Tournament time again.  I’m unusually optimistic about stringing together a good tournament.  I have been catching fish, not in great numbers or size, but I think the fishing is generally pretty tough out there.  Guys who I know can catch them are struggling, which I’m not suprised.  This leg of the journey has been tough.  Yes, there is a shad spawn, and yes the bass are bedding, but Seminole is a different animal than most lakes.  This year, the grass on Seminole has not grown up and it’s relatively barren compared to the other times I’ve fished here.  What that means is you cannot go pound the grass and milk fish out of it.  Grass lakes without grass can be confusing.  Keeping it consistent and being able to have solid sacks of fish for 3 days is the goal.

My gameplan:  Fishing Small, getting a good solid limit, and then breaking out and fishing Big.   I have various areas where I can fan cast finesse style baits and get it done.  I have areas that are in danger of being ruined by muddy water coming down Spring Creek, however, I think I can adjust and fish the moment and conditions.   We have relatively strong winds and thunderstormy type day forecasted for tomorrow.   That means the bed fishing will be tough for the most part.   Not game over, but the bed fishing on Seminole that I’ve experienced is pretty fickle.  The fish are really smart, trolling motor aware, and require extreme stealth and skills to get to bite (the big fish anyway).   Ideally, I get a good limit with enough time to go have some free time to go hunt some big ones. I am hunting them with Triple Trouts, 3:16 Sunfish/Bluegills and the 5″ Big Hammer sight fish rig (bed fish).    The big swimmer bite has been tough, but it’s out there.  I need a good 2-3 hours of chunking and winding to get a bite, and that assumes muddy water and muck haven’t messed with my water.  Muddy water and muck (ie, floating grass niblets the ducks pull up, or snot grass pieces, or just wind blown garbage are the doom of the swimbait at times).

I’m fishing for a Top 10 and God willing, am able to pull off a Top 5 or better.  I think I can be consistent.  Worst case, I get 10-12 pounds per day, but best case, I think I can get 15+ a day, and sustain it for 3 days in a row.  I think 28- 30 pounds, two day total, will make the Top 10 cut or slightly less. Guys are going to have some big sacks, but I don’t believe they can do it 3 days in a row, let alone 2 days in a row.  We shall see.  I feel good about catching some fish and competing.

Music from the above video clip:

“Preying Mantis”

Album: The Left Hand Side


Usage Courtesy:  Body Deep Music


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

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

3″ Big Hammer Swimbait Tails

Big Hammer Jig Heads

The Retriever Rig

Basstrix Paddle Tailed Tubes

G-Loomis 966 & 965 BBR

Shimano Curado 300

Shimano Calcutta 400 TE

Power Pro Braided Line  (80#)

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


Watch the above video and see how a 3″ Big Hammer with a 1/4 oz. Hammer Head swims, at both normal speeds and with the aid of slow motion.  There is an incredible amount of ‘rocking’ and rolling the body of the bait does, and the tail itself does a lot of twisting and recoiling.   The Big Hammer Square Tailed Swimbait is a fish catcher.

alabama rig kentucky lake
"John Brown". The Catalyst of the War. War on closed minded approaches to rigs and rigging. The Alabama Rig, "Old Blue", simple, made from quality components and solid terminal tackle just helped us all catch a lot more fish.

I’m sitting in Calvert City, waiting for Jet-A-Marina to give me a call, to let me know my lower unit has been delivered, and then installed.  Thanking Yamaha for standing by their warranty, and their support. Of course, I’d like’d to have seen the Yamaha Service crew at the Everstart Event, but that is business and fishing.   So no fishing for me since the tournament, just making hard and from the hip decisions everywhere.

I’m not going to give my $.02 on the Alabama Rig, yet.  I haven’t had a chance to really fish it hard and carefree, swimbait style,  and do everything I want to do.  So, I wanted to share some things that were in direct relation to the Rig.   As things were unfolding with Paul Elias at G-Land, I was making modifications to my presentations to be more ‘multirig’ or ‘polyrig’ in style.  You couldn’t just go get a ‘rig’ to go fish.  It was crazy hearing all this and not even being able to see one or hold one to fabricate your own from, so we just made do.   The fish are on a shad bite, they hunt in small wolf packs in places, and small bait balls that have broken away from the main bait ball are a damn sure good way to get the fish fired up and focused.

quad blade spinnerbait
Quad Bladed Spinnerbaits started catching fish as we scrambled to do anything to start casting baits that made balls of bait, not just one or two baits. I believe we'll be seeing spinnerbaits with many more blades and setups as a result of the Rig Effect

The Booyah Quad Blade Spinnerbait…Someone riddle me this:  Why is there only one spinnerbait with a quad (bonzer!) blade setup (generally available kind)? And it only weighs 3/8 oz?  Why not a 6 blade?  Think about the implications of multirigs and using teasers and creating schools and predator>prey setups that is about to explode.  I have so many ideas and thoughts lately about the Rig Effect it’s hard for me to organize them or even share them in some cases, because the fish catching and money making implications are profound.   Every lure company in North America should have had an ‘all hands’ meeting with the team to strategize about multirigs.

