I will admit it, I was a snob when I saw and heard about swimming worms.  I can think of 3 times the swimming worm was relayed to me as the bait, and I foolishly tried to make it a bigbait / swimbait bite without putting it into context.  When you fish Okeechobee, you will inevitably get around the Speed Worm bite.  Well, as you progress, you’ll migrate to the Magnum Speed Worm, and rig it with a jumbo offset worm hook and 1/4 – 1/2 ounce weight pegged and learn to swim, stroke, hop it thru the various grasses.  The big worm and special tail swim really well, and fish eat the heck out of it.

The Gambler Burner Worm tail.
The Gambler Burner Worm tail.


The Gambler Burner Worm tail (left) vs. the Zoom Magnum Speed Worm tail.  We used to modify our Magnum Speed worms with a small piece of copper tubing to make what is now OEM on the burner worm.  Just saying.
The Gambler Burner Worm tail (left) vs. the Zoom Magnum Speed Worm tail. We used to modify our Magnum Speed worms with a small piece of copper tubing to make what is now OEM on the burner worm. Just saying.

I found the swimming worm to be an effective technique on Okeechobee, Lake Seminole and Lake Dardenelle.  Dardenelle in the shore grass, over stumps and wood, and anywhere I could find grass the was submerged due to river levels.   Gambler doesn’t need my advice to create great products.  This company lives in South Florida and knows grass fishing way more intimately than me.  You have to appreciate the Gambler Burner Worm as a derivative of the Magnum Speed Worm.  The tail has a larger groove cut out of it, and it thumps and flaps better than the Magnum Speed Worm.  It is fatter than the Magnum Speed worm, but only measures approx 7″ in length.  It’s a fatty worm, that swims really good.

Purchase the Gambler Burner Worm from Tackle Warehouse:


I highly recommend you learn how to swim a worm.  You arent’ fishing for 10 pounders.  You are fishing for 3 – 5 pounders.  I really like 50# braid, a 1/4 or maybe even 3/8 ounce weight pegged and a 5/0 Owner Offset Worm Hook Texas Rigged.  You fling your Burner Worm way out and swim, stroke, hop it back much like you would a rattle trap in grass, or a vibrating jig.  The high stick retrieve.  Yo-yo it back while swimming it.  Let it fall and bury up in the grass and then lift up, reel it along and drop your rod tip and let it sink back down.  Fish tend to woof it and there’s no doubt when you’re bit.  The Texas rig nature makes hook ups pretty much 95%.   For those headed to South Florida this Winter, this is a swimming worm I’d have on board for Florida.   Gambler’s colors rock too.

Full worms compared.  Gamber Burner on top, Zoom Magnum Speed Worm below.  Texas Rig, with pegged weight.  Swim it and don't hate.  This is tournament swimbait fishing.
Full worms compared. Gamber Burner on top, Zoom Magnum Speed Worm below. Texas Rig, with pegged weight. Swim it and don’t hate. This is tournament swimbait fishing.


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 House of the Rising Son: Okeechobee. Line thru, ball knobber boot tails, braided line and a trap hook rigging that brought me back to my days on San Vicente in the early 2000s. The 3:16 Rising Son, excellence is buoyancy and a thing I call, Rate of Stall---which are key to the grass fishing conversation--well, shallow grass anyway. Now, don't get me wrong, I'm still a Vortex head, and Florida has other Vortexes that do damage besides hurricanes and tropical storms!!!

