Not a giant fish, but I don’t get tired of ‘keeper’ sized bass of any flavor. Daiwa Tatula HD reels, 65# Braid, and Low Down Customs 8 footer.  Times they are a changin’. 


My longtime friend Brett Woodward, from Dana Point, who now lives in Laguna Niguel, gave me my first calico bass exposure.  Brett is a really good hook and lethal as a team partner.  Brett got me hooked on slow rolling spinnerbaits in the kelp for calico bass well over a decade ago now, from his Boston Whaler. 

Kelp = Hard Grass

If you’ve never felt or touched Pacific Ocean kelp, you may not know its super hard.  Hard grass, like the good kind of hydrilla you look for on Okeechobee or Seminole.  Hard grass means your bait doesn’t muck up in it while fishing.  Hard grass means really fishable grass.  Hard grass means it’s healthy and likely has an entire ecosystem of life living under/within it.  

Box O Saltwater Grade Spinnerbaits

Spinnerbaits are really ‘old school’ in the freshwater bass world, especially over grass.  Spinnerbaits are weedless and fish really well in the grass, and do a great job of creating a bait ball/chaser rig.  It makes a ton of sense to fish them in the kelp.  I am sure lots of guys are throwing swimbaits in the kelp, including myself.  I feel like the spinnerbait is a go-to to ‘catch a fish’ and see if any little calico bass are around or sorta see how aggressive the fish are.  

I am new to calico bass fishing.  I love to throw weedless swimbaits.  Believe me.  Braided line, Owner screw lock hooks, and weedless paddle/boot tailed swimmers are key part of my progression as a fisherman, swimming bait fisherman.   However, the spinnerbait gets down and can be slow rolled.  It get’s in the funky zone where you lose visibility, where there are deep shade pockets created by the kelp stringers.  Calico bass are aggressive and bold, but they aren’t dumb.  They have been picked over pretty good around Dana Point area, but it’s still really fun fishing.  You have to work hard for smaller fish I feel like than 10-15 years ago, but then again, what place gets better over time?  

Here are some thoughts on spinnerbaits I carry for saltwater bass fishing:  

WarBaits Spinnerbait HD 1 oz

I like all things WarBaits.  They have a no-nonsense 1 oz spinnerbait that keeps it simple, keeps it heavy duty, and has one heck of an Owner Hook that dwarfs most spinnerbait hooks.  The colors and durability are awesome and the baits will catch ‘many’ fishes before the wire and bait become useless.  Highly recommend them.  Here is a link to an Instagram video I made fishing the Warbaits HD 1 oz Spinnerbait somewhere near Trestles:

Nichols Pulsator Depth Finder Spinnerbait

Nichols is a favorite of mine. I’ve caught many spinnerbaits fish on Nichols bass. I love their colors, painted blades and fishability of the double willow spinnerbaits they make.  I realized they make a 1 oz version, made with heavy wire, dubbed the Nichols Pulsator Depth Finder.  Nice and compact, nice hook, but nowhere near the Owner hook on the Warbaits HD Spinnerbait.   Really cool color combinations and a good choice of 1 oz weights. 

The Warbaits Spinnerbait HD 1 oz come with a big and stout 10/0 and 3X Strong Owner hook. The hook is ‘significantly’ beefier gauge and reaches way further back than any other spinnerbaits I own. Beast of a hook on a beast of a spinnerbait.

Blade Runner 1.5 oz

I have fished the Blade Runner 1.5 and it definitely is heavy duty and the flat sided nature of the bait make it keel very well.  Keels tend to work well or work against you.  I find this 1.5 oz bait is really easy to throw and I liked having the turtle shell/willow combination.  Heavy duty Wire too. 

Blade Runner Guppy Spinnerbait 2.5 oz  

Maybe the guys wanted to build a better mouse-trap?  I just noticed Blade Runner makes a 2.5 oz spinnerbait now?  Check out the Guppy.  It says flat bottom, so maybe this bait has less keel and is even more a deep creeping thumper.  Will get some and advise. 