Not only is there going to be a huge amount of rigs created (make your own rig, seriously, its not very difficult to do), there is a viral effect of ideas and innovations that rivals Facebook! (well, probably not).  The Alabama Rig just points out our closed minded approach to rigging as a bass fishermen.   Teasers and umbrellas have been around since the beginning of time.   I’m just excited it catches fish so well.  I can understand throwing 100 lures at once, you expect to hook something, but 5 baits isn’t some disgusting overkill.  I mean we are catching one maybe two fish at a time at best.  You could get 5 sure, but its about presentation and creating the school.

Grass Minnow Double Rig
I started catching 'busting fish' in the back of pockets on the Grass Minnow Double Rig...Tie on one Grass Minnow with a Palomor Knot, leave a long tag end, thread the line back thru the nose of the Grass Minnow like a drop shot rig, come down thru and then tie on Grass Minnow #2 with a Palomar. The Double Grass Minnow has got good weight, but is still a tough Rig at times to fish if its super windy and rough, which it was during the tournament.

10 vortexes.  Each bait gives off a unique vortex, one on each side of the tail, so 10 vortexes created by a 5 way Rig.  In Southern Trout Eaters, Ken Huddleston says:  “I believe bigger, more mature fish will analyze a bait, and if everything is right, it will commit to the bait”.    Ken was talking about trophy fish.  But just as occasionally a trophy fish will act like a 2 pounder, the 2 pounders can act really smart and be really finicky and fussy.    Fish analyze a bait as it tracks thru the water, using more than just lateral lines and smell.  Think about a fish that has only ever tracked behind a bait that has 2 vortexes, or at best, 4 vortexes (double rig fluke, Front Runner on your topwater rig), but never 10 vortexes.  10 vortexes in a fishes mind = safe = commit.   And in fact, his buddies are so confident in 10Vs = safe = commit, they join the party and eat one too, so the angler catches 2 fish on one catch, way more often than normal.

The Grass Minnow is the most subtle swimming best vortex matching bait I know. The Weedless Shad is #2, the only difference being the Grass Minnow has a smaller profile and a swallow tail vortex (vs. the wedge tail).    So, while I was scrambling to fabricate my own Rigs or get real ones thru hook or crook, we started fishing multirig style, meaning, Booyah Quad Blade Spinnerbaits, double rigged flukes, and double rigged Grass Minnows.   The fishing on Kentucky Lake is tough,  don’t kid yourself. The Rig caught fish, but it wasn’t any kind of whack fest out there.   So, to fish with quad blade spinnerbaits and double rigs and start catching some fish again a little more regular, was pretty cool.    I went into the tournament having a decent quad blade spinnerbait and double rigged Grass Minnow bite.  But then came the Rigs.

Troy Anderson, Alabama Rig
Troy Anderson, my practice partner and eventual CoAngler Champion for the 2011 Everstart Championship on Kentucky Lake. Here is Troy, with 3" Hammers and a 4 way rig, with a spinnerblade teaser as #5 in the middle. We were in New Johnsonville here, so we were technically illegally fishing in TN water. We got an email at 4pm that day, last day of practice, that TN Fish&Game rules say no more than 3 baits. Basically, I bailed out of New J'ville and TN altogether based on that ruling alone. So did Dan Moorehead the Pro Champion and guys like Jim Tutt.

There is going to be landslides of changes, new innovations, new tournament rules and implications, and lots of fish getting caught as part of the Rig Effect.   Just fishing multiple baits at the same time, totally under-explored, and creating schools of baits totally under-explored and creating new rigs and methods for presentations, casting, etc make all new kinds of swimbait like implications, like the need for 8 foot rods and big round reels with big gears and heavy lines and heavy terminal tackle.  Strange and wild twist on fishing and swimbait fishing, but the bottom line thing I cannot get over is how well the fish eat the Rig.   It catches fish, and it doesn’t seem ‘obnoxious’ or grossly out of line with fishing regular single bait setups, IMO.  It fishes like a 8″ ROF 12 Huddleston Deluxe.  No kidding.

