The Gambler Really Big GZ 8″ Swimbait Tail vs. the familiar 8″ Huddleston trout tail.


The Gambler Really Big GZ 8″ next to some other baits for some relative sizing. From Top to Bottom: The Big Hammer Sledge Hammer, the Gambler Really Big GZ 8″, the ShellBack Customs 6″ Swimbait, and 8″ Huddleston Deluxe trout.  


The hookset, the circumstances of this fish….Tip of the hat to Gambler,  my friends, my competitors, and to the mighty unique state of Florida. I had no doubt the 8″ Gambler Really Big GZ 8″ bait was gonna get bit.
One on the Gambler Big GZ 8″ and one on the Shellback Customs 6″ swimmer


3 fatties. I’m getting ready for Okeechobee in Jan 202X in my mind.  Gambler Big GZ 8″, Shell Back customs 6″, some Huddies, some bed fishing w Hammer, some, Harney Pond Duck Pond Casey Martin was here dot com.

Gambler in Florida is like RoboWorm or Keitech in California.  Gambler is based in South Florida, near Okeechobee and is known for in particular for its goodness around grass.  The owner, Val is a tournament fisherman and has won major events on Okeechobee.  I have seen him, competed against him back in the day, and know he is a solid fisherman.   They maintain a pro-staff of really good local and national anglers that tend to be good anywhere, but grass in particular.  Think JT Kenny or Brandon McMillan.  The BB Cricket is legend amongst the punchers.  Super small profile simple bait that fishes well behind massive 1.5ounce punch weight and beefy punch hook.

Right around the corner from the Kissimmee River. Bob Wood gave me an early tour of what the deal is with Okeechobee. Notice, the Gambler Flappy Shad swinging off his line. Look at the water we are fishing.  The flappy shad is little quite weedless buzzbait when you cut the tail and high stick reel it on braid.  Blamo!   


Jimmy, Day 4 final weigh in. Notice Koby Kreiger in the background. I knew I better get right in hurry.  Okeechobee was intimidating.  Not an easy read for me, but man, the lessons in life and fishing.  Okeechobee haunts me still. 
Day 2, FLW Series on Okeechobee 2009. I fished w Robert Gulley from MS. We had a great day. I somehow remember this day incredibly well.  Tin House Cove, boyeeeeee. 

When I first arrived in Okeechobee in January of 2009, the very first event I fished, within weeks of resigning from software world, was the 2009 FLW Series Event.  That was they event the late great Jimmy McMillan won. I actually fished well the first 2 days and totally choked the 3rd.  The irony, is I was fishing the Gambler Flappy Shad and sight fishing.  Day 3, things got wicked rough and windy, but behind the grass lines, the water was uber fishy. I basically rookied out, and to this day cannot answer why I didn’t just fish the wind the throw a spinnerbait.  I watched Dion Hibdon whack like 19 pounds all around around me.  Anyway, I was out.  Jimmy McMillan would go on to win.  The winning bait?  The Reaction Innovations Skinny Dipper.  Over in this place called J&S which of course was the only corner of Okeechboee I hadn’t seen!   It would put me on journey of a braid on weedless swimbait fishing. 

Swimming Worms 

I had a golden opportunity to just put on a boot tailed swimbait like Basstrix paddle tail and would have made a $10K in my first event.  I just didn’t.  I fought the wind, kept looking for bed fish, and kooked out.   I didn’t have that in my game, saddly, out of arrogance. I fished ‘bigbaits’.  I fished other baits, but didn’t spend the time on the simple boot tailed swimmers, the paddle tailed swimmers, the simple swimbaits—–that I should have.  I should have had that in my game and kept with it.  It was a mistake I made all during my full time fishing journey.  Anyway, after that Okeeechobee event, I had nearly a month to prepare for the next one on Okeechobee.  

Tell me that isn’t a Florida largemouth? Black bass. Yamamoto Swim Senko. I would never suggest reeling them over grass!


