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


Kyle catches big ones on Huddlestons.
Kyle catches big ones on Huddlestons.

I think I met Kyle via Facebook.  When I see a guy catching 8″ Huddleston fish, and I don’t care where, I try to pay attention.  Kyle showed me a picture one time and I immediately recognized it as a pond in my old neighborhood in Roswell, GA.  It was funny.  Kyle is in 11th grade, he runs his own bait company (BigBoy Bait Co), and he catches fish on 3:16 Rising Sons and 8″ Huddleston Deluxe Trout baits.  I really enjoy the passion and the drive these High School and College anglers have…both for the tournament styles of fishing and the bigbait styles of fishing.

Notice ice on the shoreline, and a stud on the 3:16 Rising Son. Good one Kyle.

Kyle shared a recent school assignment with me, a paper on Mickey Ellis and the 3:16 Lure Company.  Read it below.  I like the simple, well synthesized and organized way he explains bigbait fishing and tells a story.  He does a very good job of educating someone who doesn’t know much about fishing, the key things they need to understand and connect with.   I’m impressed with Kyle’s fishing, his writing and his bait company.

Here is Kyle in his own words/his Bio:

“Kyle Meyer here, a little about myself. First off, I am a senior in High School, at Glynn Academy in Saint Simons Island, Georgia. I strongly believe in doing what you love, and right now I am doing just that. I have been handpouring/injecting custom baits for almost 3 years now, and have started a small business in the industry, Big Boy Baits. I am extremely interested in swimbaits and bigbaits, but not just fishing them…the industry, the makers, the processes, and the dedication that goes into these baits is largely unknown to the general public, and I want to change that. Handmade swimbaits are not just another product on the website, they are works of art, masterpieces of mechanics and realism, and useful tools in your arsenal. I also believe in “doing all you can”. I also run a Youtube Video channel, The Southbound Fishing show, to document my journey, the success and failure. Along with my business, I plan to unroll many other projects to the Southern Swimbait fisherman, to help and guide the fresh generation of fishermen, as they are by far the most important to the sport. Thanks for reading, I hope to hear from you soon.” KM

 Kyle Meyer
Kyle Meyer with gorgeous fish caught on one Big Boy Baits Paddle Stick
Kyle Meyer with gorgeous fish caught on one Big Boy Baits Paddle Stick

The Success of Mickey Ellis and 3:16 Lure Company

by Kyle Meyer


Mickey Ellis is a man of dedication, of passion, and of perfection. For 13 years, Mickey has been selling the biggest and the most innovative swimbaits on the market. These are not your normal fishing lures, these baits are giants in themselves. These baits are 4-12 inches long, ultra-realistic fish imitations that catch some of the biggest Largemouth Bass in the world. Every bait is handmade and handcrafted by Mickey himself. The question is, how did he get here? Years before this business ever was dreamed of, Mickey was a hardcore street motorcycle racer, on a path that certainly did not lead to a successful business and a profound love for God and Christianity.  What changed and took him to divine success and the forefront of trophy West Coast bass fishing?

One should note that without work, there can be no progress. To say that a specific person achieved great success without work and dedication is a very false statement. To say that uncontrollable factors can influence the work and goals of a successful person is much more understandable. Mickey Ellis has everything it takes: drive, vision, insight, and most of all, timing. He came into the swimbait industry at just the right time. If he had had his “vision” to make baits 10 years earlier, he might have just made some plastic worms and called it a day. But no, he came into the bait scene just as things were really exploding. Swimbait fishing was a almost a secret cult, barely practiced at all outside of the clear California reservoirs, but it was not to stay that way for long. Mickey came along at precisely the right time, with precisely the right mindset needed for the time period. Technicality, realism, and action were all becoming the focus of his competitors, and he had the experience and timing to pull it all off at the same time. It sounds like another American businessman that took a passion and ran with it, but behind the scenes it is much more.