3" Big Hammer
3" Big Hammer, Motor Oil, Spinning Rod, Braid, Floro leaders = an excellent suspended and deep water probing swimbait system

Grab your spinning rods, boys and girls.   And lets get into a swimbait and spinning rod conversation, shall we?  The 3” Big Hammer swimbait tails and Lead Hammer Heads, are a true swimming bait.  A bait that you fish in 1 foot of water just reeling it on busting fish, or a bait you swim down  along a bridge piling in 30 feet over 80 feet for suspended fish.  Very versatile bait in its rate of fall, and ability to swim it thru any water column or multiple columns on the same cast.

Pickwick Dam
The Pickwick Lake Tailrace, the TVA lakes are loaded with man made structure, concrete, current and fish that chase bait. Anytime I'm on the TVA lakes, the 3" Hammer is part of my swimbait approach

We showed you a little bit of the 3” Hammer in action in Southern Trout Eaters in fact.  We also showed you the 3” Hammer can get magnum bites.  It catches numbers and size.  A great tournament bait, especially good in places like the Tennessee River and the Savannah River/blueback herring lakes,  where you have a lot of man made structure, things like barge tie ups, bridge pilings, wing dams, dam walls, and large marinas.

Tennessee River structure fishing
The Tennessee River is loaded with barge tie ups, bridge piliings, and large marinas that make excellent current breaks, shade lines and are an excellent place to fish for suspended fish with the 3" Big Hammer

Fish, especially spotted bass, but don’t count mr. largemouth out, he suspends with the best of them buddy, love man made structures.   You need a bait that can get down in a hurry along a deep wall or piling and then you want to not waste the cast,  and fish right under your feet at times , looking at your graph, checkin’ out what those arches and marks will do when they see a bait of yours and you play a little pac-man on your graph—- the 3” Hammer is unique in that aspect in the world of swimbait fishing.

Big Hammer box
"My coat of many colors" ---My 3" Hammer box is a collage of baitfish, perch, candy baits and just old standards. Keep a box full of 3/16 and 1/4 Hammer Heads and get to work

How universally edible is a 3” bait?  I mean, come on, every lake in the country has a 3” something that is edible and bass eat them.   Big Hammers come in colors that range from yellow perches, whites, smokes, neons, candies to ghost and sexy shads and just good ole Pacific Ocean baitfish standards like the anchovy, sardine, smelt variants and calico bass killers.

The 3” Hammer has the exposed Lead Hammer Head, and it can be a good semiconductor to gauge what type of bottom you are fishing — hard bottom, soft bottom, shells, wood (you hope not, Hammer’s no likey wood, fish over wood NOT in wood).  The 1/4 and 3/16 ounce Hammer Heads are about all I do with the 3” Hammer.    Just depends what depth I’m fishing, how quick I need to get there, the wind, current and other variables preventing me from fishing a 3/16 ounce basically. I’ll pick a 3/16 ounce to start and go to 1/4 if I know I gotta get down quicker harder faster deeper because wind, waves, sharp edges/ledges, or whatever.  The heads fit the baits perfectly, and when rigged correctly have a real slender and sleek swim, with that little square tail thumping and stretching the bait out as it moves through the water.

Big Hammer featured in Southern Trout Eaters
5 pound spotted bass from Southern Trout Eaters, 3" Hammer, bridge piling. The 3" Big Hammer swimbait will catch magnums if you get around them.

I use a 7’ 2” Shimano Cumara Medium Action spinning rod and Stradic 1000 Spinning Reel.  That Cumara spinning rod, well, actually I have 2 of them that rarely leave my boat when I’m tournament style fishing.   They are booth spooled with 15 # Power Pro tied to a 3 foot section of Yamamoto Sugoi Florocarbon.  I find the Yamamoto Sugoi Florocarbon exceptional stuff and I use old spools of 10 pound from drop shot rods as leader material for my braid+floro on my spinning rods. I use braid + floro on all my spinning gear. I rarely have 100% mono or 100% florocarbon on a spinning rod anymore.

The braid helps immensely with hook sets, sensitivity, playing BIG fish,  and honestly line management is so awesome, I no longer mess around with anything else.    Hook sets and constant pressure are key because sorta like a football head jig, the weight forward lead head swimbait can come popping out if a fish jumps and opens its mouth and shakes, but you can solve that with good pressure and braid hook sets to bury the hook and control of the fish and not letting it jump and spit the bait.