That next 30 days, in my mind, will remain as some my finest and biggest progression in fishing, probably ever.  I will forever remember staying at the Roland Martin Marine.  I got over the Clewiston part of the lake in a hurry, and was far more enamored with Harney Pond, Monkey Box, the North Shore all the up to Okeechobee.  That being said, I learned that I could drive from Clewiston to Okeechobee and put in in the Kissimmee River and save the boat run, and wake up to some coffee and music of choice. I was driving my truck 1 hour each way from Clewiston, to go learn the ‘north side’.   I found the north side of Okeechobee fished more more liking and had these great pools and runs that got me dialed-in.  Braid was a huge part of the approach, boat handling, strong grass ready trolling motor and batteries…but most importantly was the mindset of shallow water weedless grass swimbait fishing.

As thick as the 8″ Hudd too. But has a much slender and rounder profile and is not as life like/fish shaped.  The articulated section helps the bait kick, and articulate and gives it a unique footprint. 


Weedless Grass Swimbait Fishing 

There is a steady progression of weedless swimbaits.  You could start with paddle tails, Speed Worms, and even curly tailed worms, that come to find out, fish really well when you just reel them along.  I quickly connected the dots between the Skinny Dipper and baits like the Yamamoto Swim Senko.  Gambler is to Florida like Yamamoto is to the West too.  I knew Gary Yamamoto had a great tournament on the Swim Senko, so I had to explore that bait too.  I LOVE putting in the Kissimee River, shooting the gap at Kings Bar and making my way West.  I really got to learn Okeechobee my first winter of 2009, by committing my time to the Midtown (aka Monkey Box/Harney Pond) and UpTown – Eagle Bay>JS<Kings Bar>Indian Prairie>.  The bait was the Skinny Dipper.  And the Swim Senko.  Ken Huddleston’s Grass Minnow become a goto for me a little later.  His 6″ weedless too, but the more simple, weedless 5-6″ swimbaits you use a screw lock hook to attach to, is what I’m saying.  The Skinny Dipper was king for a bit.   Other baits sorta came along, but nothing earth shattering.  Then, one day the Gambler Big EZ broke.  

Relativity. Theories. Science. Known vs. Unknown.  Sledge Hammer > ShellBack war >8″ Huddie.

All my South Florida buddies being all fired up about the Gambler Big EZ.  It pushed more water, had a different swim signature than the others.  It was catching better fish.  It was the trailer on the back of a chatterbait.  Of course, most lethal is the weighted screw lock (or unweighted too) just reeling it over, up and over, thru, and around as many good swim lanes and hot pockets as you can.  Braided line.  I remember guys at Santee Cooper getting good bites.  Seminole.  Okeechobee of course.  The core grass lakes we hit. 



Okay, I like pink tails, pink baits, but I didn’t choose the pink single wide to live in. It did work out just fine, thanks.


I lived in West Palm Beach for like 5 months, hoping to be a S. Florida surfer and Okeechobee local.  Not to be.  As I was about to move from the thug life side of West Palm Beach to Jupiter, a bombshell went off in my life.  I was at a software team event and somebody mentioned the new office in Aliso Viejo, CA.  Boom, I literally undid my world,  and jumped on the train back home.  So, it’s been a minute since I been around guys named Wood, Luke, Carter, McMillan, Tharp, Fitzgerald…but yeah, the Seminole winds blow thru San Clemente often. 


Tin House. Notice the dollar pads (not the dead gator. I was hungry and felt like some gator!) and the dark black coffee water. I really like dollar pads at times. They are fun to fish.
Box o Calico swimmer. The 6.5″ Gambler GZ Swimmers and the Shellback Customs swimmers.

Gambler makes a whole series of the EZ Swimmer.  It wasn’t really hard for me to buy a couple of packs of the Gambler Really Big GZ 8″ baits to ‘test’ them out on the calico bass.  I had already gotten the 6.5″ versions, but I was intrigued to see the bigger version. 

The Gamber Really Big GZ 8″ Swimbait 

You have to see this bait next to other known baits to appreciate it’s size.  Long, round, fat and a big paddle.  Big round style paddle.  Looks like a SUP paddle.  When the bait swims, it has a lot of ROLL.  The articulated section help the bait pulse and kick.  You can feel this 8″ swimmer on the end of your big beefy calico bass rod, far better than most of the weedless swimbaits I’ve fished.   It pushes a ton of water, and just happens to match up really well with the 12/0 Owner Beast Swimbait Hook and 3/4 oz weight. 