“I rented a condo on Lake Mission Viejo. I would go out there on the dock every night and fly-line those big Bass Assassins, and catch 10 pounders or better every time”, Mickey says in his interview with Matt Peters of the movie Southern Trout Eaters. Just for reference, a lot of fishermen in the US will never catch or see a 10 pound Largemouth Bass. It is a fish that could break lake and potentially state records all over the country, and Mickey Ellis was catching them on a regular basis, in his backyard. A quote from Malcolm Gladwell reads:  “Practice isn’t the thing you do once you’re good. It’s the thing you do that makes you good.” Catching these giant fish in his own backyard using his own sought-out methods gave Mickey the skill and knowledge of his subject to create a bait so well-suited for the task at hand that it would become one of the top baits in its category: The Mission Fish. To this day the Mission Fish is still one of the most widely fished weedless swimbaits to ever hit the market, and it has exploded the 3:16 Lure Company, Mickey’s business.

Location also greatly affected the success of Mickey and his business. The Southern California area is home to some of the best Largemouth Bass fishing in the country, with 20 out of the 25 largest bass ever caught coming from the Southern California region. That’s right, 80 percent of the largest fish EVER caught came from the local area where Mickey was from. In fact, number 14 on the list came from Lake Mission Viejo; the same lake Mickey practiced and honed his techniques on.  This is a perfect example of the advantageous location, also known as being “in the right place at the right time”. Just as Mickey started his bait business, the niche industry of big swimbaits really exploded and his creations became some of the most sought-after baits in the big-bait world. The baits that are created by the master lure designers of California, folks such as Matt Servant of Mattlures, Jerry Rago of Rago Baits, Scott Whitmer of 22nd Century Baits, Ken Huddleston of Huddleston and of course Mickey Ellis can be found selling for hundreds of dollars sometimes, and they were almost all handmade or hand carved in that time period. When thousands of people want a product that takes hours to make, it creates a bottleneck effect and the demand will always meet the supply. If there had been 500 or 1,000 bait makers in Southern California at that time, who knows who would have made it. Maybe instead of a single devoted person crafting artful baits, it would have been a large scale factory producing cheap knockoffs. But instead, the industry flourished and a unique niche was created to fill the makers’ lists, and competition ensued, driving each man to create a better, more innovative bait, and the technology advanced faster than ever before, with new features, paint jobs, and of course innovation coming to the table. A skilled group of designers and crafters developed this industry from the ground up, and Mickey was right in the middle of it, at just the right time, with just the right ideas.

The success of the 3:16 Lure Company and the man behind it, Mickey Ellis cannot be totally attributed to the cases of “successful phenomenon”, but there are many factors that did make the pendulum swing the right way, and coupled with an insane drive to produce the wildest and most innovative baits, made a machine of a company that to this day provides the public with some of the best trophy bass lures made, and there seems to be no sign of stopping.  KM


3 more studs Kyle caught on his own baits.
3 more studs Kyle caught on his own baits.


Par 7 or 8, Huddleston Fish
Par 7 or 8, Huddleston Fish


Thank you Kyle for sharing and best of luck in your future endeavors with fishing.  Go for it man.  You live in a great part of the country to catch fish!  Hope you got an “A” on your paper and you have many days of Rising Son and 8″ Huddie bites.  MP


At 5 and 1/4″ long and 1.2 ounces, the 3:16 Lure Company Minnow is a fat and bulky little swimbait.  The 3:16 Minnow is probably not going to catch you double digit and giant bass, but it does fit into the tournament, weedless, and numbers of kicker fish department.   Like all of Mickey Ellis softbaits, the 3:16 Minnow is incredibly buoyant, which means it stalls really well, and fishes slowly extremely well, but also can scoot along, throwing a v-wake behind it.  This is a grass swimbait, this is a tournament swimbait, and this is also an open water swimbait.

