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.
owner hyper wire split ring
Size 6 Owner Hyper Wire mangled in a melee that involved a big eyed bruiser that lived around a large laydown tree. Split rings on big hardbaits are particularly vulnerable to bending out. A fish can use the the hook points on the other side of the treble than he/she is stuck onto and create "lever action" and put incredible strain on your split ring and hook. You hook gets bound up on the side of the hardbait and if the fish has the direction and leverage, bad things could happen. Not often, but for the investment, it's a no brainer, especially if you are really putting time into hunting a big one.

With everything getting  a little bit bigger, and more swimbait like, even more the reason to pay attention to your terminal tackle.  All these long cranking rods like the Wright McGill, Okuma, Duckett Rods, that are approaching 8 feet long, microguides, 7:1 reels and guys are generally now throwing much longer rods on average than even a few years ago.  Swimbaits aside, longer rods mean more leverage and power and torque that can be applied to fish and hence the need for superior terminal tackle.  Faster reels mean more physics involved, speed kills and magnifies weakest links.   The Owner Hyper Wire Split Ring was a God send to the swimbait fishing community years ago.  It never ceases to amaze me how good simple terminal tackle can be so hard to find.   Split rings are often an afterthought and not much of a conversation, but Owner changed that with the introduction of the Owner Hyper Wire Split Ring.  Split rings can be a weak point, so be warned.

Owner Hyper Wire Split Rings
Practice what you preach. I have spent a lot of money over the years on Owner Hyper Wires. You can re-use them, they hold their shape well and they don't rust. I use the Size 4 thru Size 7 anytime I have a hanging treble, period.

1) Number 4 Owner Hyper Wire Split Rings:

  • Mini/Stubby Triple Trout: anytime I’m using small hard bodied swimmers, I tend to go for #4 Hyper Wires and Owner ST-56 trebles.
  • replacement split rings for RC 2.5s and other full bodied square bill and conventional crank and hard baits where big fish happen in shallow water, close range or on braided line.  Even certain topwater baits, like the Pencil Popper.
Little hard baits need to be balanced too. Size 4 Owner Hyper Wires balance very nicely with the ST-56 Treble Hooks and are a good compromise for small baits where you need small sharp, thinner diameter hanging trebles. The Size 4 ring is just small and fits the size of the bait and hook nicely, and gives you a guarantee you aren't going to have split ring failure, even if you fish these style of baits on 50# braid, 17-20 mono or floro, and med-light 8 footers, which most of us tend to do. Little swimmers are best served on long rods, just like big swimmers, and you've got to balance the hooks and rings with to the rod and reel and just be sure you don't have a 'weakest link', because it will be found by the fish, sometime, and you better hope it's not the 'one'. Even 5-7 pounders can wreck cheap split rings. Tournament and trophy implications with split rings and hooks.

2) Number 5 Owner Hyper Wire Split Rings:

The #5 Owner Hyper Wire Split Ring on the 8" Huddleston Deluxe Trout. You want the smallest and strongest possible ring. It holds onto that #2 Owner ST-66 treble up front in our Southern Trout Eater Huddleston Rig, and it has never failed me.

3) Number 6 Owner Hyper Wire Split Rings:

triple trout owner hyper wire
The 7" Triple Trout, with #6 Owner Hyper Wires. Add to that, 65# Braided line, Calcutta 300 or 400 TE reels, moderate fast/slow action 8 footers and you'll understand that hooks and rings can easily be bent out, shore up vulnerability where you can and get the right rings especially for snatching bigbaits around grass on braid. The size 6 Owner Hyper Wire is probably the most universal for most hanging treble type baits.