Okeechobee good swimbait spot. To give you an idea, you have to be ready for your bait to be out of the water at least 25% of the time.


Grass and Kelp fish very similar. You go over, use high stick retrieves, go thru, go around, bump and run, stall and straight wind your way around.


Kelp, and in this case, with boiler rocks to add to the mix, you need to be able to be weedless, rockless, and have eyes on the back of your head. Very dangerous fishing boiler rocks. 2 man fishing only, with one guy on the gas engine keeping an eye on the waves.



Choked. Pinned. Owner 12/0 Beast w 3/4 weight


Wading, on a Tuesday afternoon.  Braid, Okuma Komodo 364 and a top hook Huddleston 68 with the barb pinched down.  Shallow water trophy hunting, White River, Arkansas.
Wading, on a Tuesday afternoon. Braid, Okuma Komodo 364 and a top hook Huddleston 68 with the barb pinched down. Shallow water trophy hunting, White River, Arkansas.

I’m realizing where I’ve made miscalculations and misjudgements in my fishing at times.   I’m a huge fan of big fat round reels. I am born and raised on Don Iovino “doodling” where short Phenix Rods, w Excalibur Handles and round Abu-Garcia reels where how you caught fish in Southern California.   Now, at a macro level, understand that Iovino was both right and wrong.  At that same time, a guy like Dean Rojas was smashing fish with reaction baits, challenging the finesse only / shaking 4″ worms on 8 pound line in >20 feet of water to get a bit.    My point being, I’ve made mistakes in REEL SELECTION at times.  Low profile reels tend to be way more easy to fish.  They weigh ounces less than the big gold Shimano Calcutta TE or D Series.  Low profile reels have way better gears than they used to, they have quicker gear ratios and line pickup speeds, and can handle all your bigbaits. I like the slowness of the round TE 400 for specialized Huddleston fishing. I can’t see myself not having a few 400 TEs in the boat with me, but the 300 Series of low profile swimbait reels continues to grow on me.   Anywho, besides ergonomic and aesthetic advantages, they tend to have faster gear ratios.  I suppose I need to say, the Shimano Curado 300 is and will remain a sick ass low profile swimbait reel that can handle bigbaits and big fish.   However,  Shimano is no longer in the position they enjoyed historically.  Insert Okuma.

Okuma provides a great value product.  They have made outstanding rods in the bigbait fishing department for years.  The Guide Select Series has been what I and many other recommend to beginning swimbait fisherman.  I know Mark Rogers and Mike Bennett a little bit, and know these guys charge hard and do a lot of hardcore charging.   They keep hardcore swimbait fishing happy and treat them with respect and aloha.  Check out what Oliver Ngy (Big Bass Dreams)  and Kevin Mattson (Bass King)  fish with.   Okuma wisely has decided to engage subject matter experts and figure out ways to partner and team up with them.  The result is what can be seen and felt in the Okuma Komodo 364.   Let’s be honest., the Okuma reels couldn’t compete in the quality department years ago, but now they can.  They’ve proven it now for the last few years, and the work of buys in both salt and freshwater are all the validation you should need.

Slinging a Huddie 68 at a 45 degree upriver angle. Fishing it back down and across.  Sometimes stalling to a 45 degree downriver or more angle retrieve back.
Slinging a Huddie 68 at a 45 degree upriver angle. Fishing it back down and across. Sometimes stalling to a 45 degree downriver or more angle retrieve back.

You need a few 300 Series, low profile reels in your swimbait game.  Skipping 6″ Weedless Huddlestons under docks was a favorite past time of mine for years.  Low profile reels and dock skipping make a lot of sense.  A new trend in my Triple Trout fishing is fishing the 7-8″ Triple Trout on the Curado 300. The quicker gear ratio (vs the Calcutta 300 or 400) made fishing the Triple Trout way easier.   So, I find the mid range hardbaits to be an outstanding application of the 300 Series of reels.  What Kevin Mattson and Oliver Ngy have really opened my eyes to is the application of the 300 series, with the Komodo 364 to the megabaits, the bigger bigbaits like the Slide Swimmer 250.  The Slide Swimmer 250 and the magnum glide baits like the Roman Mades, Gan Craft and big Rago Glideaor, need to be a staple in your swimbait fishing, as are the Huddleston Deluxe, Triple Trout, MS Slammer and the rat baits of your choice.

