Here is additional recap and insights into the mighty pool of the Tennessee River called Lake Guntersville.   This is footage compiled from the 2012 FLW Everstart Tournament from May 3-5th 2012.    There are some subtle details in the footage above.  Suspended fish, getting caught on swimbaits.  Sometimes in the form of the castable umbrella/Alabama Rig, sometimes just a single paddle tailed tube swimbait.   Realize, that guys were able to catch 17-19 pounds per day sight fishing/bed fishing during this tournament. I had 15 pounds per day catching fish on the 8″ Triple Trout over milfoil and hydrilla in 2-6 feet of water.  So, the fish were in 1 foot of water, and all the way down in 30+ feet.  The lesson here to me was that the big fish, don’t just gradually make their way to the ledges.  They go out deep FIRST.  Really deep.  Like full summer deep, and perhaps they aren’t on the bottom, but they relate to really deep water, and will suspend 10-15 feet down, over 30 feet of water.   Justin Lucas provided some really interesting insights into what he was doing to catch 30+ pounds for 2 of the 3 days.   Based on the brim one of his fish coughed up in the livewell on Day 3, which you can see in the above footage, it really makes me wonder what a guy could do with bigbaits, out on the ledges of Guntersville.   Mark Rose’s insights, JT Kenney’s insights, and winner Alex Davis’s insights all made me realize little subtle things I found interesting, about how to find, locate and catch fish on Guntersville and the Tennessee River at large.   Look at the results here. It wasn’t a wack fest out there for the vast majority of the field.    Some schools of big fish out there, and only a handful of guys with the knowledge and ability to find and catch fish out of those schools.

Justin Lucas, his Berkley Hollow Belly Swimbait (hitch) and a 3/4 ounce head swam around schools of suspended magnums.

My friend Casey Martin was not himself all week leading up to the tournament.  He was giddy and acting ‘guilty’ and that told me he either had just robbed a bank (which isn’t likely, knowing Casey) or he was around some really big fish and knew he had a shot at winning, which was the case.   You will notice the Top 10 on Day 3 pretty much all had addresses that give them excellent access to ledges on the TN River.   You have to understand you just don’t pull out deep and get on fish Guntersville.  There are all kinds of things I am still learning, but most importantly, you need side imaging to find these deep fish, something I’m ashamed to admit I haven’t been able to afford yet.    Casey was telling me he was on schools of 4-5 pounders.  Catching all kinds of fish about the same size.  I’d seen this before the few times I’d gotten around them on Kentucky Lake.  I really believe a bigbait, not just a swimbait, would get more of those 5-7 pounders to get fired up and eat.   Casey was bummed with 23 pounds, like that was a small limit the final day.  “I caught like 20 four pounders”…. Kills me!

Lake Guntersville brim that one of Justin Lucas’ fish coughed up. Bigbaits. Big fish eating big bait.

Justin Lucas capitalized on a single, well placed, swimbait to catch 2 of the heaviest stringers weighed in, in the entire event.  Suspended fish with a swimbait, TN River style.  Very interesting.   Mark Rose and Alex Davis were using castable U-Rigs with Shadalicious swimbaits to catch suspended fish.  Casey was using the Picasso School E Rig with Shadalicious swimmers too.   Suspended fish are a common theme of the TN River, and the Alabama Rig exposed how many big ones lives in no mans land, and now there is a tool to catch them.  But as Justin Lucas showed, a well placed single swimmer can trump even the U-rig, and I wonder what an 8″ Huddleston or a larger swimmer like the Sledge Hammer swam in those same schools might do?  40 pounds?  Anyway, I found Guntersville extremely ‘interesting’ to say the least.  I learn something new every time I fish that river, and I’m finally getting my feet under me a little bit.

Show and Tell, Lake Guntersville style: “Hey that spot you left at 9:30am? Yeah, we pulled in there at 10am and wacked 25 pounds quick”. Lots of Huntsville and greater Guntersville area anglers in the Top 10. JT Kenney is just that good.

My tournament involved the 8″ Triple Trout fished over milfoil mostly.  I had some opportunities at some 5-7 pound bites.  Some really nice fish came close to biting, but ultimately I weighed in 15 pounds per day, and for the first time weighed in all 10 fish in a tournament on a bigbait, which was a ‘moral’ victory.   I think if you got to the grass BEFORE the big ones had moved out deep, you could really do some damage and showcase what bigbaits could do up shallow on Guntersville.  That bite is there, no doubt.   However, it’s May and getting toward June which means even more fish will migrate to the ledges and get offshore.   The Tour heads to Kentucky Lake in June, and I’m waiting to see who embraces the bigbait mentality on the ledges, or perhaps it won’t be necessary at all?  These guys catch really big sacks on 3/4 football heads and Strike King 6XD cranks, but shoot, my limited experiences has showed me the bigbait, stroked or swam around the schools, which I rarely find, gets mega bites.   Sometimes its about finding ’em, sometimes its about catching ’em, but most times it’s a balance of the two, and the Tennessee River is proving to be another ground zero where swimbaits and bigbaits are on a collision course, in a tournament environment.

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.