the 3″ Big Hammer swimbait came thru for me, because I was able to count the bait down and fish it over top of the deep trees and yank the few fish I caught suspended around the tops of the deeper standing trees.   I just read about how the guy who won the BassMaster Southern Open on Smith Lake in Jasper, Alabama was using a small paddle tailed swimbait with exposed lead jig heads on 5# florocarbon…Go ahead and add the 3″ Big Hammer swimbait rigged on a 3/16 or 1/4 ounce Hammer Head ( you want both heads, same hook size, just have both for shallow to medium or medium to deep presentations), to the ‘single top hook swimbait’ conversation too.    The other derivative of the exposed lead jig head, and the fact the 3/16 and 1/4 ounce Hammer Heads were designed to match up perfectly with the 3″ Big Hammer swimbait tails, you get a swimbait that swims on the sink.  I repeat, swims on the sink.  The bait will spin and sorta meander slightly, depending how slack you give the bait on the fall, but in a controlled fall, where you keep slight pressure on bait as it’s sinking, that little square tail is twisting and recoiling and beating along on the sink.  There are a lot of garbage swimbaits out there that swim like crap on the sink….they tend to do nothing at all or sorta just fall like a blob, they don’t swim, they don’t orient nose down and swim on the sink and that is a huge deal, especially when fishing the deep and steep stuff.  You going to be pumping and yo-yoing your rod and bait a a lot.


How To Rig a Big Hammer Swimbait:

Step 1: Eyeball how the Hammer head jig head matches up with the 3″ Big Hammer swimbait tail. You want the top of the jig head/line tie area to match up perfectly with the top of the soft plastic flat top side of the swimbait tail. Pay attention to where the hook will come out of the bait…


Step 2: Use one of the edges of your thumb nail to ‘mark’ where the jig hook will come out of the Big Hammer tail….


Step 3, use the hook point to jab a little mark into the soft plastic where the hook will exit the swimbait, once you thread it on the jig head.


Step 3B, the mark should be dead center, and enough you can see it and use it to guide you as you thread the bait on


Step 5, very important. Insert the hook in the absolute center of the swimbait tail, whereby the top of the jig head lays flat (there’s no step up or down, the jig head and body come together clean and smooth). Use the line tie to touch the flat side of the bait to give you a guide, but pretty much, dead center of the “superman” shaped fat ‘v’ of the Big Hammer swimbait tail


Step 6: In one smooth motion, paying attention to push the hook thru the plastic keeping your North/South and East/West orientation as straight and plumb as possible, push the tail onto the jig head, and let the bait curl up in doing so, and time your exit angle so it comes out at the mark you did in Step 2 & 3.


Step 6 again…make sure you hook point comes out perfectly in the center of East and West, and also assumes you mark was accurate so you don’t have too little or too much length of swimbait tail threaded on the hook.


Okay, you’re done except for glue. Notice how the jig head matches up with the tail, at the top by the line tie perfectly. You can see how the jig head fits into the swimbait tail, thanks to the clear bait and some backlighting. You want things straight, centered, parallel and clean. No bunching or off centered rigging!


Once I’ve made a good rigging, I back the tail slightly off the head, and put a dab of superglue, where it runs down and gravity coats it all from top to bottom, and I push the tail back up and snug it tight to the jig head and let the glue dry.

Braid Connections

One of the more important developments in my fishing in the last year has been the move to braided line, almost exclusively, on all baits, all water clarity, and all rod types.  Not 100% but moving that direction.  The key is using floro and mono leaders at times, choosing the right knots, and matching your hooks and terminal tackle so your hooks and split rings and things don’t bend out or fail due to the power of braid.  I use Power Pro.  It has been really good to me.  I recommend 15# Power Pro Braided line and a 3-5 foot section (5 foot allows you to re-tie a couple times without putting a new leader on) of Sugoi Florocarbon.  I use 6-12# florocarbon leaders paired with 15# Power Pro braid on my spinning rods.  You change your leader sizes based on conditions and baits. I’ll fish 12# floro when fishing a small 3/8 or 1/4 ounce jig but will use 8-10# pound when fishing the 3″ Big Hammer on a 3/16 or 1/4 ounce jig head.   Braid has several advantages, especially on spinning gear.  First and foremost, line management. I find braided line handles and fishes really nicely on spinning rods.  I have 1000 and 2500 sized Shimano Spinning reels that both handle the small diameter of 15# Power Pro nicely.  You can ‘top-shot’ the braid, where you spool up 50-75 yards of 6# mono ( I formerly used 6# P-Line CXX on my spinning rods) and then tie on the braid and spool yourself on a good 75-100 yards of fresh braid, and then tie your floro leader to the end of your braid.   What knot do I use to connect my florocarbon leader to my braide?  The Double Uni Knot.  Google it, YouTube it….I use 6 wraps on each side of the knot, and it’s frickin’ excellent.  However, pay attention here, the Double Uni knot is NOT a good knot for attaching 80# or 65# braid to 25-30 pound mono.   The physics of bigbait fishing comes into play here.  DO NOT USE THE DOUBLE UNI to connect your bigbaits to your braid.  That is a separate conversation.  For some reason, that knot cannot handle the repeated casting/stress of lobbing >4 ounce baits.   I have 110% confidence in that knot though, in the smaller more conventional applications, like 15# braid to 10# florocarbon (my number one most common rig….3″ Big Hammers, Wacky Rigs, Shaky Heads, Jika Rigs, etc)