The base of the Bull Shoals Dam, and the genesis of the White River trout fishery.  Big browns live here.  Don't fish here.  You might get your arm broke.
The base of the Bull Shoals Dam, and the genesis of the White River trout fishery. Big browns live here. Don’t fish here. You might get your arm broke.

Here’s the deal, you can spend $250 on a Curado 300 and be happy. Shimano is not a company that can be engaged if you are interested in fishing for a living and want to partner with them in any shape or form.  Just leave it at that.  Fish their stuff, and be stoked, it’s awesome. Or you could spend $ 220, buy an Okuma Komodo 364, and align yourself with a company and group of guys the welcomes and engages the swimbait fishing community and subject matter experts. When there are alternatives out there, like Okuma and Abu Garcia that are making great value products that are high quality,  capitalism and free markets take their course.   I would definitely recommend the Okuma Komodo 364 now after fishing it hard. I haven’t caught the uber giants with it yet, but I did fish the gamut of my favorite mid size and magnum sized baits, and have wipped some nice fish.  I keep a pulse on what reels guys are really catching their fish with, and the Komodo 364 across both salt and freshwater continues to impress and amaze.   Check out Okuma’s facebook page to get a pulse on their community and O’hana HERE.

Blazing July Heat, 50 degree White River, and the Slide Swimmer 250.  The Okuma Komodo 364 has the guts to lob megabaits.  And the gearing and quality to do it 50B times in your lifetime.  Low profile, quicker, and easier on your wrists.   Talk about putting english into a Slide Swimmer and cutting current.
Blazing July Heat, 50 degree White River, and the Slide Swimmer 250. The Okuma Komodo 364 has the guts to lob megabaits. And the gearing and quality to do it 50B times in your lifetime. Low profile, quicker, and easier on your wrists. Talk about putting English into a Slide Swimmer and cutting current.  Notice the fish’s mouth got a little tore up, but Karma came around quick, notice my thumb bleeding on my right hand. She gouged me good as I tried to pick her up at one point.


The Promar Net is my livewell and definitely served it's purpose in spades this day.
The Promar Net is my livewell and definitely served it’s purpose in spades this day.


2nd Slide Swimmer fish. Notice how gold and orange this fish is vs. the above fish.  This one was way smaller, like a 23" fish.  The above fish was >30" and my biggest brown ever.  I love the GoPro.  Shots like this are random and just fun.
2nd Slide Swimmer fish. Notice how gold and orange this fish is vs. the above fish. This one was way smaller, like a 23″ fish. The above fish was >30″ and my biggest brown ever. I love the GoPro. Shots like this are random and just fun.

For what it’s worth, I highly recommend you invest in a Komodo 364, a spool of 65 or 80# braid, and pair it with the swimbait rod of your choice and application.  Braid and the low profile bigbait reel with the faster gear ratio have changed my fishing.  It works and is my system for many baits now with the exception of slow rolling Huddlestons , fishing for the ‘one’ in some super clear / super pressured situation.   I use florocarbon leaders where applicable.  Braid gives you WAY MORE control and play with your hardbaits.  You can make turns and stalls and cut water WAY BETTER than with mono or floro.  There is only usually a foot or two of line actually in the water ahead of the bait, because you tend to ‘high stick’ your rod tip on your retrieve with braid.   You don’t have the line sag and drag challenges you do with mono or floro.

Click HERE to purchase the Okuma 364 Komodo.



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.