4) Number 7 Owner Hyper Wire Split Rings:

  • 7/9/12″ MS Slammer (the Slammer has HUGE eye screws that screw into the wood, so you need a big ring to get around the thick eye bolt/screws that make up the hook hangers on the MS Slammers)   (SEE BELOW)
Number 7 Hyper Wires for the MS Slammer and any of the bigbaits with the big eye screws where you attach the ring to. You simply cannot get a #5 or #6 over the eye screw (without major effort). It's just not worth it. Get the #7s and be done with it and know you're ready for battle with the biggest.
Bits and Bites/Speeds and Feeds

Bottom line is, if you are serious about your swimbait and bigbait fishing, you need to be thinking about Owner Hyper Wire Split rings.  If you are a guy who is fishing 1 ounce rattle traps and big topwater baits and pushing the envelope on hanging trebles on your standard hardbaits out there, you should be looking at Owner Hyper Wire Split Rings as added insurance, size 4 in particular.  Especially if braid and/or big fish are in your life.   Once you start paying >$15 for your swimbaits and bigbaits, adding a $.50 split ring and premium hooks to your baits is just common practice.  You can and will bend out hooks and rings.  It’s either going to happen on a straight pull or it’s going to happen where the fish uses the hard body to pry open the split ring in an instant of tug-o-war.  Anytime you get locked up on a fish, or the fish hangs the bait into a tree or in some grass, now split ring are tested.   I’ve never had one fail me, even though I’ve had a couple bend out like the one above—but not fail, imagine what would have happened without using an Owner Hyper Wire?   The fish and the hook would have been gone.


Wacky Rigging.  One of my favorite things to do in a small bait, finesse, tough bite, you just need to catch 5 fish and haven’t had a bite in a while style of fishing is wacky rigging.  Wacky rigging is the canary in the coal mine to me at times.  If you can’t get a bite, wacky rigging, you are very likely not around ’em.    My 2012 FLW Everstart tournament on Santee Cooper, started by picking up my boat in Augusta, GA on the way to lake, with a fresh fiberglass patch from the damage it sustained from Seminole.  So, I only had 5 days to prepare for Santee Cooper, and in case you don’t know, Santee Cooper is 2 lakes, connected by a canal, and it HUGE.  I mean, a man could spend a lifetime learning Santee Cooper, and because it has grass in it, which even the types of grasses are constantly changing (and growing and being sprayed or eaten by introduced grass carp), Santee Cooper is a lake that changes often.  Add to that, South Carolina’s real estate on the Eastern seaboard.   South Carolina, goes from extreme mountain trout eaters  in the West, to the lowland black water swamp, palmetto tree + Spanish moss frog, swim jig, skippin’ jigs, buzzbait, 30 pound sack capable water, to Atlantic Coast beaches that people surf regularly ( I scored fun 1-2 foot peelers at Hilton Head one 4th of July circa 2006, 10 foot single fin, 80+ degree water,  and a lot of hootin’ an’a hollerin’!) in the East. Santee Cooper is big fish fishery and it didn’t disappoint.  Look at the weights from the event, lots of 11-15 pound, 3 fish sacks getting weighed in.  Guys on 4-6 pounders pretty good, just numbers hard to come by.   Santee Cooper is on a healthy cycle and it could be a sleeper for an incredible event if scheduling and weather permit.   I wished I’d had more time to practice and explore things, because a bigbait bait there is inevitable.  I threw Slammers, 3:16 Sunfish, 22nd Century Bluegills, and skipped the 6″ weedless Huddie too.   I didn’t have tons of practice, but my gameplan was mostly around catching 4-6 pounders off cypress trees, but of course trying to just go fish and find big ones coming or going or on beds.   I thought I could win with the wacky rig—if I got the bites and got them in the boat, there are just some awesome moments in tree fishing where you can get on ’em good.  I had good bites going, just not lots of them, and it was the same stuff I had done here 3 years ago when I finished 7th place.  I had the bites to win last time.  This time, I didn’t have the bites to win, but I had a shot at it, and I knew I could compete and perhaps win, just like last time, but this time, things didn’t work out quite so well, but I did jump off a big one that cost me a Top 20 or so.  5-6 pounder eats my Senko on the base of tree with sparse grass around it in about 3 feet of water, and rips line off immediately for 10 feet right under the surface just hot and full dig style and when I went to turn and stop her, she reared up and jumped mouth open wide reverse flip backside roll tail grab fakey and spits the hook.  Fudge. Whatever, I’m sitting in 7th place overall in the the SouthEast Division, and had a great tournament and finished 35th place, just solid, nothing great, but I’ll take it because Santee Cooper is tough as she is awesome at times.   I had 3 fish on Day 1 for almost 12 pounds, so fun day getting 2 bigguns onboard, and one 14.5″ keeper.  Big fish on the spinning gear around trees is just exciting and fun.  I kept working and working, and also had a grass pattern going that never panned out, so I felt like I fished pretty damn hard and smart, just didn’t have the next levels of fish I needed.   Look at how few guys caught limits both days.  See Results Here.  Ken Ellis won the tournament wacky rigging a Trick Worm on deep trees.  So, I was on the right track and had the right gameplan, I just didn’t have the trees and the knowledge of what trees.  Finding deeper trees is a key, sparse grass is key, and areas adjacent or near spawning grounds, where the fish are pulling out of their spawning areas and resting up, feeding up and hanging loose on the natural cover/structures in the lake.

