My first serious bass rod, was a Phenix 55M2 with an Abu Garcia 4600 round reel, ala Don Iovino, doodle worm fishing.  I have fished Shimano most of my adult/post-college could afford boats and serious tackle life.  The last couple years, as I’ve been eyeing the Pacific Ocean, I’ve ventured out and explored rods and reels from various companies and brands.  I sorta wanted to check in and see if anyone had caught up to Shimano, or get a feel what these other brands, like Daiwa, Quantum, Okuma, Lews, etc could do.   My intention was always to blog about those experiences.  I have lagged at blogging, but let this kick off that conversation. 

I know, I want to grab them too.


Fast forward, a couple months back, as I was getting into my first groove with the good sized, solid calico bass at San Clemente Island (aka SCI).  I posted a video of my Daiwa Tatula HD reel being a pain in the arse, reel handle sorta seized up, gears making grinding noises as I’m fighting a fish (find me on instagram @southernswimbait ).  Anyway, I got a note from my friend Brad Rutherford.  You know, that ‘kid’ who was in college and was part of Southern Trout Eaters?  He now works for Pure Fishing.  Pure Fishing is the conglomerate that owns Berkley, Abu Garcia, Fenwick, Stren, Sebile, Spider Wire, etc etc  Brad works for Pure Fishing out of Columbia, South Carolina.   See this cool story from Brad’s father, Bob Rutherford who posted this on Facebook recently. I hadn’t heard this story before.  STE = Southern Trout Eaters:  


Brad sent me a couple of saltwater grade, big spool, low profile, heavy duty, casting reels to try out.  I really appreciated the gesture and wanted to provide some feedback.  I recently invested in some Shimano Tranx, which is the Shimano low profile saltwater grade reel, so I feel like I have good feel of the current state of the market.  What really drew my attention to the Abu Garcia Revo Toro Rocket was the super quick gear ratio, paired up with this beast of a reel, with a massive 4×4 twin paddle handle.   You can tell this thing has amazing torque and power, when you reel it right out of the box.   Shimano has NOT yet figured out how to make a double paddle power handle, that I feel like is up to grade.  Abu Garcia has knocked it out of the park with the handle on the  Revo Toro Rocket.   I find the single power knob handles, the kind that saltwater guys adore….is hard for me as a swimbait guy.  I have lost my grip a couple times at key moments.  Something about the size and the singular knob hasn’t jived with my style of reeling and swimbait fishing.  When I slow down and fish lead heads or something, no problem.  But something about how I grip that knob aint working for me.  The Tranx power knob is oddly too big for me to hold by my middle part of my fingers, and it’s caused me problems.  

Big ole power handles, wide spool, fresh Phenix braided line, Shellback Customs 6″ Swimmer…Times they are a changin, again.

My buddy Chris Lilis (Christos is his Greek name, and since I too have Greek roots, I like to call him Christos) has a bunch of Abu Garcia Toros and Beast reels. Find Christos on Instagram at:  @LBCEEZ  He has been telling me how rock solid they are and how saltwater worthy they were.   I sorta went thru some reels year, and he was giving me his feedback.  After fishing this thing a few trips now, I have no doubt this reel is totally solid and fishes really well.  It casts a mile.  It holds a ton of line, especially for bass guys.  It moves an incredible amount of line per crank.  You need to able to fish fast with a lot of your baits. You fish with fast reels cover water, to make more casts, to get slack out of your long casts, to reel quickly back to the boat thru dead water, etc.  It’s less physically demanding to fish certain baits with fast reels.  I rarely like to fish anything 5:1 or slower, even 6:1 are slow to me, except Huddlestons, and a handful of really big baits these days.  A lot of my game has changed.  Braid changes things too. 

I am totally impressed with this reel.  I haven’t fished an Abu Garcia reel in a long time, and I am certainly impressed.  I would like to get more of these, and continue trying them out in new applications.  They work great with 65/80 pound braid, and calico bass, which means they will rock at big largemouth hunting too.  A-Rigs.  Big Jerk Baits.  Big Spinnerbaits/BuzzBaits.  Big topwater, etc. 

Rod:  Phenix Ultra Classic Swimbait Rod 790H

A number of my friends swear by the 790H Ultra Classic Swimbait rod from Phenix.  I took a trip to Phenix a few weeks back and loaded up on some new sticks for the saltwater.  I knew I wanted to pair the Revo Toro Rocket with the 790H because I knew I was going to be fishing the ShellBack Customs 6″ Swimbait.  I knew I would be getting bit, and would be having chances to test the tackle, get some fish on film and really see how it would work. 

Phenix Ultra Swimbait Classic 790H is my new weapon of calico bass hunting with weedless and lead head swimbaits. 

The 790H feels amazingly like these Teramars from Shimano I have had for 17 years, that I just adore.  Really beefy and strong, but just a little tip.  My friends were not lying when they told me this was the best all around swimbait rod they might pick if they could only have one.  I could throw a 1 oz warbait spinnerbait or a 8″ Huddleston or a Slide Swimmer 250. 