The 3:16 Lure Company Minnow rigged on a 6/0 Owner Beast Hook


I rig the 3:16 Minnow on a 6/0 Owner Beast Hook.  The twistlock centering pin fits the bait really well, and is great for rigging up the 3:16 Minnow.  I like to texpose the hook in grass, and just leave the hook point exposed in open water.  The weight of the bait combined with the weight of the 6/0 Owner Beast Hook makes this a legit swimbait, that will require a rod that can throw a medium sized swimbait.  Altogether, the bait when rigged is approaching 1.5 ounces.  I like to fish the bait on 50# straight braid in grass, or 17-20# florocarbon in open water.  You may also consider rigging the bait on the Weighted Owner Beast Hook with Twistlock.  Same hook with some lead on the shank to get the bait down and fish it deeper or more in contact with the wood or whatever structure you’re fishing.   The Weighted Beast Hook will also cause the bait to fall more horizontally.

Like just about all of Mickey Ellis softbaits, the Minnow floats when unrigged in the water. There is an internal air bladder that adds to the buoyancy, and buoyancy = Rate of Stall factor


The 3:16 Minnow is a more real, more bulky, more technical (because of the buoyancy properties) style of swimbait than the Skinny Dipper or Swim Senko style of grass swimbait.   Because it rigs so well weedlessly, the bait can be fished in and thru the thickest grass, and stalled in the holes quite nicely.   You can slow grind the bait in open water, and just reel it back, where you are hunting fish that are eating baitfish like shad or blue back herring.  It’s got the bulk and mass to attract bigger bites, but isn’t a bigbait per se.

You get 4 perfectly packaged Minnows for $10.49.  These baits can be re-used and fish very well and are part of my growing soft bait approach to grass lakes, blue back herring lakes, and tournament swimbait fishing mindset.

The 3:16 Lure Company Minnow Photo Gallery:

[nggallery id=9]


The 3:16 Rising Son Jr. is a sleeper swimbait and is great for certain applications.  I realized I’d been overlooking this bait as part of my tournament and trophy arsenal this past winter in Okeechobee.  You are going to have to be patient, I have an Okeechobee sessions thing I’m working on that will shed a lot more information and clarity as to why the Rising Son Jr. works so well in some situations, and some insights into how I fish and rig it.   I know this is one of Mickey’s most popular softbaits and for good reason, it comes in great colors, swims incredibly well at fast and slow speeds, and fishes good around hard and soft cover.   Fish bite it.

Exactly. The tail ‘licks’ the surface, the body straightens out, and the bait gets into perfect trim when you get a good swim lane and a feel for the tempo of fishing it.
Almost a great shot. Lens glare got me. Single Owner ST-41 Treble hooks and zero metal inside the bait/as part of the harness = very buoyant.
The body is bulbous. It has a nice tear drop shape that gives it volume, and of course the tail just twists and shouts back there. Mickey’s boot tails are known to get bites and create lift.


The 3:16 Lure Company Sunfish is a bait I reconnected with this year.  I had fished it before, but after some sitting and thinking about some things, simplification and just expansion of the bigbait journey, I realized the bluegill/brim/sunfish space was something I needed to focus and commit to.   I tied the 3:16 Sunfish and hit Okeechobee this past winter, and immediately picked up where I’d left off with the bait some years ago on places like Lake Otay.   Let me be clear, you need a bluegill/brim/shellcracker/sunfish swimbait approach, especially around the spawn.    So, the 3:16 Sunfish (and you should know that the 3:16 Bluegill is the exact same bait, just poured in a different color.  Both baits are killer. I just like a little chartreuse and watermelon green in my life whenever possible), is a fish catcher.

The 3:16 Lure Company Sunfish. A great swimming bait, booted tail with lots of lift which helps get it up around shallow grass, yet, you can still sink it out and slow grind it back for a more mid water column retrieve. The bait can definitely be burned and it still runs amazingly true, as per the fast water section of the above video clip.