Alright, tournament time again, FLW Tour Open, Lake Okeechobee.   I haven’t said a whole lot since the Everstart.  Trying to manage information…This FLW Tour Open is my one Tour Event for 2012, and I dang sure don’t need to be helping out the list of guys who already are household names I’m fishing against!   So let me walk you thru my Everstart a little.  Day 1, I planned on throwing the bigbaits all day.  However, we had an unforecasted 15-20 MPH Wind from the NNE, that wrecked my major areas.  The wind not only seriously mucked up the water color, it was causing my bait to run funky.  Side wind and braided line swimbait fishing is no bueno.  Your bait tends to drag with the big bow in your line and there was no getting away from it.   I only had 2 fish for Day 1 and wanted to jump off the Kissimmee Bridge and just die.  My friend Roger Ray showed up at the house out of nowhere that evening.  He was down to fun fish, and it was a blessing to have a friend around and just snap me out of complete misery.  My only comfort was reading how many other guys sucked on Day 1, phew.   I mean, I drove straight home (was in first flight) fueled up the boat, and went to bed at 6:30.  Just so disgusted and angry, didn’t even check the standings until later that night.   Thanking Rodger once again for his use of time and timing.   So Day 2, I started in an area I’d seen a couple big ones hanging around beds, but not locked on, and wouldn’t eat.  Much better, calmer weather and conditions made things a little more normal and fishable to say the least.    I stopped short, set up, and made long casts to where I’d seen her and got a big bite in the first 2 minutes of fishing.  Solid 6+ pounder in the boat.  Hooray.   We moved a little further and fished on, and I made another long cast to another area a big one had been hanging around and BLOOSH, another solid 5+ pounder in the boat.  Hell yeah.  One hour in, I was back in the money and had plenty of time to fish.   I kept chunking the bigbaits the rest of the day, got another one 4+ and one about 2.5 just committing to the bigbaits all day.    Finished 21st place, and only weighed 6 fish for the entire tournament.  24 pounds in 6 fish.   Was 6 pounds from the Top 10 cut.  Kicking myself for being so one dimensional, because I could have easily made up 6 pounds in 4 fish if I knew what I know today.

There is a huge difference between the Gambler BB Cricket and the Beaver. The BB Cricket is probably 30% smaller which means it punches that much better, and the Beaver already rocks the house in the flipping and punching department. It's similar to the difference between the 6" and 8" Huddleston baits, big difference, but in small baits, the difference isn't so noticeable, unless you really stop and look and fish. The BB Cricket can be fished where few baits will punch thru, just due to simple design and super small profile.

So, to the Tour Event.  I have to credit my good friend and fellow angler, Casey Martin for helping me out a ton during off limits.  We did a bunch of fun fishing and filming on some other lakes around, and Casey showed me the finer things to grass flipping and punching. I needed to see how the latest and greatest stuff was being done.  Casey whacked ’em pretty good and showed me the advanced things about picking casts, where to hit, and how to choose and rig baits and the adjustments he made during a day.  Casey can compete with anyone out there.  Don’t let the fact he is fishing the Tour (and won 2 Tour Events and the AOY in 2011 as a Co-Angler) as a CoAngler fool you.  He fishes the Everstarts as a Pro, and is solid as a rock.

Thanking Casey for helping me with my grass flipping and punching. Casey has been living with Derek Remitz and Craig Dowling most of the last few years on Lake Guntersville, and has honed his grass fishing on the mighty G'Ville. I found myself for the first time in a long time, having to adjust the basic mechanics of what I was doing. Casey is so efficient when he flips, he mathematically beats most guys. More pitches, more clean punches, less time changing over hands (he uses a left handed reel) and keeps the rod in his right hand 100% of the time, and has mad skills in picking out the right stuff to hit. In exchange, I've been lecturing Casey on perfect proportions, Vitruvian Man, and fractal geometry. Poor Casey!!!

The things Casey helped tune me into, combined with some old skills I used to use on Lake Havasu back in the day before it was a smallmouth fishery have come back to me.  I’m fishing a healthy combination of flipping and pitching and punching and swimbait fishing tomorrow.  We have bad wind and weather, however, I’ve found an area I believe, if I can get to it (meaning if the wind isn’t so bad we cannot run to it) I can get in, and be safe from the wind.   So, one major swimbait area, and a lot of places I’m flipping and pitching and punching.   I’ve gotten into a pattern to narrow down the endless amounts of grass and overwhelming nature of Okeechobee, with regards to flipping and pitching, and can sorta bounce around and just fish the moment with that deal and feel good about catching some fish, and some of them can be good ones.   I needed a good way to fill up a limit because the Everstart showed me that even on a good day, I won’t get 5 in the boat, and I cannot afford to make any mistakes like that at the Tour Level.  These boys are incredible anglers and have whipped me badly before, and I cannot beat myself by being one dimensioned out there, especially since we have 15-20 MPH NNE  (just like on Day 1 of the Everstart where I struggled with the bigbaits so badly) forecast for tomorrow.   I need 5 and tomorrow is my long day, so I gotta use that time wisely.

