The Huddleston Deluxe 68 Special.  Wow.  I only recently got my hands on a real one of these, and I’m blown away.  Ken Huddleston believes in designing his baits to align with the natural world.  We documented this in Southern Trout Eaters, and it was the most profound stuff I’d ever heard anyone speak with regards to swimbait fishing, and it was beautiful, because I got to film the conversation.  Ken had been telling me stuff over the phone to prime me up a little, but we didn’t have the ‘big talk’ until we met in a park in Las Vegas for an impromptu interview that became the foundation of Southern Trout Eaters, and changed my world.

   “Nature is subtle, it tries to blend in, and that’s the key, to catching these giants, that don’t make mistakes” — Ken Huddleston.

The Huddleston Vortex is both literal and figurative. Literal if you have ever committed time to swimbait fishing. Figurative if you are a person who isn’t satisfied with K thru 6 level fishing conversation your entire life.

The Huddleston 68 Special is a compromise.   The 68 Special is the 6″ Huddleston Deluxe trout with the tail of the 8″ Huddleston Deluxe trout.  The tail of the 68 special has 3-4X the surface area and volume of the standard tail on the stock 6″ Huddleston Deluxe Trout.   We shared the ‘Sasquatch Rig’ in Southern Trout Eaters, whereby hardcore swimbait chuckers were cutting the tails off their 8″ Huddlestons and gluing them onto the 6″ Huddlestons. Ken decided it would be best to release a commercial version of the rig, since guys were destroying baits to make this rig, not to mention it’s a really hard rig to do, and it doesn’t hold up for days and days of chunking and winding.   Think about Ken “Natural Dude” Huddleston making a bait that does a bunch of ‘vibrating’ and has loud over exaggerated movements and swim.   The Hudd 68 Special  goes against the grain of his design methodolog/beliefs , and I will argue, we (Ken included) are all the better, because compromise is a powerful thing, and in this case if gives us the best of 2 worlds:  tournament and trophy fishing compromise.

The Hudd 68. Night Stalker color

Compromise is a word I have recently began to really think about and focus on.   Compromise is so easier said than done.   Think about your most fundamental beliefs, your core values, and then think about how difficult it is to compromise and accept or even be civil to others who have beliefs and core values that contradict, oppose, or attack your own.   Think about how difficult it is to compromise a position of power, where you are the boss and you believe you are entitled or have earned certain rights or privileges, and then circumstances change, and now you have to give up things you didn’t have to.  Those are incredibly challenging and humbling experiences, financially and spiritually.    You can fervently fight, declare wars on things,  and get really upset over having to compromise or you can take the wiser, more mature route and understand that compromise is one of the more sophisticated and enlightened positions a person can achieve.  If you aren’t old enough to grasp this, someday you will.   My modern day American experiences tell me the country is extremely divided, and getting worse.   I believe the phrase  “divided we fall” to be true,  so let me take this opportunity with the Hudd 68 Special discussion to publish a little public service message around compromise.   Compromise is a good and healthy thing, it ushers in moderate approaches to problems and differences, and ultimately provides a fair and just system where everyone wins and everyone loses–a little.   The Huddleston 68 Special just might be the perfect compromise for guys like me:  a tournament and trophy centric swimbait that borrows from the best of both worlds and applies in more waters all over the world.

Sasquatch! The big oversized tail exaggerates everything from the head wobbling, to the tail thumping, to how slow you can creep the bait and keep it planed correctly, to how the stops and stalls, to how it falls…Not to mention differences in lift, drag, displacement and overall profile.

You can only buy a Hudd 68 Special  directly from the Huddleston Deluxe website ( huddbaits.com).   They are often sold out and hard to get.  You can search and troll eBay for them.  I suggest you go to the Huddleston Deluxe website and sign up for the newsletter, right side column of the homepage and enter your email address.  The newsletter announces when the Huddleston 68 Specials go on sale, and you better get online and get yours exactly as the newsletter announces because these things go fast.    In fact, I’m hiring some hacker buddies of mine to launch a Denial of Service attack on the day the next Hudd 68 Special Sale happens, so nobody can get these things!!!   Not really.  The bait is smoking hot, and you can expect a swim signature piece committed to comparing the 6″ Huddleston Deluxe to the Huddleston 68 Special.

The Huddleston 68 Special blends tournament and trophy, big and small, simple and sophisticated, and just gives us another tool in our toolkit, which as a guy who fishes for a living, can use now and again. A new tool that does things my others do not, and builds off my most productive other tools.
Recommended rigging for the 6″ Huddleston Deluxe Top Hook style trout swimbait.   The #2 Owner hook fits the bait well and is about as wide as the bait, and of course is balanced, so it rigs cleanly with one treble in the belly, two prongs out, in perfect symmetry.