The Double Uni Knot is great for connecting

Braid provides you some additional advantages, especially when it comes to spinning rods and small swimbait fishing.  The braid is super sensitive, and I can feel my bait, the swim, and control the bait far better on braid than on mono.  When I go back to mono, my bait feels real mushy on the end of the line, and I don’t have the feel that I do with braid.  I can feel the bait swim on the sink and control the sink and depth the bait swims at so much better on braid. I know when I’m fouled up (tail gets stuck in the gap between a rigged bait and the hook), and I tend to be able to unstick myself or straighten out the lighter wire hooks of the 3/16 and 1/4 Hammer Head at times to get a hung bait free.  I re-bend my hook into place of course, and check the hook point to make sure all is well, and feel my floro leader to make sure it didnt’ get damaged too.  The hookset and hooking fish advantages are amazingly improved with braid.  I keep my drag fairly tight with the 3″ Big Hammer and braided main line setup.  A little line might pull off during a hard reel down and come up hard hookset, but not much.   The zero stretch of the braid gives you tremendous hook set capabilities you don’t get with 100% florocarbons or mono/copolymers.

You can use 1000-2500 sized spinning reels with braid, and they both work great. I love this little spinning reel, it just matches up with the tiny diameter of 15# braid nicely. Heck, I trout fish with this setup….Mepps and Roster Tail style with the braid + floro. You can throw light stuff (and heavy stuff) really well.


If you haven’t seen our Alabama Rig Super Nova blog post and video, click HERE to see it.  You want to have 3″ Big Hammers and Hammer Heads (3/8 recommended for the A-Rig based on hook size and strength, so you don’t bend out the 1/4 and 3/16 ounce lighter wire hooks) in your possession for your castable umbrella rig fishing.    Also, carry yourself some Super Glue and get in the habit of super gluing your Big Hammer swimbait tails to the Hammer Head and letting it dry BEFORE you go fishing.  You will make your baits last much longer by doing this.  If you get a good properly rigged Big Hammer swimbait and glue it the Hammer Head jig head, you can get 10-20 fish per bait.  You’ll get into bites where as quick as you can unhook and re-cast, you’ll just keep on catching ’em.

The 3″ Big Hammer was part of the Alabama Rig Supernova that happened on Kentucky Lake, the Fall of 2011, FLW Everstart Championship. Troy Anderson would win on the Co-Angler side on a handful of 3″ Hammers and heads I gave him, following our practice together. Hammers are a very important tools for all kinds of jobs.


The 3″ Big Hammer Photo Gallery:

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Justin provided some insights into the rod, reel, line, he was using to fish the 5″ Berkley Hollow Belly, single swimbait style.  I found his input very interesting.   The above video gives insights into the Powell 765 Swimbait Rod that Justin was using to fish the 5″ Berkley Hollow Belly Swimmer (Hitch color) , combined with an Abu Garcia Revo SX reel, and 17# Berkley 100% Florocarbon line.  Notice what Justin says about the importance of the action of the rod, and the speed of the reel. “Not too fast, not too slow”.  I couldn’t agree more.  I am not a 100% florocarbon guy with swimbaits most times, but if I was going to be, fishing open water, mid water column/suspended fish is where I’d fish it!  Justin is on point, his fishing, positive vibration and momentum speak volumes.

I love hearing what stuff other guys are really using and why. Justin knows what he is doing, and since I can only mostly talk about Shimano/G-Loom stuff  with any crededbility because that is what I’ve invested in, I find it really helpful to get input from what stuff other guys are REALLY using….and why. Realism isn’t just a swimbait thing. It’s an integral part of my life and business. Keepin’ it real, thank you Justin.


The above video clip walks you thru the “Supernova” that hit the Tennessee River Valley while I was on Kentucky Lake, for the 2011  FLW Outdoors Everstart Championship.   My practice partner, Troy Anderson, won the tournament on the Co-Angler side.  I blew up a lower unit on Day 2 and forfeited a month of practice and preparation.   I stayed after the tournament (got the lower unit fixed under warranty, thank you Yamaha) to spend some time throwing and exploring the Alabama Rig.   The Supernova continues, and who knows where it will take us and the universe of fishing.   Stay tuned for more, and updates around the Big Hammer and Retriever Rig Partnership, as we eluded to in the video clip.

Here is the gear we feature in our video clip, The Alabama Rig Supernova:

3″ Big Hammer Swimbait Tails

Big Hammer Jig Heads

The Retriever Rig

Basstrix Paddle Tailed Tubes

G-Loomis 966 & 965 BBR

Shimano Curado 300

Shimano Calcutta 400 TE

Power Pro Braided Line  (80#)

Big Hammer swimbait for the alabama retriever rig
“The Cabin” in Kuttawa, KY. Big Hammer Swimbaits getting snatched off the shelves, especially the 3&4″ kind.