You notice in the above video, I literally jack a fish like 4 feet out of the water on my hookset.  Paired with braid, and a good solid 300/400 series low profile fast reel like the Revo Toro Rocket, you are becoming a dangerous weapon.  You can cover water, and not fatigue yourself.  You can burn your baits and then stall–which creates bites.  You can hook and land most fish you will ever encounter.  Kevin Mattson caught like a 250 lb arapaima on this rod.  It can handle the biggest baddest fish of the Amazon.   I can see myself getting more of the 790H.  Two of them, is not enough! 

Stuck pig




This may be completely “duh” to some people, but I am still acquiring my arsenal of glide baits and learning how to properly fish them in all sorts of places.  The Deps Slide Swimmer 175 is a killer medium sized swimbait that is going to catch you quality and quantity.  If I lived in Georgia and fished the Blue Back Herring bite, I would be all about the Deps Slide Swimmer 175 (SS175) in the Blue Back Herring color.  This bait is 7.5″ long and weighs 3 ounces.   It fishes like a a ‘fluke’.


Herring Eaters

May – June tends to be awesome time for the herring eaters.  I think the bite goes thru the summer, you just have to adjust and fish thru crowds and the heat.   Fish this thing on a medium 8′ swimbait rod, 65# Braided line (direct tie) and a 200 or 300 series 7.1 or 6.3:1 low profile reels.


Applications / Approaches for Herring Eaters with the Slide Swimmer 175 Blue Back Herring:

Docks-Fish the seawalls in between docks and long runs of seawalls anywhere you can find them. Especially early morning bite.  Cover water with the Slide Swimmer.  You can have a lot of fun high sticking with braided line and really pumping your bait upward so the glide breaks the surface.   Then stall it out and let it just die.  Or just parallel good sections and fish it slow and steady, sorta spinner bait style.

The Slide Swimmer is an amazing bait.  I don’t care how you fish it.  You can really jerkbait/fluke style fish it.  So around certain docks, you could even pitch it into open slots and fish it out and draw out a biggun.   I would stall it around shade spots, and just use it pull fish out from under floating docks.  Fish the windy / outer side of anything if you get the chance.


Points-I would fish the Slide Swimmer 175 Blue Back Herring like a mad man on places like Lake Murray or Clarks Hill.  I would run and gun as many red clay points and just good rocky points I could hit.   I would spin around and fish way offshore those points. I found fishing over grass that was 15-12 feet deep with a Triple Trout a really good way to catch quality fish on Clarks Hill.  I think the Slide Swimmer 175 would do some real damage on the herring lakes if a guy knew where the fish were.  Herring eaters are hard to find and stay on.   You gotta be able to fish up shallow then pull off the point, fish ontop, fish double fluke rigs, etc to pull ’em up.  The SS175 is going to be another tool in your tool kit.

Red Clay
Red Clay



Notice, the 175 next to the 250 Slide Swimmer.  The 250 has fins on the belly, the 175 does not have those same fins.
Notice, the 175 next to the 250 Slide Swimmer. The 250 has fins on the belly, the 175 does not have those same fins.


The Tail of the 175 vs. the 250 Slide Swimmer.  More of a Cleaver than the 250s tail.
The Tail of the 175 vs. the 250 Slide Swimmer. More of a Cleaver than the 250s tail.

BrushPiles- I always think of Ryan Coleman from Flowery Branch, GA when I think of brush piles.  I hired Ryan to take me fishing on Lake Lanier.  He took me to some brushpiles and showed me the how they do it with the FishHead Spin over the brush piles.   It was really cool to see how Ryan had the brush pile game down.  I told him we’d be shot for cutting down a tree in California.  I would suck at creating brushpiles.    But if you know where there are brush piles, I would fish this bait over those brush piles, like you would your Zara Spook or GunFish.

Brush pile revealed by low water.  Clarks Hill 2008.
Brush pile revealed by low water. Clarks Hill 2008.

Laydown Trees of course, too.

Man Made Structures – Whatever you do, DO NOT fish this bait around dams, big concrete pump houses, around bridge pilings.   You will probably get your arm broke!

Smallmouth/Spotted Bass – Because this is a ‘medium’ sized swimbait, it makes it extremely attractive to guys who hunt big smallmouth. And spotted beasts. Spotted bass that eat herring are different than largemouth that eat herring.    All I know is, the SS175 is a great selection when you have spotted or smallmouth basses on your agenda.

Saltwater –  The BlueBack Herring is descendant the saltwater run herring.  Herring are a great bait offshore in Southern California. I plan on feeding some calico bass, white sea bass, and yellowtail some Slide Swimmer 175 this summer.