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 grass minnow and weedless shad
The Grass Minnow (foreground) and Weedless Shad (background) speak to Ken Huddleston's commitment to realism and innovations in engineering baits with vortex tails that match the swim signatures bait fish leave behind as they swim

The Grass Minnow was the first of Ken’s small weedless swimbaits that followed the release of his 6” Weedless Trout.  The Grass Minnow is a special bait because it has incredible realism and includes a special vortex tail that was engineered to match the signature that a minnow or small baitfish leaves behind in it’s trail.    The tail kick is extremely subtle, but when you step back and think about how much thump a real minnow gives off when it swims, it occurs to you what Ken is doing with the Grass Minnow.  The bottom line is the Grass Minnow gets eaten by big fish and little fish.

lake champlain grass minnow water
This is what good water for the Grass Minnow looks like. Shallow grass fishing and the clearer the water, the better
grass minnow lake champlain
Getting a little carried away, looking for the good 'hard' grass. Find good clean hard grass, and throw that Grass Minnow. Lake Champlain, near the French Canadian border

I’ve caught fish on the Grass Minnow on just about every grass lake I’ve thrown it:  Pickwick, Guntersville, Okeechobee, Champlain, Seminole, and Dardanelle.  Braid is key to my Grass Minnow approach.  Just like with the 6” Weedless Trout or any other Weedless Huddleston bait, I use braided line to aid in my hookup ratio and ability to fish the bait around grass.   Do you fish a frog on anything but braid?  Exactly.  You need zero stretch, the buoyancy of braid and the hook set ability of braided line to maximize your effectiveness with the Grass Minnow.

Grass Minnow Fishing Lake Okeechobee
Lake Okeechobee has been ground zero for a lot of my weedless swimbait fishing. The Grass Minnow gets quality bites and serves as an alternative to the Skinny Dippers everyone else is throwing

My hookset is a sweep set. I don’t jack the fish.  I keep my rod at 11 to 12 o clock, and just keep a steady grind on the bait.  Not too fast, not too slow.  When I get bit, I drop my rod tip to 9 o clock and let the fish eat the bait.  When my line tightens up or the rod begins to bow up at 9 o clock, that is when I sweep hard to the side (like a spinnerbait hookset) and reel like mad to get caught up and apply pressure to the fish.   I love the G-Loomis 964 BBR for the Grass Minnow. I can make long whip casts and really get the bait out there.  But the 964 BBR also is a relatively slow parabolic action rod and is perfect for braided line and grass fishing, and helps me get a hook into almost everything that bites my Grass Minnow.   I have a 90% or better hookup ratio on the Grass Minnow.  Most of my bites get in the boat, hands down.

Lake Seminole Grass Minnow
Lake Seminole has the right ingredients, shallow grass fishing, clean water in places and highly pressured fish

Here is a whole YouTube video I did on Lake Okeechobee, fishing the Grass Minnow:


Here is another video that discusses my approach to Lake Champlain, but also includes a section on the Grass Minnow from the shallow grass largemouth fishery of Champlain:


Bait:  The Grass Minnow  (colors?  show me one that doesn’t work!)
Rod:  G-Loomis 964 BBR
Reel:  Shimano Curado 200 G (w/ 6.5:1 Gear Ratio)
Line:  50 Pound Power Pro or P-Line Braid

Strengths:  The Grass Minnow is rare in that it is incredibly real and provides fish who are chasing small bait around grass something they haven’t seen.   Fish aren’t used to such subtle swimming baits that look and feel so real.  The Grass Minnow gets a lot of bites and is a resilient bait, meaning you can catch many fish on the bait and glue it back together a few times before you need to retire it.
Ideal Conditions:  Lakes with super shallow grass fishing, like Okeechobee, Seminole, and Guntersville are ideal for the Grass Minnow.  Anywhere fish are busting on small bait.  I throw the Grass Minnow in a lot of situations where other guys are throwing swim  jigs and paddle tailed tubes.

Notes:  Keep the wind at your back whenever possible. The Grass Minnow isn’t super heavy (5/8 ounce) and can be difficult to get casting distance or cross wind.   Keep super glue onboard because if you get into the fish, you are going to be repairing baits because you’ll catch a bunch of fish, big and small and they tend to inhale the thing, plus braided line and lots of muck and grass can wreck your baits.

cold grass minnow fishing
Okeechobee isn't usually 20+ pound sacks and hot and glassy conditions in the Winter. The Grass Minnow will get bites on those cold days where just getting 5 fish is the goal.