The 6″ Huddleston Deluxe Trout is sweet candy bar sized swimbait that fits certain applications in swimbait fishing.  Namely, smallmouth, spotted bass, tournament largemouth, and trophy brown trout.   The 6″ Huddleston Deluxe Trout, whether you are fishing the ROF 5 or ROF 12 model, both have a top hook.  So, you don’t necessarily need a bottom trap hook, however, in a lot of open water situations or situations like smallmouth or spotted bass fishing where the fish don’t always inhale the bait, a good stinger hook/trap hook setup helps with hook up percentages and just get those short and underside bites in the boat.

Here is what you need

ST-36 vs. ST-56

You can bet I’m working on a matrix and blog post that speaks to treble hooks and swimbaits.  Until then, let me try and simplify this.  I always will use an ST-36 treble hook when I can get away with a 1/0 or bigger sized treble hook.  The ST-36 is just superior sharp, well balanced, and hooks fish for me.   However, when faced with using a #2 sized ST-36 treble hook, I assess my rod, my reel, my line and what I’m hunting, because you can bend out a #2 ST-36 treble hook using a Shimano Calcutta 300 or 400 TE, 65 Pound Braid or 25 Pound P-Line Copolymer, and a medium sized 8 foot swimbait rod.  That is just the physics of swimbait fishing.   Not to say you bend out a hook every trip because I’ve successfully caught many nice fish on #2 ST-36, however, I have recently began using the Owner ST-56 treble hooks in places where I need small, strong and uber sticky trebles, and don’t need something as heavy duty as the ST-66s we use as part of our Huddleston Rig.   So, if you are fishing for big fishes, like 4-6 pound spotted or smallmouth or really big brown trout or are fishing straight 65 pound braid and have some decent largemouth going, consider the ST-56 because you won’t bend out a hook if you happen to hang the fish on one treble and things to the wrong way for you which occassionally happens when just the right amount of torque happens on one treble.  You never know when or exactly why, just too much stress on it and it bends.  This happens to all lighter wire hooks by the way.  That is why hooks are made in 2X, 3X, 4X etc configurations.   Physics is a much bigger part of fishing swimbaits because the baits and fish are so much heavier, and so are the rods, line, gears and torque of the reel.   I would fish the ST-36 Stinger Trebles if I was fishing for money.   Meaning, if every bite and getting every fish in the boat, and was likely after 3 pounders or even good solid 2+ pounders, where just catching the fish, where you not likely to be catching ‘trophies’ because you’re more in a tournament mode of hunting bigger fish, I’d go ST-36 because the odds of bending out a hook are rare, but it does happen.  I’d take on the risk to gain the reward of the sticky-ness of that treble hook.  It is incredibly sharp and perfectly balanced, so it rigs very cleanly.

24.5″ Brown Trout, Cotter, Arkansas choked the 6″ Huddleston Deluxe Top Hook Trout. You don’t need a trap hook when they eat like this, but I like to have one on there, because they won’t always choke your bait, especially when it comes to smallmouth and spotted bass. Trap hooks just help, and the Owner Treble Hooks and Hyper Wire Spit Rings are a staple in my swimbait fishng and trap hook rigging, and have been for years.  I’m getting better at matching my terminal and other tackle, it’s a system and mindset based on experience.
You could say I was stoked. Look how black that fish is. Really dark brown trout, up around the bend, Cotter, Arkansas White River.

Just wanted to share some more pics of the ‘big catch’.  I’m still undecided how big the fish is.  Bummed I was an idiot and didn’t measure the thing officially.   I don’t typically measure or weigh fish unless they are giant, which is weird I suppose, but you sorta just go cool, I got a good one, and enjoy it for a while and keep planning more trips and well timed assaults.


The White River in Arkansas is a trophy brown trout fishery. Quite possibly the best brown trout fishery in the United States.  Anytime you have a legit shot at a >24″ brown trout, you are trophy hunting, and in the White River, you have a legit shot at >30″ brown trout.   The above fish is approx. 27″ long, but doesn’t weigh that much.  Long and thin, but don’t get me wrong, one of the finest catches I’ve made in a while.  8″ Huddleston Deluxe Rainbow Trout swimbait with the Southern Trout Eaters trap rig setup with gills added.  The brown trout fishery that exists here is a wonderful story, and includes the names of people like Dave Whitlock and Forrest Wood as well as bunch of agencies, volunteers, State and Federal fisheries, and the Corp of Engineers…all working together and compromising.  The White River has many secrets, many bends, many shoals, many miles and many fish.  You need at least 2 probably 3 different boats to fish it properly, not including wade fishing.    Brown trout are just an amazingly fun fish to hunt and catch.  They are very gamey and eat moving baits, and definitely eat bigbaits.  They are known to attack rats and birds and other terrestrials as well as other trout.   Hmmm, that breaks my heart to hear!