Gear For the 3” Hammer Tails (and Hammer Heads):  

3” Hammer Tails
Hammer Heads  (3/16 and 1/4)
Rod:   Shimano Cumara 7’2″ Medium Action Spinning Rod
Reel: Shimano Stradic 1000
LinePower Pro, 15 Pound Braid
Leader:   Yamamoto Sugoi Florocarbon, 10 Pound
Knot:  Double Uni Knot (for connecting braid to leader)

Strengths:  Deep man made structure fishing where fish can be suspended, at the bottom or anywhere in between.  Covering water on ledges and long tapering nothing points where fish are feeding, clay banks, etc.  Busting fish, try fishing these over fish blowing up bait.  Fishing over top deep standing timber, like, pumping and yo-yo retrieve sorta like a blade bait.   Paralleling bluff walls.

Ideal Conditions:  Big concrete walls and structures with current.  Big marinas, bluff walls, standing timber, long tapering and steep points, nothing banks, ditches, and deep schooled fish.

Big Hammer swimbait fishing on Kentucky Lake
The 3" Big Hammer, is an excellent bait to catch suspended fish off man made structure. Fishing the dam at Kentucky Lake, this is a solid 3 pounder caught in 7 feet of water over 80 feet of water, concrete wall with current.

Notes:  Rig the bait perfectly straight for the right swim.  Glue head to tail if you want to make your bait last longer, once you know you have it rigged perfect.

The 5' Big Hammer
"Ladies and Gentleman, the mighty LEDGE ZEPPELIN" The 5" Big Hammer Swimbait, 1 ounce head, 5" tail in color #63 called Bay Smelt which looks a lot like sexy shad

The Big Hammer is a staple swimbait on the Pacific Inshore saltwater fishing scene.   The Big Hammer is a combination of a soft swimbait tail plus a lead jig head.  The Big Hammer is identified by it’s ‘square tail’ that produces its own unique vortex.   The lead jig heads are available in 1/2, 3/4, 1 ounce and 1.5 ounce sizes with hook sizes that match the bait perfectly.

big hammer square tail
The H-bomb square tail swimbait, producing vortexes and big bites in deep water before you knew the word swimbait
big hammer head
The genius of the Big Hammer as it relates to ledge fishing is bottom contact, rate of fall, and stroke-ability

The 5” Big Hammer, with the exposed lead head design, makes it an excellent deep water and offshore swimbait.  The best example of the 5” Big Hammer in action we can share is from Kentucky Lake.  Kentucky Lake is famous for it’s offshore ledge fishing bite.  You might be fishing the main river channel ledge, or creek channel ledges or where creek channels and the main river channel intersect.  When you look at the traditional baits, like football head jigs and big spoons, you realize there is a special trick to getting the schools of bass that position offshore on the ledges to bite, and that bite is called  a ‘stroke bite’.

big hammer bay smelt swimbait
Fish don't have hands, so they will 'catch' your Big Hammer when you rip it off the bottom and let it sink back down, Tennessee River stroke bite

I highly recommend checking out a video that Omega Tackle Company put out, that is over 2 hours long and a serious look into jig fishing and what is going on from a traditional fishing standpoint to catch fish on the Tennessee River (and the Ozark Lakes) .  Like many themes from Southern Trout Eaters, I think there are techniques and discussions that require more than a 5 minute YouTube clip to cover, and this Omega video is legit and worth checking out.  Stroking a bait wasn’t something intuitive to me.  I had never ripped any bait off the bottom to create the bite at a depth like that. It makes a lot of sense now, but wasn’t something that I just knew to do.  Stroking is key on the Tennessee River ledges to excite the school of fish and get them eating.

Stroking a Swimbait:

When you stroke a bait, you literally rip your bait 4-5 or more feet off the bottom, bringing your rod tip from 9 o clock to 12 o clock.  You drop your rod tip from 12 oclock back down to 9 oclock and pump and rip the bait off the bottom, creating a bite as the bait falls back to the bottom.  Rate of Fall is key to the bite.  You need a bait that falls really quickly and gets the fish fired up to eat.  Once you get one fish going, usually the entire school gets active and you can sit on one spot and catch a bunch of fish.   In the world of swimbaits, very little has ever been done to fish real swimbaits on the ledges.  Bobby Lane famously won an event on Kentucky Lake with the Power Mullet (now known as the Berkely Power Swimbait) , a saltwater swimbait that doesn’t have an exposed lead head, nor does it have the rate of fall of the Big Hammer.