I fish the 3:16 Sunfish on a medium action 8 foot rod, moderate fast, parabolic style, 965 BBR G-Loomis Rod with a Calcutta 300 TE Reel.  I am using 65 Pound Power Pro Braid (no mono leader as per in the video, yet….I’m still messing around but straight 65# braid is awfully good) and one single 1/0  ST-41 Owner Treble Hook.  Why the ST-41?  I feel like the ST-41 Treble Hooks are excellent when fish load up and just eat a bait. you don’t ‘skin hook’ or barely hook fish on the 3:16 Sunfish.  They eat the whole damn thing.   If I’ve only got one hook, and I’m getting 4-6+ fish, which is common, I need one strong hook and the ST-41 has worked well for me, especially when matched with 65# Braid.   You could definitely use the ST-36 Owner Stinger Treble here too.  I am constantly trying new things and just sorta testing and seeing what works and what doesn’t and found the single 1/0  ST-41 Treble Hook to match this bait and how I’m fishing it on braid really well.

Slashing and Burning. The tail of the 3:16 Sunfish and Bluegill is a ‘slasher’ as far as I’m concerned. It’s like a buzz saw. But it’s got a lot of twist in it too, so what do you call a twisting buzz saw? A twistbuzzstersaw. Say that 5 times fast!

The purpose of this Swim Signature series is to provide an underwater and slowed down look at various baits, big and small.  Not to critique or necessarily ‘review’ the baits, at least, not yet.  This is an objective, here is this bait swimming in the water look.  You can form you own conclusions, but I suggest you might pick one or four of these 3:16 Sunfishes up.  They are softbaits, they fish really well, you can catch a bunch of fish per bait, and you will see in some future productions, they catch nice size and numbers.  For $12.99 you get a lot of bait that will be worth the money, and I’m about 99.99% sure your bait will run true, as per Mickey’s packaging and quality control standards. His baits just swim bang on out of the box.   Bass inherently have a contentious relationship with the panfishes, which means they tend to eat them out of anger and hunger, which tells me I need to be throwing them, especially when trout are not an option.

What do Paul McCartney and the 3:16 Sunfish have in common? They both love to twist and shout. “You know you twist so fine!”


“Che Seville”

Album: The Left Hand Side

Usage Courtesy:  Body Deep Music

The Huddleston Deluxe 8" Trout on Lake Okeechobee
"Simplification is the Ultimate Sophistication" (Da Vinci) After reading the Steve Jobs Biography, I realized something basic about simplification in bigbait fishing. Softbaits get the most bites (and tend to catch the biggest fish, ala 8" Huddleston). So when in Rome, throw a softbait! Okeechobee validated what I already knew: The Vortex Tails catch the biggest fish, and the Boot Tails (3:16 Rising Son Jr) get the most bites. Making the 3:16 Rising Son Jr. the better tournament swimbait, among other reasons. Now, when I did get a bite on the 8" Huddleston, it was a magnum, they were just hard to come by.

You can expect full details, video/film and more photos to back this subject up, however, those things will take me much more time.  Fishing bigbaits in shallow grass is like everything else an ongoing discussion.   I’ve just arrived at Lake Seminole, and the shallow grass and bigbait assault continues.    I’m a bit in a holding pattern on some video production stuff, trying to find my path on some directions and paths to take with various projects and pursuits that will remain private for now.

Lake Okeechobee, Monkey Box
Okeechobee, outside grass line. 2012 is the first year I've been to Okeechobee in the winter where the fish were holding on the outside grass lines. The inside grass lines were choked out from the low water overgrowth, and the water clarity was good in the mainlake, which I've never seen either. The fish were more in their summer pattern that I've ever experienced, which made them a bit more accessible with baits with hanging or partially hanging trebles, especially those that weight > 2 ounces!


My mental preparations began for Okeechobee this past summer, when sitting and talking with Mickey Ellis for 3:16 Lure Company.  I was reminded of some simple lessons and things I used to know.   Line thru swimbaits, in particular, can be fished in shallow grass really well because they tend to swim high in the water column, and I knew that coupled with braided line, I could keep those baits even higher in the water column, literally on or just below the surface.  Braided line adds weedlessness, trust me on this, its a combination of buoyancy and ability to snatch your bait clean.