Leviathan. The mouth of a brown trout from this angle can look like some crazy eel or serpent mouth. Very different mouth, tongue, teeth and bite than a largemouth, but still trout eatin’ lips!


We first broke the ice on the swimbait bite on the White River in what was documented in our film Southern Trout Eaters.  Now, two summers later, we are living on the White and spending a whole lot more time and energy to really dial in the fish.  We have a long way to go.  Fishing in current is a new challenge in itself.   The above is a short clip of an approx. 26-27″ trophy brown trout caught near Cotter, Arkansas,  on the 8″ Huddleston Deluxe Rainbow Trout swimbait, using our Southern Trout Eaters Huddleston Rig, with the added gill modification, ROF 12.   We got some nice footage of the release and just wanted to share our ‘personal best’ with you.  It isn’t often you wake up at 5am with swimbait fishing on your mind when the calendar tells you it’s July and the forecast is well into the 100+ degree mark.   But that is what happens when you understand some of the nuances of Southern swimbait fishing.   Trout Eaters are where you find them.

The Southern Trout Eaters rig works well with brown trout I’m finding. Like bass, big brown trout don’t always inhale the bait or eat it head first. Lots of swipes, kisses and short bites by those super smart brownies. ST-66 treble hooks are perfect for the rock hard bone razor teeth laden mouths of trophy brown trout.


Trophy Trout are not easy to catch or hold onto for a picture. Notice the size of the head and jaws vs. the rest of the body. A cool 104 degree July afternoon in Arkansas, contrasted by 58 degree water temps in the mighty White River.


The Grass Minnow has proven itself to me in the grass.  Shallow grass lakes of the South East.  As I spend more time in the Arkansas Ozarks, I am broadening my application of the Grass Minnow.   The warm and cold water creeks and rivers that feed the Ozarks are full of smallmouth and largemouth, and trout.   So, it’s not the heavy grass fishing, but it is more a finesse approach, but still a real swimbait approach.  I’m fishing the Grass Minnow much like I currently fish the 3″ Big Hammer.  Yes, a spinning rod.   Wet wading, aloha colored swimming trunks, oversized sunglasses, big hat and Buff covering my face, walking or floating a few miles of river here and there.   Getting some exercise and just trying to do it all. The Shimano Cumara 7’2″ Rod + 15 pound Power Pro Braid + 3 feet of Yamamoto Sugoi 10# floro are working really well for me which is crazy to have a bait that fishes well on 50 # braid and GLoomis 964 BBR (Okeechobee style) and now I’m fishing it on a spinning rod.  The Huddleston Vortex continues!    The Grass Minnow is just an extremely real looking and swimming bait, and I’m realizing cannot be pigeon holed into being just a grass bait by any stretch.

How many zillions of minnows are there in our lakes and rivers?  Little narrow looking fishes with forked tails. Fish tend to bite the Grass Minnow. With the right equipment and hookset, you’ll land your bites.

The Grass Minnow is a pretty sophisticated little candy morsel of a swimbait.  The bait is flat sided, has a unique swallow tailed vortex tail, yet the belly and shoulders are full and bulbous, so the bait has the classic Huddleston water displacement and push that we’ve gotten hooked on with his 8″ Trout.   Sometimes people discuss what is the definition of a swimbait, and where you draw lines, etc.  Sophistication trumps size in this case.  The Huddleston Deluxe Grass Minnow is a swimbait you need to learn.  I now have a heavy grass assault (ie, Okeechobee), sparse grass assault (ie, Champlain) and river fish (Ozark) application for this bait.   You have to be good to really understand, fully leverage, and fish this bait properly.  It’s fairly easy to swim, yet if you want to slow down, pause, dead stick and finesse fish with it, it does that too very well.  In shallow rivers, I’m finding it an alternative to the little tube where you can sorta hop/drag/swim it, and skip it under trees and into shade pockets which tends to be where fishes live in shallow low water Arkansas.

The Grass Minnow fishes well on the drop and can be dragged/hopped, like the 3″ Big Hammer, except its  ROF 5 vs ROF 30 respectively (approx). The Grass Minnow is very neutral buoyant and falls nice and slow and graceful. It has a hollow midsection, used as part of the weedless design, that also gives the bait an internal bladder. The bait falls and orients nose down and just drags nicely over hard bottom. It’s not just an excellent grass bait.