Revenge Heavy Duty Spinnerbaits

Revenge makes really good baits in general.  They have all kinds of spinnerbaits.  They make a heavy duty and a deep runner that are saltwater worthy.  I find the Heavy Duty have heavier wire and are more geared to salt than the deep runners.  I have always liked the way Revenge distributes the weight of the spinnerbait into the body shape of spinnerbait.  Most spinnerbaits are all head.  Revenge has a good sized body and is a compact bait.  I like gold shiner color! 

Notice the body resembles a baitfish and the weight is distributed to more than just the head of the spinnerbait





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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The 2 ounce Warbaits Slayer Swim Jig and Sledge Hammer swimming thru.  “and we confident, in the victory of good over evil” ……me say War (baits)

The WarBait Slayer Swim Jig

I haven’t been impressed by a bait company, a website, a video production crew, and just a group of fisherman like the fellas at Warbaits in a long time.  I don’t know any of them.  I know a lot of the fishing scene out West, but not these guys.  These are young men in their 20s and late teens for the most part, or way cooler than me 30 thirtysomethings!  hahahahahahah.  Anyway, young, and running wide open, running a good business, with a good product and fishing and filming and doing the things a company who makes baits should have and do———-have sick and real footage of your baits in action.  Your crew, your people, your vibration, your DNA, your ethos….our baits and gear are our lives, and the bass fishing media and industry is paralyzed into only doing tournament highlights and tradeshow + tournament guy in jersey highlights as their highlight reels….Which is fine, but after too many years of that stuff, it’s no longer credible because even if a guy wins a tournament on LURE X, the tournament itself is only a part of a the much bigger, more deeper, much more interesting fishing discussion about the bait or technique.    Take a look at the Warbait videos, the videos from Radio Silence Fishing, etc.  These guys are out there getting after it, and using the modern Internet properly, I enjoy their work and their baits.     Heck, these are my people.  I can relate to their style, the fishing, the water, the terrain, the boats, etc.   It’s not about right or wrong or about style, its about the fishing, and these guys are working hard to produce good products and good media, and work really hard at the on the water fishing part, and appear to be having fun with it (love the War theme and derivatives that play off that for marketing and sales things, just incredible), and my hat is off to them.    I’m going to suggest you look at both their Slayer Swim Jigs and Slayer Heads,  (and the Warblade—you didn’t hear that from me) and rig them with Big Hammer swimbaits (all shapes and sizes 5″ to Sledge) and Robo Ocean Tails (both 5&6″ versions), if you fish for bass in deep water, maybe even as deep as 80+ feet, but certainly 10-20-30-40-50 ranges for sure. Check out the video we put together of the Warbait Slayer Swim Jig rigged with a Sledge Hammer:
I was first told about Warbaits by Brian Kettler at Big Hammer Swimbaits. He was telling me about these saltwater grade swim jigs I needed to check out.  Boy was he right.   You have to understand that the swim jig is probably the #1 best kept secret tool out there in most FLW Tour and BASS Elite series boats right now (the other two being head spins/tail spinners and chatter baits).   Swim jigs are just awesome, and the guys at Warbaits make a bait geared for catching giant calico bass, halibut and other offshore gamefish off the coast of San Diego.  The baits were made to fit the swimbaits that guys were already using (ie, Big Hammer).   The Warbait Slayer Swim Jigs, you have to see.  Big oversized heads, available up to 2 ounces with a 7/0 hook.   This is where swim jigs and bigbait fishing intersects.   There are now a zillion swim jigs on the market.  Take a look at how many swim jigs are available in a size >1/2 ounce.  Almost none.  The Warbaits Slayer Swim Jig family is available in these great saltwater based sizes, so 1, 1.5 and 2 ounce swim jigs.

Flared skirts and full figured baits, I can dig it.