The other preparations I had for Okeechobee came from reading the Steve Jobs Biography this fall.  Laugh if you will.  You ready?   “Simplification is the ultimate sophistication” was the quote.    Leonardo Da Vinci is the source of the quote, but Steve made me aware of it (along with a few other tidbits of Da Vinci wisdom).    Let me attempt to walk you thru this.   When you simplify your bigbait approach on a foreign lake or foreign conditions, you need to start with SOFTBAITS.  When I assessed what baits I’ve caught the vast majority of fish on, it was clear to me that softbaits are what get bit more often, under most conditions.   Of course I had my Triple Trouts and 22nd Century Bluegill on, but unless they are killing your softbaits in shallow grass, they probably aren’t going to kill your faster swimming and moving hardbaits in shallow grass, either.   Forget the trout eaters here, we are talking shallow grass fishing, in less than peak heat season.   With all the challenges of getting on a bigbait bite on tournament day, the one thing you can do, when conditions present themselves is keep is soft, stupid.

K.I.S.S: Keep it Soft, Stupid! You know I love certain hardbaits, but rarely do you go out and just pounce on hardbait fish on lakes without a lot of history of swimbait action, especially those without trout. Also, when you have a tournament minded approach, boot tails get bit quite a bit more than the the 8" Huddleston Vortex tail at times. It's a tradeoff. The 8" Hudd catches magnums, the boot tails catch 3-7 pounders and those are the fish I'm hunting on tournament day, not lake or world records. Add to that, Rate of Stall, a subject we have only just begun to propose, boot tails have more drag, and the 3:16 softbaits tend to have excellent Rate of Stall due to buoyancy and lift.

I had a phone conversation with Steve Pagliughi (“Urban”, is his online handle) in November.  Steve is a Huddleston guy and a 3:16 guy.   Steve and I have never met, never fished together, and just had a conversation about bigbaits and fishing.  Steve implored me to take a look at the 3:16 Rising Son Jr.  He told me the bait just flat out gets bit.   Excellent, that is what I needed to hear, along with his other tidbits of insights about Huddlestons, grass, and line thru swimbait approaches.    I don’t pretend to be a ‘know it all’ and find myself laughing at people and fisherman who take that approach.  The most talented professionals I’ve ever been around have some common traits, and at the top of the list is humility.  Being human and consciously recognizing your human flaws means you are aware that you cannot know everything.  You cannot be master of all.  You have to leave yourself open to continually learn, make adjustments and keep an open mind and mix the new things you learn into the pool of wisdom and experiences you have, and adopt/apply new things accordingly.  California, the Bay Area in particular, excels in an open minded approach to everything.  People seek out diversity and different because they know it ultimately enriches them.  When you take the approach that you ‘know it all’ or otherwise close your mind to things because they are ‘different’ or don’t come from the same mold you came from or come from outside your world, you stop LISTENING.   Folks may hear all and think they know all or are aware of all, but unless you really listen and process the information and take the time to do so, you aren’t really knowing everything.  You are just hearing it, and it goes into the bucket of clutter along with everything else we are exposed to in today’s connected world.   You don’t know everything, and even if you did, you cannot apply it in real time or in appropriate time.  I really appreciated my conversation with Steve because it was so on time, and so honest and something I really enjoy, learning something new, especially in the world of bigbaits.  Just hearing Steve’s confidence and experience with the Rising Son Jr. and some of his Huddleston applications got my head right well in advance of leaving for Okeechobee.

The Rising Son Jr.

