I am a huge fan of Owner Hooks. I have had a journey with treble hooks, as most of us have had. You go thru the balance of:   Uber sharp points, short shank/non fouling, hook strength and ability to handle 80# braid or a giant fish, or both.  I came around to the ST-66 Owner Treble Hooks as I refined my 8″ Huddleston rigging.  I like to call it the Southern Trout Eaters rig.  Reality, its a derivative and fusion of others rigs from friends my own flavors.  Super small, sharp, XXX strong and well balanced hook was what drew me to the ST-66 for a small profile that would complement the Hudd vs. stick out and go against the flow. 

The fish have literally beaten the eyes out of my hard and soft baits lately. You are sticking your bites with braid and ST-66. Remember, you gotta match your braid with strong hooks, because you can bend hooks and hook points EASY.

Now, as I’m getting salty, and fishing for saltwater bass, tuna, yellowtail, halibut and bay bass, to name a few target species…I’m going thru my tackle and saltwater-ize-ing it all.    I am putting the 1/0 , 2/0 and 3/0 sized ST-66 on my Triple Trouts.  I am replacing the Owner Hyper Split Rings, with larger Hyper Wire Split Rings.  #8s and #10s in cases.  Big ole split rings that require fatty split ring pliers these to work right:  

I noticed Kevin has ST-66 on his baits too. Gold bar Triple Trout. That other bait is MC Swimbaits’ Slug. Cough Cough. If I fished for big bass in freshwater, I wouldn’t look at that slug for big ones, cough cough. Corey makes some killer baits and has pioneered things that make a lot of sense.

I really believe in the Hyper Wire Split Rings and ST-66 combinations for any baits with hanging trebles.  They are heavy, and tend to make your bait sink a little quicker than lighter wire ST-36 hooks, but they are geared for whatever fishes you encounter (hopefully).   The Slide Swimmer 250 comes stock with big ST-66s, to give you an idea of how well they match w bigbaits.  


Good calico bass fishing is as satisfying as any largemouth bites I’ve ever been on. Great swimbait eaters. You have to search and work. I catch little ones around home, but there are good ones to be had at these local islands, LA County, Santa Barbara, Mexico, etc. That search is what drives me these days.



When you have a swinging weight that is connected to the eye of a hook by a single solid ring, you get a free flowing rigging system that changes things like:  how baits rig, how they drop, how they fish, how they swim, how well they drag over stuff and the trajectory the baits follow when pulled/hopped and dropped.   All things considered, the Jig Rig from Owner America, is a pretty cool innovation in traditional rigging and small bait fishing.


Green pumpkin blue Netbait Baby Paca Craw on the 3/0 with 3/16 oz Tungsten version of the Jig Rig. Me Gusta.



I know, I contradict myself, talking about simplification one day, and then subjects like trajectory the next.   You have to get into the sophisticated at times to understand why some simple things are so genius.  The free swinging tungsten or lead weight associated with the Jig Rig changes the trajectory of the bait as it falls, drags, hops, etc.   Instead of a bait arching toward you, as you hop it, the Jig Rig falls straight down.  It almost feels like the bait is falling away from you, the drops are so steep.     What this means is, when you pitch your bait next to a stump, the bait is far more likely to be right under the splash.  Or when you pull a bait into a ‘sweet spot’ you can better guide your bait down into the sweet spot without it tending to bias toward you and the angle of your retrieve.


Steep and deep. The free swinging weight system of the Jig Rig changes the fall and overall trajectory of your baits. Not exactly a simple subject to explain, but hopefully you see how steep things that are moving in one direction drop out because of the hinged weight.


When I rigged the Jig-Rig up with a Basstrix Paddle Tailed Swimbait, it was pretty neat to fish a swimbait on a different style of jig head than I’ve ever attempted.  Couple of important things to note about how the Jig Rig influences a single swimbait (and small soft plastic creature baits too).