The mighty Medlock Jig, double weed guard, 1 ounce and a the biggest baddest hook you ever seen on a jig. Brandon won the Okeechobee Everstarts the last 2 years in a row on this jig. I think it's safe to assume they are eating it.

I am boat 147 tomorrow.  Due in at 5 pm!  Long day, but the weather is going to be brutal windy and rough, but heck, I feel a whole lot better about catching a limit and maybe getting 1-2 big bites, no matter what happens with the weather or wind tomorrow.   Please know I am so overwhelmed and behind on so many things that I’m paralyzed at times.   I spend my daylight hours fishing, and evening hours getting the footage off the cameras and haven’t even hardly gotten to the editing.  The editing is the major heavy lifting, and I’ll be honest, I just haven’t had the focused time to spend on it all, yet.   I spent the majority of off limits fishing, filming, working on the boat, doing normal stuff, and some days just resting.    I have been filming A LOT since I’ve been down here. I’m not 100% sure what I’m going to be doing with the all footage.    Thinking of working on another DVD project, thinking of just some mid-length YouTube series, and definitely have commitments to various business partners I’m obliged to fulfill, so therein lies my challenge.  So, when I don’t know what to do, the best decision is no decision, meaning, hang loose and the right paths will eventually reveal themselves.   Time’s a Revelator.    So bare with me, have a lot to share and show, bigbait fishing and grass flipping and punching stuff.  First things last, I’ve got to focus, keep it simple, make good decisions, and make the most of this event.

Okeechobee will not be won on the Alabama Rig, not even the Trip Jig, the modified castable rig, with 2 blades, a skirt, and 3 wires. I enjoyed 'field testing' multi-rigs for grass applications, and my work is not yet done, but it wouldn't be right to not mention that the Alabama Rig WILL NOT WIN on Okeechobee. More to come on the Trip Jig and various weedless setups I've been using (vs. exposed jig head and Hammers). Underwater photography and video is so filthy awful sickening.


Here is some previously unreleased footage and insights into grass swimbait fishing with the Huddleston Deluxe Weedless Suite of Baits:  The Grass Minnow, The Weedless Shad, and the 6” Weedless Trout.   This is the first part of what we are calling “The Big O Sessions”, and this Part One is called:  Grass Swimmers.

This footage was shot on Florida’s Lake Okeechobee, in January 2011.   We are celebrating the launch of a new site for southernswimbait.com and just celebrating rising water levels on Okeechobee and counting our blessing for still being on the road, fishing.  Gonna keep the train rolling into 2012.

Gear for the Grass Minnow:

Rod:  G-Loomis 964 BBR
Reel:   Shimano Curado  200 G6 or G7 (either 6.5.1 or 7.0:1 Gear Ratios will work)
Line:   Power Pro 50#
Knot:  Palomar

Gear for the Weedless Shad:

Rod:   G-Loomis 964 BBR
Reel:  Shimano Curado 200 G6 or G7 (either 6.5.1 or 7.0:1 Gear Ratios will work)
Line:   Power Pro 50#
Knot:  Palomar

Gear for the 6” Weedless Trout

Rod:   G-Loomis 965 BBR
Reel:   Shimano Curado 300 E
Line:  Power Pro 65 or 80#
Knot:  Palomar

Sunglasses:     Black Kaenon Hard Kores with Y-35 Lens

Notes:  Watch the hook sets in the above video.   Slower action rods, sweeping pressure set style hook sets.   Long whip casts, where you have 12-15” of line out from your rod tip and make a whip cast to get the bait out there and maximize casting distance with an 8 foot rod.  Whatever style or brand of sunglasses you wear, try out some Yellow lenses in the black Florida water.  You will be amazed at what Yellow lens technology does to brighten up that black Florida water, no matter if the sun is out or not. I wear my Kaenon Hard Kores with the Y-35 lens everyday in Florida (including out to the night clubs in South Beach, it helps me blend in with the hipsters!).

lake champlain weedless swimbait fishing
The Eastern Front: From New York to Florida, just add grass, and get into the Huddleston Deluxe Weedless suite of baits. This is the Weedless Shad, my first time ever fishing the baits, August 2010, Lake Champlain whackfest.