When you take a look at the Rising Son Jr. it looks like you’d expect a line thru swimbait with a boot tail.  Here is what you may not immediately grasp.  Notice, there is no ‘hardware’ in the line-thru.  There is no metal involved.  The bait is 100% soft plastic with the 3:16 Line Thru block glued under the chin/throat.    This makes the bait extremely buoyant (it damn near floats). Buoyancy equates to ability to fish the bait over and thru super shallow grass, which is perfect for Okeechobee.  Also, buoyancy equates to greater ability to stall  (Rate of Stall) the bait and keeps the bait overhead longer.  This is a key point to understand, especially at Okeechobee, where you’re targeting fish that are “about” their beds.  Big females are rarely locked on the bed.  When they are, you sight fish them.  Most times, they are ‘about’ their beds, meaning, you want to swim your bait over the bed, putting your bait in their nursery, and keep it there, swimming along, for the longest amount of time possible.   The idea being, they aren’t biting out of hunger, they are biting because Mother Nature and natural processes dictate that anything a bass can fit in its mouth will get eaten if it spends time where it shouldn’t during spawn time.  Your bait is seen as a threat or an intruder or something that needs to be taught a lesson.    Some baits move out of the nursery too quickly, and aren’t the best choice (ie, fast moving hard baits).   Buy yourself some 3:16 Rising Son Jrs, and get to work.   These things get bit, they catch big ones, and they catch the medium sized ones really well too.   Stay tuned, more to come on this bait.

Gear for the 3:16 Rising Son Jr:

Rod: G-Loomis 965 BBR

Reel: Shimano Calcutta 300 TE

Line:  65# Power Pro

Trap Hook:  One 1/0 Owner ST-36 harnessed to a #4 Owner ST-66  (when in doubt, fish the stock hook provided, it works great, I just like the insurance of a second stinger back further in the bait.  Stay tuned, more to come on the trap hook setup).

The 3:16 Lure Company Rising Son Jr. Let me try and net out why this bait was so effective: Rate of Stall (buoyancy, drag, and swim), size and profile, ability to fish with braided line, trap hook setup (not shown above), and where and how the fish were positioned on the Big O, winter 2012. You get a feel for what I was fishing over, near topped out hydrilla, in this case a few hundred yards from where Randall Tharp would win the FLW Tour Event, punching the thicker hydrilla mats.
The 2012 FLW Everstart Lake Okeechobee Matt Peters
Day 2, FLW Everstart Lake Okeechobee. Two of my four fish that weighed 18 pounds. I only had 6 fish for the entire tournament, and 5 of them came on the 3:16 Rising Son Jr. The other one came on the Huddie. All six fish I weighed at the Everstart came on the bigbaits. Finished 21st place, a major leap forward in my tournament fishing, committing to the bigbaits and getting it done. Day 1 was rough with only 2 fish for 6 pounds, but that played into the game. When you're down and need to make up a lot of ground, throw the bigbaits, if you dare.

The 3:16 Sunfish/Bluegill

So, you might be wondering, when did you throw the 3:16 Bluegill or Sunfish (same bait, two color options, both of them excellent) vs. when did you throw the Rising Son Jr?    When I first arrived at Okeechobee around Christmas time, the water was approx 13.75.  When I left Okeechobee in Mid February 2012, the water had dropped below 13.25.  Half a foot on Okeechobee is significant.   Falling water on Okeechobee is a chronic problem we face each winter.   As the water falls, it creates less and less swim lanes to throw baits in.  The grass starts topping out and you better be on your game to keep you bait up and out of the grass while fishing.  The 3:16 Sunfish/Bluegill is not as buoyant as the Rising Son Jr. and it tends to fish a little deeper, so as the water level dropped, I had fewer and fewer places to fish this bait effectively.    I found that Okeechobee bass really hated bluegill and sunfish baits swam over their beds/nursery areas too.  Bluegill/Sunfish tend to be an enemy of bedding bass because they eat the bass eggs and/or the bass fry.  Bass love to eat bluegill/sunfish, and it’s honestly something I’ve never committed that much time to.  I get asked all the time, what bluegill bait do  your recommend?  Now I have an answer, because I committed a ton of time to learning the bait and getting familiar with it.  I really hate recommending baits or tackle without having any experience. Expect more to come on this bait too.   Need a bluegill bait?  Fishing around bedding fish?  Throw a 3:16 Bluegill or Sunfish and see what happens.