Purchase from Tackle Warehouse Now:



I DO NOT have this bite figured out and by no means can speak as an authority.  Something is always bedding on Okeechobee….bass, bluegill, talapia/goggle-eyes, and Asian armored catfish.   There is a cycle and way of life in the lake, in all lakes I suppose, that mirrors this to some level.  You notice bass beds become bluegill beds or talapia/goggle-eye beds.  The beds get re-used.  Sometime I’ll share what I do with the 3:16 Rising Son around bedding bass, but for now, just wanted to share a nice one I got on Okeechobee over the weekend.  It’s NOT easy out there for me.  Okeechobee is on a fickle cycle for a swimbait guy.  Lots of algae bloom, weird color water, bad wind, overgrown and choked out.  The good black clear water I like to fish is really hard to come by.  The fish are more ‘outside’ grass edge oriented and ideally, I’d have nice black clear water, or inside grass pools with enough depth and life to hold fish.    The bite right now, as usual, is a flipping and punching bite.  That is how you will win on Okeechobee.  If tide and time completely come together and you make the right moves during a 4 day event to pull it off, I think a sight fish/swimbait bite could beat a pure punching bite.  I missed my opportunity, twice, at the Tour level to prove and show that.   I have nightmares about it. It haunts me, and that is no joke.

See the light spots on the bottom?  Those are the 'beds' that get recycled during the year, bass>bluegill>talapia>etc
See the light spots on the bottom int he bottom 1/3rd of this photo? Those are the ‘beds’ that get recycled during the year, bass>bluegill>talapia>etc

I am fishing in and around the Monkey Box, Harney Pond, North Shore area and I found some big hydrilla beds with clean water and bedding bluegill, that is all I can tell you.  Hydrilla seems to be key for me, and I know was key for Brent Ehrler when the Tour was here and he finished 2nd.   And Lord knows I could/should be punching, I just love the challenge of finding swimbait fish.   The bite is way more a flipping bite and pitching jigs at the reeds.  Anyway, I’ve found some bluegill beds (I think) in some thick hydrilla fields, and the water is by far the best black water I have found,  and the water is fishable.  The grass is not topped out  in some pools and you can swim a bait thru it quite nicely.    The 3:16 Sunfish (the Bluegill color is killer too) is a favorite bait of mine. I fish it with a 1/0 ST-36 Owner Stinger Hook, and 65# Braid, M Action 8 footer,  and a Curado 300.  It has a very down the line, nose down swim, which is amazing for a line thru bait with a 45 degree angle of attack between hook and line thru insert in the bait, that you’d think would bias more upward.   The bait does not swim up or plane up, it really keeps its depth and drive ‘right’ on the straight grind.  You don’t have to be overly technical to get the right down the line swim out of the bait, and can stall, snatch and buzz/burn it along too.  It’s just a great bait, and I’m learning that May/June is bed time for bluegill all over the South, including Florida.  You need to be throwing bluegill baits, and the post-spawn time of the bass tends to lead into the bluegill/brim spawn, which tends to be when the heat is setting in, mid Spring style.   I catch fish on the 3:16 Sunfish and 22nd Century Bluegill right now.

Notice the round and honeycomb nature of the bluegill beds.
Notice the round and honeycomb nature of the bluegill beds.


The Florida sun has been quite nice lately.  Mid to Low 80s, but the wind has been relentless.  Keeping it simple and setting my boat down 2 minutes from the launch ramp was a good decision.  I 'live' in Lakeport on weekends.
The Florida sun has been quite nice lately. Mid to Low 80s, but the wind has been relentless. Keeping it simple and setting my boat down 2 minutes from the launch ramp was a good decision. I ‘live’ in Lakeport on weekends.
Blood sweat and tears, literally.
Blood sweat and tears, literally.
I have been working hard out there, glad to get a good bite
I have been working hard out there, glad to get a good bite



Casey Martin is a Canadian, and he blends in as a Southerner about as well as I do.   However, when you put a rod and reel in Casey’s hand, you’d think he was born and raised on the banks of the Tennessee River or in the lowland grass fisheries of Florida.   Casey fishes the FLW Tour as a co-angler and has won 3 events (the 2011 FLW Tour Open Guntersville “A-Rig” Super Nova Tournament,  2011 FLW Tour Open on Champlain, and the 2012 FLW Tour Major on Kentucky Lake) in the last 12 months.  Having a chance to fish with Casey during the off limits time prior to the 2012 FLW Tour Open on Lake Okeechobee afforded me some time to fish with Casey, and this blog post and the adjoining video are the highlights.  Casey has been working hard the last 5 years, living on Lake Guntersville, fishing with his pals Derek Remitz and Craig Dowling to hone his tournament and grass fishing approaches.  Clearly, it’s paying off.

Punching ’em in the mouth. Casey, the 4.20 Sweet Beaver, 1.5 oz of Picasso Tungsten and the 4/0 Owner Twistlock Flippin Hook getting it done, and then things tightened up a bit….