  • Weedlessness:  Because you are ultimately Texas rigging the hook, you have another viable weedless rig, for grass and wood fishing.
  • Rock-lessness:  Because the weight snugs 45 degrees back under the bait as your drag it, you have a different kind of leverage, as if you are standing right over top of it, when it comes to popping yourself free.  I was able to drag a Jig Rig with whatever bait I wanted to in heavy gravel and chunk rock bottoms, and it was clear the Jig Rig system provides excellence in fishing in rock and hard bottoms because you simply won’t get hung up
  • When you look at the ‘rock-lessness’ it is interesting because you are making bottom contact and creating deflections while your bait is riding slightly above it all, unfazed by a traditional jig head system where the nose and forward part of your swimbait is damped by the weight and hook.  You can drag a swimbait over gravel and rock, and still get an excellent swim, where you get full swim out of your bait and don’t give up action because the swimbait is ‘anchored’ for lack of better term by the nose into a traditional jig head.
  • Drop Bait:  When I was swimming the Basstrix over grass and over holes, it became apparent you can drop your bait right where you want it, and the trajectory doesn’t cause the bait to come at you, because the hinging action pulls the bait straight down at a super steep angle.  It made me think about dropping a swimbait in the holes of grass around Okeechobee around spawn time.  You could have all the benefits of a weedless swimbait, yet added benefit of a much better drop bait.


  • You notice when you pitch the bait, the free swinging weight system of the Jig Rig helps your casting accuracy and lessons the momentum required to pitch.  It is strange, but the hinged weight sorta helps you sling the bait out there a bit easier.  You definitely can cast this thing where you want it, and then drop it where you want it too.
The 3/0 + 3/16 oz. tungsten Jig Rig with a Zoom Speed Craw, gives you a feel for what the Jig Rig looks like when rigged.

Tungsten vs. Lead vs. Hook Sizes

You have a couple of options when it comes to the Jig Rig. You can buy the Jig Rigs with Tungsten weights or with Lead Weights.  The hooks are needlepoint Z-lock shoulder bend hooks and are sharp, solid and rig cleanly.   You have 3 sizes:

  1. A 3/0 needlepoint, Owner sharp, offset worm hook with either a tungsten or lead 3/16 ounce free swinging weight (which is what I used to film and take photos with).  I find this size of Jig Rig extremely appealing because it fits the ‘good’ small creature baits and smaller more finesse pitch baits so well.  You’ll notice I used a Netbait Baby Paca Craw and Zoom Speed Craw to highlight how well the Jig Rig fishes.  That was no accident, those are 2 baits that should be in your tackle box, always, all the time.    The 3/0 hook and 3/16 weight matched up with the smaller swimbaits like the 4″ Basstrix Paddle Tailed Tube very well, and had a ‘spinning rod’ feel to it.  Where I know I could fish that setup on a spinning setup (braid + floro leader of course) or on lighter action casting gear.  The Little Dipper  and smaller 4″ swim senko come to mind too, with this setup.
  2. The 5/0 version has a 1/4 ounce weight available in tungsten or lead.  It rigs nicely with 8″ Zoom Lizards, Brush Hogs, and Skinny Dippers, which to me are a larger, and more bulky offering than the above, but still in the finesse department.   Basically, the 5/0 with the 1/4 ounce free swinging weight are more suited to pitching and small bait style swimbait fishing.
  3. A 1/0 version in tungsten or lead with 3/16 ounce weights.  This would be my small water, small fish, small bait setup.  Like the Tiny Brush Hogs, or super small straight tailed worms, like 3″ Senkos.
A bare Jig Rig. Notice, the solid ring that attached thru the eye of the hook, and the weight is attached to the solid ring via a split ring.


Notice you tie your line onto the solid ring, NOT the small split ring the weight is attached to, and NOT the eye of the hook.


I’m excited about the Jig Rig because it’s going to help me with my pitching and short range  soft plastic and creature baits for sure.  Grass, wood or open water, I think it’s going to give the fish a slightly different look and feel, and certainly will be a top performing system (ie, weedlessness, rocklessness, and steep drops). It’s also a good alternative to a ‘shakey head’, where you are just trying to catch stubborn fish.   The Jig Rig is going to add some color to my swimbait fishing too.   You can better drag and simultaneously swim a bait, which speaks to a spinning rod setup mentality to me in certain situations.  And the drop bait thing, to be dropping swimbait into holes in the grass, or in brush piles when you visually know you are right overhead, well, you just forget I mentioned it!   You can expect some videos of the Jig Rig  with fish catching involved.