So, here’s the hookset with a spinning rod:   Tighten up your drag, so line doesn’t come off when you set the hook.  Point your rod tip at the fish when you get a bite and reel down until you feel tension of the fish at the reel and once you make really good contact with the reel>line>fish, put the rod into the mix and lift up hard with the rod and drive the hook home and maintain a good strong constant pressure as you move the fish and rod a few feet to really pin the fish.  Reel hard and heavy get maximum pressure as you swing the rod to set.   I could probably get away with a slightly heavier spinning rod than I’m using, perhaps the MH vs. the M model.  I am surprised how well it is fishing for me and hooking fish.  I am pretty converting a bunch of my stuff over to braid + leader setups, it just works great for me and my style of fishing.    This is another instance where braid provides something that couldn’t be done with mono or floro (fish a weedless Huddleston bait on a spinning rod, and still be able to hook fish).

Grass is where you find it. Weedless baits sometimes fish really well without weeds. Just like some non-weedless baits fish really well in weeds. A softbait without a top hook sticking out, treble hook hanging or sticking out,  or trap rig of any kind.  Just a clean real bait, sans hook.  It looks really good in the water and fishes super clean.
Yes, that is a spinning rod. The Grass Minnow fishes amazingly well with the spinning rod. Braided line gives me the hookset I need, and the floro leader helps me get bit in uber clear skinny water. But boy, they eat it. Weedless swimbaits fish really nicely in all waters, but around current, where your bait can tumble/ deadstick and hop and stroll, that’s where not having a hook or any exposed hardware really pays off and gives ’em a different look, keeps your bait free from muck, and is a much more refined approach, especially in clean water.  Stay tuned, this whole spinning rod swimbait thing is still being tested, but appears to be excellent.


“First Light”

Bobby Vega & Chris Rossbach

Usage Courtesy:  Body Deep Music


Swim Signatures. I just like this project.  So, this is the mighty ROF 5 Huddleston Deluxe Rainbow Trout swimbait that didn’t get the airtime it deserved in Southern Trout Eaters.  Now, why would that be?  Because of where the fish were and the time(s) of year we did most of the fishing and filming.  The ROF 5 is a staple in my Huddleston approach.  I usually have a ROF 5 and ROF 12 tied on every time.  The ROF 5 is where “rate of stall” came from in my head.  I can fish the ROF 5 much slower across a point, while still having the bait swim true, than I can the ROF 12 or ROF 16.  The ROF 12/16 will want to sink out faster so you have to reel them a bit faster to keep the nose from pointing down.   The ROF 5 sinks belly button first, something we captured in above video clip that is key.  It falls straight horizontal and remains parallel to the surface of the water as it sinks which too helps you creep it along at a super slow pace and keep the bait oriented correctly.

ROF 5 means more stall, more neutral buoyancy, a bait that falls horizontal (vs. nose down). I’d best compare it to a properly rigged and balanced senko setup. Very slow horizontal fall with a lot of wiggling and undulating, but its the ability to swim it slowly on a perfect horizontal plain, and wag that tail super duper SLOW that gets this ROF destroyed by trout eaters.

The ROF 5 has different applications than does the ROF 12, and fishes really well in cold water, offshore, and along pieces of key structure where I know there are fish living, and I want to slow down and really stall them out.   Think about grass fishing.   As I progress and poke around places like Okeechobee and Guntersville with the 8″ Huddleston Deluxe, I’m using the ROF 5 a lot because of the buoyancy and stall factor which is very important in grass fishing, and it also all tends to balance really well with 80# Power Pro braided line fishing.

Watch in the video all the undulating and subtle things the Huddleston does while its swimming. Fins waving, head and body wobbling and literally swimming.

I’m planning on doing a whole series of thing solely around the 8″ Huddleston Deluxe Rainbow Trout, which will better compare ROFs and ‘things’.  But this exercise is about the swim, the swim signature of a ROF 5 version of the Huddleston Deluxe Rainbow Trout.  I tell people who want to get started with Huddleston fishing, learn the ROF 5 and ROF 12 because they are both very good tools for hunting big fish, tournament or just solely trophy hunting.   They are the 2 ROFs I most recommend (but don’t discount the effectiveness of the ROF 0 or ROF 16 either, they are just more ‘specialty’ but not duds by any stretch).

ROF 5, because it has no top hook, is perhaps the finest, most real swimming specimen you can feature. Hence, an almost 5 minute YouTube video of various angles and looks at the ROF 5 in the water. It deserves <5 minutes of your time.  Or actually no, don’t worry about the ROF 5, just throw the ROF 12 and let me worry about it!

Stay tuned for more from our ‘Swim Signatures’ series.   Kind of a fun project to look at what is going on under the water with the baits we fish, big and small.


“Desert Sand”

Album:  The Left Hand Side

Usage Courtesy:  Body Deep Music