The Intersection of BigBait and Swim Jig

So why do you need a swim jig that is upwards of 2 ounces and has the hook to match the Sledge Hammer?  Because you need to fish bigger, if you want to target the bigger fish.  That is the lesson of bigbaits.  You need to fish significantly larger (meaning, if you’ve never thrown a bait over 6″ long and 1 ounce, move up to 9-12″ long and 2-3 ounces…not just slightly bigger, way bigger).   Where would a 2 ounce swim jig work?  I’m not 100% sure all the places, but let me be clear and just tell you the entire Tennessee River system to start.   I am going to guess at the North Country, Great Lakes, where you have offshore, fishing done in deeper water.  The Ozarks, I will go ahead and volunteer to be part of that test group.   I’m going to be probing the depths of many Ozark lakes in the cold and in the heat.   Texas.  I have heard a lot about big fish being caught offshore in Texas.  So lets try and net this out.  The intersection of bigbait and swim jig happens in deep water for the most part.  You can swim the jig, but you can also drag, hop, and stroke the jig, and that is the key.   Grass fishing up shallow with magnum swim jigs is a whole other conversation, one we’ll circle back to someday.  The Warbait Slayer Swim Jig is the only tool I know that is geared toward catching fish in 15-100 feet (if necessary), besides just a standard lead head in 1-2 ounces, top hook style standard jig head.   The size of the bait, the skirt, the weedguard,  and ability to rig it with the good magnum kind swimbaits, makes it a unique tool.


The Sledge Hammer

I am a huge fan of Big Hammer swimbaits. I’ve been fishing them for years now, and have gotten pretty good with a few sizes of them.  The Sledge Hammer is one I’ve only the last 2 years really put time into.  The Sledge Hammer, is of course exciting to a guy who likes to throw bigbaits.  It’s way bigger, 9″ long to be exact, and has a huge oversized version of the Big Hammer square tail, and slender/thin profile.   Long and slender softbaits (think about big worms for a second) tend to get bit by big fish, and the Sledge Hammer fits nicely into a big, long, slender, swimming bait that almost nobody has an answer to.    The Sledge Hammer is one of a couple swimbaits that match up with the Warbait Slayer Swim Jigs nicely.   My other favorite swimbaits on the Warbait Slayer Swim Jigs are the 6.5″ Big Hammer, the 5.5″ Big Hammer, and the 5&6″ Robo Ocean Tail swimbaits.   The Sledge Hammer is hands down the largest (yet not obnoxious) of the swimbaits you can choose to put on the back of your Warbait Slayer Swim Jigs and put yourself in position to catch a biggun.


Underwater video, and just paying attention and messing around, I realized the heavier jig heads (when talking about exposed lead head, top hook, single swimmers) swim much better at times on the sink/fall than with lighter weights. Not 100% true the world over I’m sure, but pretty confident about it with regards to plastic square and boot tailed swimmers from 5-9″ long. Heavier than normal jig heads help get more ‘falling swim’ out of your bait at times.