Casey keeps his grass fishing simple.  It goes like this:

  • Have a Sweet Beaver and BB Cricket ready to go as your punch baits (a full bodied punch bait on a 1.5 ounce Picasso tungsten weight, and a smaller profile Gambler BB Cricket as your fall back, the fish are pressured and not biting the Sweet Beaver anymore, more finesse punch bait)
  • Get in the habit of having perfect mechanics in grass punching.  Never waste movements, time or water by making the most precise and efficient casts you can (ie, his sling cast where he never touches his bait and slings an incoming bait back out using the momentum of the incoming pendulum).  Keep yourself in position and be ready for a hard upward hookset, get on the reel quickly, and pull fish out from the thick stuff as quickly as possible for the best chances of boating ’em.
  • Jig fishing.  Use the jig to fish the sparse stuff, where you don’t need punching gear to get thru the vegetation.   Sparse reed patches, isolated clumps of grass, and where ever you don’t need punching stuff to get a bait in.
  • Keep your hardbait selection simple.  Use a Devil’s Horse or gold Rattle Trap to cover water and find fish that are in between your flip and pitch spots.  There is no need to re-invent the wheel here.  Rattle Traps and Devils Horses in Florida are like drop shots and swimbaits in California.  They are proven and work, so just go with it.

Here is a breakdown of the gear Casey was using:

Punching Setup #1:

Reaction Innovations 4.20 Sweet Beaver, Penetration Color

1.5 ounce Picasso Tunsten Weight

Bobber Stops to Peg Weight

4/0 Owner Twistlock Flippin Hook or 4/0 Gamakatsu Flippin Hook

70# Daiwa Samurai Braid

7’5″ G-Loomis Mossyback Flippin Sticks with Left Handed Shimano Curado 200 or Chronarch Reels

Finesse Punching Setup #2

Gambler BB Cricket in Junebug

1 ounce Picasso Tungsten Weight

Bobber Stop to Peg Weight

3/0 Gamakatsu Flippin’ Hook

70# Daiwa Samurai Braid

7’5″ G-Loomis Mossyback Flippin Sticks with Left Handed Shimano Curado 200 or Chronarch Reels

Grass Flippping Jigs

Medlock Jigs are difficult to find.  The only place I know is: Lorida Bait and Tackle:  863-655-5510

Alternatives to the Medlock Jig are the:

Strike King Hack Attack Jig (1 oz)

Gambler Ugly Otter Trailer for Jig

Hardbait Setups:

Devils Horse   3/8oz. (any color)

Rat-L-Trap  1/2 ounce Gold Shad color

15# Seagar Florocarbon  (for Rattle Trap fishing)


Follow Casey Martin’s fishing at  Casey is on his way to a stellar career in professional fishing, and is already competing and winning at the sport’s highest levels and continues to soak up and re-apply information and techniques he is learning with brilliance.  Casey works with the best companies in the business like:  Omega Custom Tackle, Picasso, Rat-L-Trap, Power Pole, Evinrude Outboards and Ranger Boats.   If you have a chance to interact with these companies, let them know Casey is out there not only representing this companies, but showing these products in real world/tournament usage.   It’s one thing to talk about products, its another to get film and footage that validates the things you are trying to convey.   Casey works hard at his fishing, while still holding down contracted work as an electrical engineer for the automotive industry.   Look for Casey to ease his way into fishing from the front of the boat at the FLW Tour level, but what is the rush?   Casey has nothing but time and wisdom to make good decisions at the right time.  In the mean time, look for him at the top of the leaderboard at the Everstart, BFL, and of course the FLW Tour Co-Angler levels for now.

“Anything I can do, Casey can do better! ( and faster, quicker, less complicated and more efficiently)”


***The ‘striping’ caused in some clips of the video were caused from a failed hard drive.  I went the thru the painful and expensive ‘data recovery’ process, hence the striping and distortion.***


“Che Seville”

Album: The Left Hand Side

Label:  Body Deep Music


I love to be able to recommend something I’ve used for years and years and years and have no reservations at all about recommending.   The G-Loomis 966 BBR is an excellent rod for the 8″ Huddleston Deluxe, which in itself, you need an 8″ Huddleston Deluxe rod, therefore, do not pass go until you have an 8″ Huddleston Deluxe rod!    No kidding, that is what makes this rod something to consider in the BIGbait picture.  So, dig this, you can throw all 4 ROFs from Ken Huddleston with the rod, but its also what else the rod can do which is serve as your ‘bigbait’ rod, the one rod you have multiples of so you can also fish 10″ Triple Trouts, 9-12″ MS Slammers, XL Nezumaa Rats, and various hard and softbaits in the 3-7 ounce range.    This rod is not the beefiest of rods in the bigbait world.    I totally understand and get where the G-Loomis 966 BBR is NOT a good rod for the ‘megabaits’ lets call them, these giant hardbaits and giant softbaits pushing 10-16 ounces and upwards of 18″ long or longer.   You need super specialized rods for those baits for sure.  What about the Alabama Rig and other castable umbrella rigs?  You plan on throwing any 4-5-6″ swimbaits on it?