The Old South. Santee Cooper is near Charleston, a city rich in old America history, and is two lakes, connected by a canal: Lakes Marion&Moultrie, named after American Revolutionary War 1770s era Generals famous for using the swamps and natural terrain to drive the Brits out. And of course, the first shots fired in the Civil War, happened in Charleston at Fort Sumter. My journey from Atlanta to Santee Cooper literally mirrored General Sherman’s notorious “March to the Sea” campaign, that ended with the Confederate surrender of Fort Sumter and terms being served, where the first shots were fired 4 years prior.   I enjoy that kind of stuff, because I really try to understand the various regions and people of this country that are so different than my own home, and their history.   I like South Carolina for the fishing for sure. I used to do great business in nearby Columbus and I know Charleston is really cool and happening and fun, and yet you can get yourself extremely rural and off the grid in a hurry too.   Perhaps I have a soft spot for South Carolina because my personal best 14.60 largemouth came from South Carolina in 2006. But I think it’s just a killer state of mind and of fishing. The extreme Appalachian to Atlantic old timey Southern feel is highlighted with the weather. You want to talk about hot and muggy? We had low 90s and 100% humidity a couple days. Sweltering heat at times for what feels like ‘early in the year’. I believe in the summer time, Santee Cooper might be the hottest place on earth.  You just feel lowland and can sense the warm ocean offsore influencing things. But then again, as the tournament came around, cool, windy, foggy, really windy, really really windy, rain and volatile weather came, making finesse fishing around trees, a bit more challenging!  I wore my bibs all day on Day 1, that cold you get when you’ve been baked by the sun and then things cool down and you’re just cold because you aren’t baking hot.   Finesse fishing, wacky in particular, is best served up under the above weather conditions, because the smooth water allows you to make precise and long distance skips of your bait to the tree.  Wind creates surface waves which put your bait up in the tree and ruins the distance and accuracy thing horribly, but it isn’t game over, you just have to work that much harder to fish the trees properly.   The calmer, the more finesse you can get, for example, throw a Trick Worm vs. a Senko, because it falls and stalls mas bueno, which is the thing about wacky, it is about fall and stall, which becomes neutral or floating mid water column at some point, which means you can keep your bait suspended or ‘floating’ one foot down, one foot off the tree, in the shade spot on base of cypress tree better than just about anything else.       Stall + Fall = 0