The Harder They Come, Harder They Fall

Everyone needs to pitch a 1 ounce Medlock Jig on 80# braid with a Gambler Ugly Otter Trailer on it around reeds in 1-3 feet of water on Lake Okeechobee.  1 ounce jigs don’t fall that fast.  Especially with a big bulky skirt and bait with a lot of drag/resistance.   So, I’m going to let you in on a little secret.   Come closer….let’s talk softly now so as no one else may hear.  “The heavier your jig head is, the better your soft swimbait swims on the fall/on slack line”  So, 1/2 and even 1 ounces aren’t enough weight to get a bigbait swimming right at times.  You need 1.5 and 2 ounces to get the Sledge Hammer and 6.5″ Big Hammer fully swimming right, tail twisting and kicking, body moving, etc.   There are inherent buoyancy properties of soft plastic baits and skirts combined with your line and stretch, etc etc etc whereby it becomes noticeably better/significantly better, to have twice the weight than you would when fishing for freshwater bass.  The rate of fall, in this case, often is the key to the bite, or some of it, but I’m also weaving in, the heavier weight will pull your bait back down to the bottom harder and force a better swim out of your bait on the fall.  You don’t get quite the twist and body undulation on landing, nor the pock marks on the moon effect in sand and soft bottom effect with a 3/4 – 1 ounce head on the Sledge Hammer  as you do with the 2 ounce version.  You get more glide and less swim out of the tail with lighter weights on the jig head with big soft plastics, especially at depth.   And then of course the obvious benefits of better bottom contact, get the bait down quicker (more casts to more sweet spots on tournament day benefit vs. waiting for your bait to sink out), better at crushing rocks ( the 2 ounce Slayer Head crushes rocks and turns them to rubble when touching down each time, no, not really, but it does have more clank/noise/displacement than anything most guys are throwing).   Out West, I read a lot more about guys fishing the “1-Ton”  back in the day.  The Yamamoto Jig with a 1 ounce Football Head on standard 7 foot bass rods in deep water.   Same sort of deal.  The heavier weight creates a reaction bite, or the better swim out of the bait which creates the bite, or it’s just that much more fishable (where can cast it way out and literally drag the bottom while reeling at near full speed if you wanted to….power dragging/swimming style.   Anyway, the net net is try a 1.5 or 2 ounce Slayer Swim Jig and tell me it isn’t the shiz for fishing a top hook style swimbait out deep.

The Song Remains the Same

Everything I find myself doing is a ‘work in progress’ and part of other conversations and discussions.  I have found some outside/deep water swimbait bites, and plan on exploring a whole lot more it.   It’s the ‘single top hook’ swimmer vs. the A-Rig conversation, it’s the deep swimbait bite conversation, the TN River conversation, “swimbaits in current/moving water” conversation———but I will stop there.     This is WAR.   I have an ongoing war with the fish, war with myself, and war within the fishing industry about what is good fishing content and the dynamics of making a living fishing.   It’s okay, it’s a healthy war, one that I enjoy most times, and one I plan on sharing with you each time I update this blog.   You can expect some more on this subject sometime soon.  I have learned a lot about and taken my own fishing to new levels with the 1, 1.5 and 2 ounce Warbaits swim jigs and various Big Hammer swimbaits (5″, 5.5″, 6.5″ and Sledge)  for the last couple years, mostly fishing the TN River, things I plan on sharing, discussions backed up with film, photography, style and soul.


I hate that I killed this fish, but it didn’t go to waste and was an accident. Big old halibut destroyed the Warbait Slayer Swim Jig and Sledge Hammer (Sexy Dine) right off Trestles.

The Warbaits guys aren’t looking at my website or your website for ideas and stealing info and pirating stuff—they are out fishing, pushing, progressing, traveling and searching, and proving why their stuff is legit. These guys are leaders and are trail blazing their own paths with better products, and better media, all done and packaged better.   They tournament fish too.  Check out the SWBA  (Saltwater Bass Anglers) .  I’ll be fishing that SWBA for sure if I lived in the Dana Point/San Clemente, CA again someday.  Calico bass in kelp are just awesome, and you never know what you are going a hook, yellow tail, white sea bass are there too, but big calicos will eat a spinnerbait, swimbait, swim jig, and all sorts of freshwater bass baits better than largemouth do!   I swear, they are just awesome fish and it’s really cool fishing and its rad to see the Pacific Coastline become a good place for tournament fishing, especially bass.   They are catching 25-35+ pound limits too, these aren’t no small 5 fish limits they are catching of calico bass. They fish the entire Southern California coastline, so it’s cool like that so you go from San Diego north to Orange County and Long Beach.  Anyway, educate yourself on these guys and their baits.  This is a style you are going to be using someday probing ledges, points, high spots, vertical faces, fishing over standing timber, etc to hunt and catch bigger fish out deep with a swimbait.

Crossover fishing. Sand Bass on the WarBait Slayer Swim Jig and Sledge Hammer. I plan on sharing what I know about saltwater fishing and how it’s helped me with catching them in the freshwater.


The Warbaits Slayer Swim Jig and Sledge Hammer Photo Gallery:

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