The G-Loomis 966 BBR on deck or in my hand. You need an excellent  Huddleston Deluxe  rod, and the G-Loomis 966 is that indeed, and since it also handles A-Rigs, 10″ Triple Trouts, 9-12″ Slammers, XL Nezumaa rats, etc its an interchangeable tool in my bigbait approach

I need a rod to get after it with the 8″ Huddleston, the XL Nezumaa Rat, or the 10″ Triple Trout, or whatever combinations thereof, so having one rod that can handle multiple bigbaits is key.    I have at least four G-Loomis 966 BBR rod and four Shimano Calcutta 400 TE reel setups in my boat when I’m seriously getting after the trout eaters.  And at least one of the above said combos onboard at all times, because it can fish whatever bigbait I might want to explore in a more tournament centric lake that has big fish in it, like an Okeechobee or Seminole or Santee Cooper.  I know that with that rod, if things are good, and feeling right or just feel like chunking some big stuff, I have a rod that will handle any of my best big search tools.   Rod management.  If you’ve seen Southern Trout Eaters, about 90% of the fish I catch in the film are on that rod.  The other 10% are fish I catch on ‘medium’ rods.   But the film itself should serve as validation that the rod is a workhorse and staple tool in my bigbait fishing approach.

The G-Loomis 966 BBBR + Shimano Calcutta 400TE + 80# Power Pro = torque and power like few have experienced in bass fishing. To properly fish exposed or weedless bigbaits around grass , or to just ‘snatch’ your baits clean, this setup has grass fishing and bigbaits covered as well as the standard clear water and 30# copolymer applications.

Braided line?  You bet.  Try 80# braided line on your G-Loomis 966 BBR, and add whatever bait of your choice.  8″ Huddlestons in the grass on 80# braid?  No, don’t do that.  You will realize that a Shimano Calcutta 400 TE and G-Loomis 966 BBR not only match well in the mountains, but they match well in the grass. You might migrate south down the peninsula called Florida or wherever grass grows thick and heavy.  It is scary the amount of force and stopping power that rod and reel combo deliver with 80# Power Pro.    I’m seriously contemplating moving to Fort Lauderdale, selling software, regrouping,  and fishing in S. Florida and Central Florida for a few years until I get more bites on 8″ Huddleston Deluxes with 80# braid involved and G-Loomis 966s and Calcutta 400 TEs!!!  Talk about addicting.   Big fish, big bites and vicious battles in shallow grass where your gear better be balanced and able to get the job done.    Braid and a slow action parabolic rod is the reason God made hydrilla.

The A-Rig Affect

I found the G-Loomis 966 BBR to be an excellent rod choice for lobbing the ‘bigger’ castable umbrella rigs with the larger 1/2 to 3/4 ounce heads and 4-5″ swimbait tails.  Another usage for an already proven combo.   The rod can load up and handle the lob casting and swimming of a lure that weighs in the 4-5 ounce zone really well.  And it doesn’t suck that the rod can whip 4-7 pounders like other rods handle 2-3 pounders.    So with the effects of the Alabama Rig coming down on our heads, guys who’ve never considered a big rod for anything but flipping might like to know this rod will handle the rigors of the castable umbrella rig as well as swimming big swimbaits.

The Rod:

  • Moderate Fast:  Parabolic action.  The 966 BBR is slow compared to most, and that slower action means it has that parabolic bend, which means it doesn’t wear you out when you decide you’re going to lob bigbaits for 8-10 hours.  The rod does the work of the casting and retrieving, and hooking.  Since the rod loads up nicely, it has an inherent slight load it maintains while you’re retrieving your bigbait, so when a bite does come, you are in an excellent spot to hook and setup on a bite.  The slow action gives the rod incredible power on the pull, which is key to whipping big fish early in the fight.  This rod builds and maintains a lot of force and momentum and it really comes in to play once you get a big fish hooked up because you control and fight the fish while applying maximum pressure.
  • 8 foot long:  I like this rod is a full 8 feet long.  I like a rod that maximizes length for added casting distance, feel and touch, and ability to direct my cast as the bait flies thru the air. I can also lay my line where I want it at the end of a long cast, giving me the ability to influence the swim of my bait by the bow of the line at the beginning of my retrieve.
  • Balanced:  The 966 BBR is not the lightest most advanced rod on the market today.  That is okay.  You don’t hunt elephants with a BB gun.  You need to match power with power and this rod has the mass and make up that matches bigbaits, big fish and has proven itself as a workhorse.    We mentioned the physics of bigbait fishing in Southern Trout Eaters.  The G-Loomis 966 BBR is a standard to measure the strength of your line, terminal tackle selections, whereby you have a standardized rod that you can shape your rigs and rigging around.  The handle is ‘right length’ and the full cork uniform feel makes it comfortable. It just works.
  • Shimano Calcutta 400 TE:  The 400 TE is the reel.  So, think about this. I have a big round gold reel with incredible gears and gearing.  It fits and compliments the G-Loomis 966 perfectly.  It’s like they were made to fit each other, which they weren’t, but the rod and reel together balance.  There are a lot of rods out there where the Calcutta 400 TE would be silly because it so far outweighs and out guns the rod, even though some guy put ‘swimbait’ on the rod.     The reel matches the rod, and the rod matches the reel.
  • Interchangeability&Consistency:  With a few 966 BBR + Calcutta 400 TE reels, I know I approach any bigbait situation, and be able to throw the various tools of my trade and not worry about having specialized rods onboard everytime.  I can use the same combo for any of the bigbaits (or A-Rig) I throw and that is huge because rod management and being able to be efficient with your equipment makes a difference in your fishing.
I’ve had 3-4 G-Loomis 966 BBRs on deck for 6+ years. Interchangeable because they handle the tools of my trade equally well. Sometimes with fishing rods, you just find one that covers multiple baits and applications, and that helps you simplify your approaches and be prepared out on the water.   It’s not uncommon to have 2-3 Hudds tied on the same day or need a 10″ Triple Trout and 8″ Huddleston for the same 100 yard stretch.   Picking up the same rod with a different bait is easier to get used to than different baits on different rods.


There are plenty of rods out there marketed toward swimbaits and bigbaits.   Shimano/G-Loomis  doesn’t even highlight or feature the G-Loomis 966 BBR as a swimbait rod.    They have other lines of newer rods and actions positioned to serve these purposes.  I understand progress and business and ‘how things’ go, but fishing rods are like classic shaped surfboards, or a fine shotgun, or perhaps a Tommy Armor 7 iron…somethings just work and are classic pieces of sporting goods.  Gary Loomis is a legend in the rod building world, and this rod is one of his best known in some circles, and is a model you can talk about and appreciate because it was made in the Pacific NorthWest as a mooching and salmon rod, where they’d lob big hooks and lead for big ole salmon, and can connect the dots that the rod is just ‘simple’ but takes advantage of the physics and balances and compromises.  Catching big fish by lobbing bigbaits, and we are talking about the same approximate size spectrum, so that is why I think the 966 crosses over from that original saltwater world to the freshwater bigbait space so well.   You a V8 engine to tow a boat, so don’t try and do it with a 4 cylinder.  You don’t catch trains on a bicycle, you need to match power with power, and the reel has to match the rod, and the big ole round goldie locks 400 TE to the G-Loomis 966 BBR makes me feel like I’ve got the perfect high powered rifle to shoot whatever big game I encounter.    The G-Loomis 966 BBR is a ‘classic’ and a rod that set a benchmark out there in the bigbait fishing community and is one you can talk around other rods.

Many of my friends use Okuma Rods, Dobyns,  and the G-Loomis Swimbait series of rod.    Rods are a personal choice, and sometimes they are a business decision and sometimes they just are because that is what you have and you already invested in them, and they aren’t broken so you use what you use.  I have zero reservations about recommending the  G-Loomis 966 BBR because it has worked so well for me, for so many years, and continues to impress me with the things I can do with it (ie, 80 # Braid).  You need a Huddleston Rod, you need a BigBait Rod, you need an A-Rig Rod, and this rod does it all.