Jig Rig Photo Gallery:

[nggallery id=7]






Recommended rigging for the 6″ Huddleston Deluxe Top Hook style trout swimbait.   The #2 Owner hook fits the bait well and is about as wide as the bait, and of course is balanced, so it rigs cleanly with one treble in the belly, two prongs out, in perfect symmetry.

The 6″ Huddleston Deluxe Trout is sweet candy bar sized swimbait that fits certain applications in swimbait fishing.  Namely, smallmouth, spotted bass, tournament largemouth, and trophy brown trout.   The 6″ Huddleston Deluxe Trout, whether you are fishing the ROF 5 or ROF 12 model, both have a top hook.  So, you don’t necessarily need a bottom trap hook, however, in a lot of open water situations or situations like smallmouth or spotted bass fishing where the fish don’t always inhale the bait, a good stinger hook/trap hook setup helps with hook up percentages and just get those short and underside bites in the boat.

Here is what you need

ST-36 vs. ST-56

You can bet I’m working on a matrix and blog post that speaks to treble hooks and swimbaits.  Until then, let me try and simplify this.  I always will use an ST-36 treble hook when I can get away with a 1/0 or bigger sized treble hook.  The ST-36 is just superior sharp, well balanced, and hooks fish for me.   However, when faced with using a #2 sized ST-36 treble hook, I assess my rod, my reel, my line and what I’m hunting, because you can bend out a #2 ST-36 treble hook using a Shimano Calcutta 300 or 400 TE, 65 Pound Braid or 25 Pound P-Line Copolymer, and a medium sized 8 foot swimbait rod.  That is just the physics of swimbait fishing.   Not to say you bend out a hook every trip because I’ve successfully caught many nice fish on #2 ST-36, however, I have recently began using the Owner ST-56 treble hooks in places where I need small, strong and uber sticky trebles, and don’t need something as heavy duty as the ST-66s we use as part of our Huddleston Rig.   So, if you are fishing for big fishes, like 4-6 pound spotted or smallmouth or really big brown trout or are fishing straight 65 pound braid and have some decent largemouth going, consider the ST-56 because you won’t bend out a hook if you happen to hang the fish on one treble and things to the wrong way for you which occassionally happens when just the right amount of torque happens on one treble.  You never know when or exactly why, just too much stress on it and it bends.  This happens to all lighter wire hooks by the way.  That is why hooks are made in 2X, 3X, 4X etc configurations.   Physics is a much bigger part of fishing swimbaits because the baits and fish are so much heavier, and so are the rods, line, gears and torque of the reel.   I would fish the ST-36 Stinger Trebles if I was fishing for money.   Meaning, if every bite and getting every fish in the boat, and was likely after 3 pounders or even good solid 2+ pounders, where just catching the fish, where you not likely to be catching ‘trophies’ because you’re more in a tournament mode of hunting bigger fish, I’d go ST-36 because the odds of bending out a hook are rare, but it does happen.  I’d take on the risk to gain the reward of the sticky-ness of that treble hook.  It is incredibly sharp and perfectly balanced, so it rigs very cleanly.

24.5″ Brown Trout, Cotter, Arkansas choked the 6″ Huddleston Deluxe Top Hook Trout. You don’t need a trap hook when they eat like this, but I like to have one on there, because they won’t always choke your bait, especially when it comes to smallmouth and spotted bass. Trap hooks just help, and the Owner Treble Hooks and Hyper Wire Spit Rings are a staple in my swimbait fishng and trap hook rigging, and have been for years.  I’m getting better at matching my terminal and other tackle, it’s a system and mindset based on experience.


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

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

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


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

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

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

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

The Rising Son Jr.