Gear for the 3:16 Bluegill/Sunfish:

Rod: G-Loomis 965 BBR

Reel: Shimano Calcutta 300 TE

Line:  65# Power Pro

Hook:  Owner ST-41 Treble Hook 1/0 (no trap, just single hook, no rings, just direct tied to hook)

Okeechobee Huddleston Deluxe Trout Eater
Okeechobee Trout Eater. Of course there are no trout on Okeechobee. Golden shiner are the obvious choice, but I found other colors like the Hitch color to get bites too. Here is a nice one on the ROF 5. I fished both the ROF 5 and ROF 12 on Okeechobee the Winter of 2012 and had some fantastic bites. Try fishing an 8" Huddleston with 80 Pound Braid and a 400 TE from Shimano. You won't believe the torque and power you have with that reel and braid.

I’ve written and filmed plenty about the 6″ Weedless Trout, the Grass Minnow and Weedless Shad, its about time to shed some light on the 8″ Huddleston Deluxe Trout on Okeechobee.  I wasn’t fishing the Rainbow Trout color, but I’m sure it would work.    Of all the generally available colors of the 8″ Huddleston Deluxe, I’d pick the Golden Shiner or Hitch Color to start.   Understand, you need to be prepared to fish both a ROF 5 and ROF 12, so have 2 rods ready.   I fished the ROF 12 with just the single top jig hook, because with braided line, it fished extremely well in the grass and could be snatched clean.    The ROF 5 was fished with the “Southern Trout Eaters” Huddleston Rig, and I loved that the ST-66 Owner Stinger Trebles matched and handled the braided line very well.    I fished the 8″ Huddlestons on the outside grass edges, edges of lilly pads, edges of Kissimmee Grass, edges of reeds, and over top hydrilla.    The bait fished pretty darn well.  Depending on wind and depth and amount of water I had to work with, would depend which ROF of Huddleston I’d fish.    When you lob cast a bait that weighs almost 5 ounces, its going to sink down at least 6″ or so when it hits the water at the end of your cast.  So as the water was falling on Okeechobee, again, it became harder and harder to fish certain areas without constantly being mucked up in grass.  Even with braid, 400 TE reels and a stout 8 footer, you cannot snatch clean from super thick hydrilla and pads from the outset of  your cast.   So, fishability at times was a challenge, but not impossible. It can be exhaustive fishing, like when you’re fishing a buzzbait and really working to keep the bait on the surface 100% of time, getting it running right just after it hits the water from the end of your cast.   I didn’t catch lots of fish on the 8″ Huddleston, but the ones I caught were STUDS.  The bites were awesome too.  Just crushed the bait.   Looking forward to getting back there and working on this bite more.  Again, stay tuned, more to come on 8″ Hudds in the grass.

Gear for 8″ Huddleston Deluxe (ROF 5 & ROF 12):

Rod:  G Loomis 966 BBR

Reel:  Shimano Calcutta 400 TE

Line:  80# Power Pro

Trap Hooks:  None on the ROF 12, just use the top jig jook.  On the ROF 5, use the Southern Trout Eater Huddleston Rig.

Okeechobee is such an awesome place, I miss it already.  I just love the warm winter weather, the fishing, the tournaments, the Tiki Bar and the entire Roland & Mary Ann Martin Marina & Fishing Campus, and shallow grass.   Okeechobee was the first place I fished after resigning from corporate life on Dec. 31 2008, and my first week on Okeechobee in early January 2009 almost killed me.  I wrecked my boat once, got lost a couple times, got eaten by mosquitoes , and couldn’t buy a bite, but my how things have changed.  I settled down and got right.  Three seasons later, I’m finally putting together a bigbait bite, and gave ’em a run at the FLW Tour and Everstart with the bigbaits.  Didn’t quite pull it off perfectly and have a lot of room for improvement, but I sure enjoyed progressing and taking bigbaits to the shallow grass of Florida.