Wacky Rigging.  One of my favorite things to do in a small bait, finesse, tough bite, you just need to catch 5 fish and haven’t had a bite in a while style of fishing is wacky rigging.  Wacky rigging is the canary in the coal mine to me at times.  If you can’t get a bite, wacky rigging, you are very likely not around ’em.    My 2012 FLW Everstart tournament on Santee Cooper, started by picking up my boat in Augusta, GA on the way to lake, with a fresh fiberglass patch from the damage it sustained from Seminole.  So, I only had 5 days to prepare for Santee Cooper, and in case you don’t know, Santee Cooper is 2 lakes, connected by a canal, and it HUGE.  I mean, a man could spend a lifetime learning Santee Cooper, and because it has grass in it, which even the types of grasses are constantly changing (and growing and being sprayed or eaten by introduced grass carp), Santee Cooper is a lake that changes often.  Add to that, South Carolina’s real estate on the Eastern seaboard.   South Carolina, goes from extreme mountain trout eaters  in the West, to the lowland black water swamp, palmetto tree + Spanish moss frog, swim jig, skippin’ jigs, buzzbait, 30 pound sack capable water, to Atlantic Coast beaches that people surf regularly ( I scored fun 1-2 foot peelers at Hilton Head one 4th of July circa 2006, 10 foot single fin, 80+ degree water,  and a lot of hootin’ an’a hollerin’!) in the East. Santee Cooper is big fish fishery and it didn’t disappoint.  Look at the weights from the event, lots of 11-15 pound, 3 fish sacks getting weighed in.  Guys on 4-6 pounders pretty good, just numbers hard to come by.   Santee Cooper is on a healthy cycle and it could be a sleeper for an incredible event if scheduling and weather permit.   I wished I’d had more time to practice and explore things, because a bigbait bait there is inevitable.  I threw Slammers, 3:16 Sunfish, 22nd Century Bluegills, and skipped the 6″ weedless Huddie too.   I didn’t have tons of practice, but my gameplan was mostly around catching 4-6 pounders off cypress trees, but of course trying to just go fish and find big ones coming or going or on beds.   I thought I could win with the wacky rig—if I got the bites and got them in the boat, there are just some awesome moments in tree fishing where you can get on ’em good.  I had good bites going, just not lots of them, and it was the same stuff I had done here 3 years ago when I finished 7th place.  I had the bites to win last time.  This time, I didn’t have the bites to win, but I had a shot at it, and I knew I could compete and perhaps win, just like last time, but this time, things didn’t work out quite so well, but I did jump off a big one that cost me a Top 20 or so.  5-6 pounder eats my Senko on the base of tree with sparse grass around it in about 3 feet of water, and rips line off immediately for 10 feet right under the surface just hot and full dig style and when I went to turn and stop her, she reared up and jumped mouth open wide reverse flip backside roll tail grab fakey and spits the hook.  Fudge. Whatever, I’m sitting in 7th place overall in the the SouthEast Division, and had a great tournament and finished 35th place, just solid, nothing great, but I’ll take it because Santee Cooper is tough as she is awesome at times.   I had 3 fish on Day 1 for almost 12 pounds, so fun day getting 2 bigguns onboard, and one 14.5″ keeper.  Big fish on the spinning gear around trees is just exciting and fun.  I kept working and working, and also had a grass pattern going that never panned out, so I felt like I fished pretty damn hard and smart, just didn’t have the next levels of fish I needed.   Look at how few guys caught limits both days.  See Results Here.  Ken Ellis won the tournament wacky rigging a Trick Worm on deep trees.  So, I was on the right track and had the right gameplan, I just didn’t have the trees and the knowledge of what trees.  Finding deeper trees is a key, sparse grass is key, and areas adjacent or near spawning grounds, where the fish are pulling out of their spawning areas and resting up, feeding up and hanging loose on the natural cover/structures in the lake.

The Old South. Santee Cooper is near Charleston, a city rich in old America history, and is two lakes, connected by a canal: Lakes Marion&Moultrie, named after American Revolutionary War 1770s era Generals famous for using the swamps and natural terrain to drive the Brits out. And of course, the first shots fired in the Civil War, happened in Charleston at Fort Sumter. My journey from Atlanta to Santee Cooper literally mirrored General Sherman’s notorious “March to the Sea” campaign, that ended with the Confederate surrender of Fort Sumter and terms being served, where the first shots were fired 4 years prior.   I enjoy that kind of stuff, because I really try to understand the various regions and people of this country that are so different than my own home, and their history.   I like South Carolina for the fishing for sure. I used to do great business in nearby Columbus and I know Charleston is really cool and happening and fun, and yet you can get yourself extremely rural and off the grid in a hurry too.   Perhaps I have a soft spot for South Carolina because my personal best 14.60 largemouth came from South Carolina in 2006. But I think it’s just a killer state of mind and of fishing. The extreme Appalachian to Atlantic old timey Southern feel is highlighted with the weather. You want to talk about hot and muggy? We had low 90s and 100% humidity a couple days. Sweltering heat at times for what feels like ‘early in the year’. I believe in the summer time, Santee Cooper might be the hottest place on earth.  You just feel lowland and can sense the warm ocean offsore influencing things. But then again, as the tournament came around, cool, windy, foggy, really windy, really really windy, rain and volatile weather came, making finesse fishing around trees, a bit more challenging!  I wore my bibs all day on Day 1, that cold you get when you’ve been baked by the sun and then things cool down and you’re just cold because you aren’t baking hot.   Finesse fishing, wacky in particular, is best served up under the above weather conditions, because the smooth water allows you to make precise and long distance skips of your bait to the tree.  Wind creates surface waves which put your bait up in the tree and ruins the distance and accuracy thing horribly, but it isn’t game over, you just have to work that much harder to fish the trees properly.   The calmer, the more finesse you can get, for example, throw a Trick Worm vs. a Senko, because it falls and stalls mas bueno, which is the thing about wacky, it is about fall and stall, which becomes neutral or floating mid water column at some point, which means you can keep your bait suspended or ‘floating’ one foot down, one foot off the tree, in the shade spot on base of cypress tree better than just about anything else.       Stall + Fall = 0