The exposed lead head, and weight offerings of the jig head make the Big Hammer a superior drop bait.   And you want to talk about bottom contact?   You can feel rocks, shells, and soft bottom better with a 3/4 to 1.5 ounce Big Hammer swimbait than any football head jig, or wanna be swimbait with soft plastic molded around an internal body.

kentucky lake swimbait ledge fishing
Outside ledge fishing, Kentucky Lake, 5" Big Hammer, stroking a swimbait

I caught 17 pounds of fish on Day 2 of the Kentucky Lake FLW Tour Major in June 2011.  I caught the fish on the 5” Big Hammer, and was putting the ‘stroking a swimbait’ bite together during practice and it finally came together on Day 2 of the tournament.  Unfortunately, my Day 1 was a sub par performance, I only brought 4 keepers to the scales, which cost me $10,000.  I was close to getting onto something lethal with that 5” Big Hammer.  The bite was so new and intriguing, that I stayed after the tournament to explore the bite further, roll film and take pictures.

big hammer helmet
Helmet! This is no joke and not staged. You will pick up shells off the bottom with the Hammer heads, they fit the shells perfectly. Excellent shell bed detectors, which is usually helpful to find schools of fish

This technique is something I am proud of.  It is a case study in Southern swimbait fishing.  It was taking the conventional fishing wisdom (ie, stroking a football jig or spoon) and applying it to the right swimbait.  The Big Hammer is the right swimbait.  It comes down to rate of fall and bottom contact and that is where the Big Hammer shines and was the right application of a swimbait that is mostly thrown in the Pacific Ocean for calico bass.

big hammer saltwater fishing
The Big Hammer was born in the saltwater, calico bass fishing inshore style. Taking the Big Hammer to the ledges of the Tennessee River is the essence of southernswimbait.com, mixing appications, cultures and styles to catch more and bigger fish and blaze our own trails. With my bros Brett and Brice, Lower Trestles, CA, setting the kelp on fire.


Baits:  5” Big Hammer Tails  (color #63, Bay Smelt, is HARD TO BEAT)
Jig Heads: Big Hammer Heads.  When in doubt, use the 3/4 ounce heads.  When in wind or deep water, go to the 1 ounce or even 1.5 ounce jig heads.  Bottom contact and rate of fall is key to stroking a swimbait.

Rod:  G-Loomis 964 BBR

Reels:  Shimano Calcutta 300 TE or Shimano Curado 300.  You need to be able to spool up a good amount of 17 or 20 pound mono, where you can make long casts, and get the bait down in 15-25 feet quickly and have plenty of line on your spool to re-tie often and the occassional break off.  The Big Hammer will get stuck in wood, you can bet on it.

Line:  P-Line CXX Green Copolymer.  17 or 20 Pound test recommended.

Strengths:  The strength of the 5” Big Hammer is that you can fish in water 15-30+ feet deep and maintain absolute bottom contact.  The exposed lead head design lets you know when you are on rock, shells, or soft bottom.  You can stroke the bait and it doesn’t foul up, it fishes very nicely as a stroking bait.  There is no wrong way to fish it, but stroking requires a special bait with a lot of weight in the head to make the bait shoot back down to the bottom, triggering the strike.   The fish literally catch it on the sink and on your next stroke, all the sudden you have pressure and a fish. You might feel a tick.  This is THE BAIT for ledge fishing.  I’ll go ahead and make a prediction, that this bait will win a tournament on Lake Pickwick, Wheeler, Guntersville, Chickamagua, or Kentucky Lake when put in the hands of someone like Mark Rose or Randy Haynes or someone with intimate knowledge of where the fish live on the ledges.

Ideal Conditions: Ideal conditions for the 5” Big Hammer are knowing where schools of fish are on ledges on the Tennessee River.   The 5” Big Hammer will get the school excited and usually the    ‘alpha’ female of the school eats the bait right off.  You’ll quickly get to the better fish of the school with the 5” Big Hammer.    Swimbait fishing is no different than conventional fishing in that you have to know where the fish are before you can worry about what to make them bite.   You can fish the 5” Big Hammer in 8 feet of water or in 38 feet of water.  You just change the lead head weight to match the depth and wind conditions.   It can be a great practice bait because you can cast it a mile, hop it and stroke it around and probe the depths efficiently.   If you live on the Tennessee River and like ledge fishing, do not overlook this bait.  This bait is a superior bait to anything Berkley is making or the other wanna be bandwagon swimbait companies out there.

kentucky lake ledge fishing with a swimbait
You can get 20+ pounds a day on Kentucky Lake with the Big Hammer, stroked around the right schools of fish