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

Gear for the 3:16 Rising Son Jr:

Rod: G-Loomis 965 BBR

Reel: Shimano Calcutta 300 TE

Line:  65# Power Pro

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

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

The 3:16 Sunfish/Bluegill

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

Gear for the 3:16 Bluegill/Sunfish:

Rod: G-Loomis 965 BBR

Reel: Shimano Calcutta 300 TE

Line:  65# Power Pro

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

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

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

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

Rod:  G Loomis 966 BBR

Reel:  Shimano Calcutta 400 TE

Line:  80# Power Pro

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

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

Casey Martin punching hyacynth on Okeechobee
Punching requires more than one setup. Here Casey Martin made an adjustment to the Gamber BB Cricket and 1 ounce Picasso Tungsten, because the smaller profile Cricket and 1 ounce weight punches just as good or better than a Sweet Beaver and a 1.5 ounce Picasso Punch Weight. But the smaller profile gets more bites and at times, slides into the thick stuff better. There is significant difference in the size of the Sweet Beaver vs. the BB Cricket, and the hardcore grass punchers have both on deck at all times.

Without a doubt, punching thru hydrilla and hyacinth mats is the winning pattern on Okeechobee right now (well, unless the big girls move up on the beds, which was happening when I left Okeechobee, but still, get a handle on punching if you’re headed to Okeechobee or have shallow grass in your domain).  Randall Tharp blew away the field with a 4 day total over 100 pounds (again).   Punching is all about putting a small profile bait into and thru the thickest and gnarliest stuff you can find.   Heavy rods, heavy braid, strong round bend hooks and small compact baits that slide thru the grass are the tools of punching.    The keys to being the best puncher you can be are location, location, location, approach, boat position, and being able to mathematically make the most and best punches (meaning, you rarely have a bunk cast where you don’t punch thru the mat and have to re-try, or spending less time cleaning off your bait of grass, and/or making the highest percentage punches, knowing where the fish are likely to be holding and keying on those areas).     Find mixes of ‘good grass’ where hydrilla and hyacynth mix together, or reeds and hyacynths or wherever multiple grasses come together, and find the thickest places you can get a bait and go to work.

Punching Gear:

Rod:  G Loomis GLX 7’5″  Heavy Action Flipping Stick
Reel:   Shimano Chronarch 200 E or Daiwa Zillion
Line:   70 Pound Daiwa Samurai Braid

Owner Twistlock Flippin Hook
Owner Twistlock Flippin Hook--I asked Casey to try them to help me 'test' them. He was pleasantly suprised at how well the hooks not only rigged the baits, but how beefy and robust the hooks were to withstand the rigors of heavy braided line and stout flippin. sticks. These hooks don't require a snell knot either. Give 'em a try sometime.

Heavy Punching Rig:
4/0 Owner Twistlock Flippin Hook or  4/0 Paycheck Hook w/Barb
Reaction Innovations Sweet Beaver Penetration Color
1.5 ounce Picasso Punch Weight w/ Pegged with Paycheck Punch Stop

Okeechobee mat punching
Grass mats come in all shapes and sizes and have an endless number of places to put your bait. Remember, smaller profile baits require less weight to get them to punch thru, and if the fish aren't responding the Beaver, downsize and lighten up a hair, you'll be suprised how well the fish will respond. They see a lot of Beavers on 1.5 ounce weights!!!

“Lite” Punching Rig:

Gambler BB Cricket (Junebug )

3/0 Owner Twistlock Flippin Hook or 3/0 Paycheck BMF Hook w/Barb

1 ounce Picasso Punch Weight Pegged with Paycheck Punch Stop


The Gambler BB Cricket is to punching and heavy grass fishing, what the Speed Worm or Skinny Dipper is to swimming baits and worms in shallow grass fishing...one of those, don't leave home without its.

Other Punch Baits to Consider:  The baits below were working on Okeechobee too and might fit your style or you might want to deviate from the norms a bit, but know they were absolutely catching fish on Okeechobee for the 2012 FLW Tour and Everstart Tournaments.

Ugly Otter

Yum Wooly Bugger

KVD Rodent