I stayed in Eutawville (“Utah-Ville”) at Bells Marina and fished with my good friend Ron and his son, that I’d met here a few years ago when I was here last.   Ron helped me quickly get a feel for the lake and more specifically, the tree bite.    The best trees tend to be deeper 2.5 to 4 feet of water, and have sparse grass around them, or just be on the ‘point’ or generally favorable position to feed from in a stack of trees.  However, it’s sort of like flipping at some level, where you just have to put your head down and make hundreds of perfect presentations time and time again, and eventually you get a bite.  And where you get one bite, you usually get more bites.   Little flurries, I love you so!   I tried to find good areas of trees in practice.  Which I did. I also tried to find a grass bite, which I did with some help from my man Bobby Wood and Ron Buck.  I practiced with them a day and really did some damage on Skinny Dippers and Swim Senkos around lilly pads, gator grass, and mixed stuff.    With the cool weather we had for the tournament, my grass bite died on the vine.  You just knew they were in the grass and biting for someone, but I had trees and grass to balance, and after starting each morning in the grass and coming up empty both days, I decided my grass bite was dead and didn’t try it afternoon of Day 2, just stuck out the trees, which helped because I got my 5th fish with 10 minutes left and helped me get a paycheck.  I caught all 8 of my keepers on the wacky rig and only missed one bite, but it was a big one.  Wacky rigging is a work in progress for me, and I love doing it.  I love super finesse and super big stuff, opposing poles, positives and negatives, north vs south/ east vs west, natural attractions and relationships between the two ends of any spectrum.  I love how it points out things to my bigbait fishing, because I think my success with bigbaits in a national tournament will be somehow directly or indirectly related to a super small bait bite or understanding of fish and fishing.   For example, keeping it simple, just throw a Senko or a Trick Worm, or just throw a Triple Trout or a Huddleston or Slammer, having the right tools narrowed down for your window and using the small baits to either quickly fill a limit or be there as backup to back fill a couple big ones.

Here’s the deal with Wacky Rigging:

Rod: Shimano Cumara 7’2″ Medium Heavy (CUS72MH)

Reel:   Shimano Stradic 1000 or CI4 Stradic 1000 (small spooled reels handle 10-15 pound braid really well, that line has super small diameter and although I like big spooled spinning reels, smaller spooled small spinning reels are good too. You can throw small and light baits really well, and manage you line nicely.  It all matches up, where you don’t have super thin line on a big spool.

Line:  15# Power Pro connected to a 2.5 foot leader of  10# Yamamoto Sugoi Florocarbon

Hook:  Owner Mosquito Hook, #1 or 1/0, get the 50 packs, because you use these things a lot and you do break off at times because of the exposed nose hook, trust me, this is a good investment.  Use bigger hook size in the wind

Bait:  Yamamoto Senko 5″  Or Zoom Trick Worm (watermelon seed, green pumpkin red, black neon, black blue, or junebug)

Rigging:  Wacky O Tool and O-Rings:  I put an O-Ring around my senko and slide the hook under the ring and just fish away.  Sometimes I criss cross two rings and put the hook under the X, but I a really like the way this one fishes and rigs, it’s not perfect, but I haven’t found one that is!

Braided line + floro leader, Owner Mosquito Hook, O-Ring. I will use 2 O-Rings and criss cross them and put the hook under the X at times, but then again, I will just slip the hook under a single ring and just go fishing. I catch a lot of fish on this rig, and slight variations of it anytime I’m around shallow grass, wood, and rock. Trick worms and Senkos are blue chip baits, make sure you own plenty in various colors black to green. Get a feel for skipping, floating, dragging and stalling side rigged baits. Bait control.

Here is the deal with the Grass Bite:

Swimming Baits:  Skinny Dippers or Swim Senkos or Gambler Big EZ  (black blue, watermelon/green pumpkins)

Frogs/Terrestrials Spro  BronzeEye Frogs or Poppin Frog or Paycheck Transporter Frog or Picasso Shad Walker  (natural colors/black)

Line: 65 or 50# Power Pro

HooksOwner  Twistlock Open Gap (Swim Senko, 5/0 or 6/0 for Skinny Dipper), Owner Weighted Beast Hook (Big EZ, 6/0 w/ 1/4 oz weight)

Some really good fish were caught in the grass. You just had to have grass with bait or just fish in it.  The grass was like the trees, lots to choose from, but most does/do not hold fish and even if they do, you have to be good to catch them, especially for 2 days in a row.  Things change quickly on Santee Cooper.

Santee Cooper Wacky Rigging a Senko
I was getting 1 or 2 fish in the 4-6 pound class a day fishing the trees slowly and thoroughly with wacky rigs. Scattered grass, access to deep water, shade all helped the cause. I figured I might be able to squeak out 15 or 20 pounds a day on the right days. I almost pulled it off, but not quite. No regrets, looking forward to getting back there sometime and getting back to work.  “Fine thanks……………………you?”