The Weedless Shad is the latest edition to the Huddleston family of weedless swimbaits, and fits in size between the Grass Minnow and the 6” Weedless Trout.  You will notice the Weedless Shad has an absolute threadfin shad profile, and a miniature vortex tail, borrowed from the proven 8” Huddleston Deluxe Rainbow Trout.   It’s more of a ball knob or boot tail (vs the swallow tail of the Grass Minnow).

huddleston vortex tails
The Grass Minnow (foreground) tail is a swallow tail, and is a more subtle swimmer, less thump and vibration than the tail of the Weedless Shad (background) that is more a ball knobber, and provides a bit more thump and vibration. You can feel the Weedless Shad swimming toward you much better than the Grass Minnow, especially when you have calm conditions and have gotten onboard the braided line bus.

The Weedless Shad is slightly bigger and heavier than the Grass Minnow and it’s more bulbous vortex tail gives off more thump and kick than does the Grass Minnow.   Because it is heavier, it tends to fish in the wind a bit better because you can cast it better.   The overall size and profile of the Weedless Shad make it an excellent tournament swimbait, and pretty much anywhere you have grass or wood, this bait is something to explore.

I find myself throwing baits like the Weedless Shad in places and areas where other guys are throwing swimming worms like the Skinny Dipper or a swim jig.  The Weedless Shad is extremely weedless and fishable, and because of the collapsable air pocket that  surrounds the hook, it has an excellent hookup ratio.  Once again, we highly recommend you fish your Weedless Shad on braided line.   You need the zero stretch, instant connection, buoyancy of braid around grass, and ability to pull fish from heavy cover with ease.

huddleston deluxe realism
Realism in shape, color, swim signature (vortex), and profile. The Weedless Shad (left) and Grass Minnow (right) are the epitome of realism in a tournament swimbait.

The hook set on the Weedless Shad is the same as the Grass Minnow or 6” Weedless Trout.  You want to keep your rod tip somewhere between 11 and 12 o clock, and when you get bit, drop your rod to parallel to the water or 9 o clock position and wait for your line to tighten up and/or your rod get some bend in it.  Then you know the fish has the bait, and go ahead and sweep hard (but don’t jack them) and reel. The spinnerbait hookset if you will.  Just keep applying pressure and wind them in the boat.

Gear for the Weedless Shad:
Rod:  G-Loomis 964 BBR
Reel:  Shimano Curado 200 G  (6.5 or 7:1, whatever you prefer)
Line:  50# Power Pro or P-Line Spectrex Braid

Strengths:  The Weedless Shad is a super realistic bait and has an excellent swim with added vibration and thump (over the Grass Minnow).  It is slightly heavier than the Grass Minnow so fishing it in wind makes sense sometimes (vs. the Grass Minnow).    The overall size and profile make it an excellent tournament swimbait, one that gets bites and lands fish.    Anywhere you have grass fishing or wood, this is a bait to go explore with.  You can cover a lot of water, just steady grinding this thing around like you would a spinnerbait.

okeechobee weedless shad
You are going to catch a lot of fish on the Weedless Shad (and Grass Minnow). You will get a lot of fish per bait, but do carry super glue or Huddle Bond, because between the grass, the fish and the fish's teeth, a lot of tears and rips happen.

Ideal Conditions:  1-3 feet of depth, shallow grass lake fishing with sparse lilly pads, mixed grasses, reeds, etc.   The clearer the water, the better.   The bait is very real and fish that see this bait tend to eat it.

Notes:    Colors aren’t a huge concern, because whatever natural or unnatural colors you throw, the fish will eat it.  I haven’t found a color of Grass Minnow or Weedless Shad the fish won’t chew.   Like all swimbaits, the better your bait swims, the more fish you’ll catch with it.  Swim comes from the lure’s designer, but also depends on the angler.