I stayed in Eutawville (“Utah-Ville”) at Bells Marina and fished with my good friend Ron and his son, that I’d met here a few years ago when I was here last.   Ron helped me quickly get a feel for the lake and more specifically, the tree bite.    The best trees tend to be deeper 2.5 to 4 feet of water, and have sparse grass around them, or just be on the ‘point’ or generally favorable position to feed from in a stack of trees.  However, it’s sort of like flipping at some level, where you just have to put your head down and make hundreds of perfect presentations time and time again, and eventually you get a bite.  And where you get one bite, you usually get more bites.   Little flurries, I love you so!   I tried to find good areas of trees in practice.  Which I did. I also tried to find a grass bite, which I did with some help from my man Bobby Wood and Ron Buck.  I practiced with them a day and really did some damage on Skinny Dippers and Swim Senkos around lilly pads, gator grass, and mixed stuff.    With the cool weather we had for the tournament, my grass bite died on the vine.  You just knew they were in the grass and biting for someone, but I had trees and grass to balance, and after starting each morning in the grass and coming up empty both days, I decided my grass bite was dead and didn’t try it afternoon of Day 2, just stuck out the trees, which helped because I got my 5th fish with 10 minutes left and helped me get a paycheck.  I caught all 8 of my keepers on the wacky rig and only missed one bite, but it was a big one.  Wacky rigging is a work in progress for me, and I love doing it.  I love super finesse and super big stuff, opposing poles, positives and negatives, north vs south/ east vs west, natural attractions and relationships between the two ends of any spectrum.  I love how it points out things to my bigbait fishing, because I think my success with bigbaits in a national tournament will be somehow directly or indirectly related to a super small bait bite or understanding of fish and fishing.   For example, keeping it simple, just throw a Senko or a Trick Worm, or just throw a Triple Trout or a Huddleston or Slammer, having the right tools narrowed down for your window and using the small baits to either quickly fill a limit or be there as backup to back fill a couple big ones.

Here’s the deal with Wacky Rigging:

Rod: Shimano Cumara 7’2″ Medium Heavy (CUS72MH)

Reel:   Shimano Stradic 1000 or CI4 Stradic 1000 (small spooled reels handle 10-15 pound braid really well, that line has super small diameter and although I like big spooled spinning reels, smaller spooled small spinning reels are good too. You can throw small and light baits really well, and manage you line nicely.  It all matches up, where you don’t have super thin line on a big spool.

Line:  15# Power Pro connected to a 2.5 foot leader of  10# Yamamoto Sugoi Florocarbon

Hook:  Owner Mosquito Hook, #1 or 1/0, get the 50 packs, because you use these things a lot and you do break off at times because of the exposed nose hook, trust me, this is a good investment.  Use bigger hook size in the wind

Bait:  Yamamoto Senko 5″  Or Zoom Trick Worm (watermelon seed, green pumpkin red, black neon, black blue, or junebug)

Rigging:  Wacky O Tool and O-Rings:  I put an O-Ring around my senko and slide the hook under the ring and just fish away.  Sometimes I criss cross two rings and put the hook under the X, but I a really like the way this one fishes and rigs, it’s not perfect, but I haven’t found one that is!

Braided line + floro leader, Owner Mosquito Hook, O-Ring. I will use 2 O-Rings and criss cross them and put the hook under the X at times, but then again, I will just slip the hook under a single ring and just go fishing. I catch a lot of fish on this rig, and slight variations of it anytime I’m around shallow grass, wood, and rock. Trick worms and Senkos are blue chip baits, make sure you own plenty in various colors black to green. Get a feel for skipping, floating, dragging and stalling side rigged baits. Bait control.

Here is the deal with the Grass Bite:

Swimming Baits:  Skinny Dippers or Swim Senkos or Gambler Big EZ  (black blue, watermelon/green pumpkins)

Frogs/Terrestrials Spro  BronzeEye Frogs or Poppin Frog or Paycheck Transporter Frog or Picasso Shad Walker  (natural colors/black)

Line: 65 or 50# Power Pro

HooksOwner  Twistlock Open Gap (Swim Senko, 5/0 or 6/0 for Skinny Dipper), Owner Weighted Beast Hook (Big EZ, 6/0 w/ 1/4 oz weight)

Some really good fish were caught in the grass. You just had to have grass with bait or just fish in it.  The grass was like the trees, lots to choose from, but most does/do not hold fish and even if they do, you have to be good to catch them, especially for 2 days in a row.  Things change quickly on Santee Cooper.

Santee Cooper Wacky Rigging a Senko
I was getting 1 or 2 fish in the 4-6 pound class a day fishing the trees slowly and thoroughly with wacky rigs. Scattered grass, access to deep water, shade all helped the cause. I figured I might be able to squeak out 15 or 20 pounds a day on the right days. I almost pulled it off, but not quite. No regrets, looking forward to getting back there sometime and getting back to work.  “Fine thanks……………………you?”
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.

Since I had a brief visit in Arkansas, I was able to go thru some old boxes of baits and find some things I wanted to share.   With the recent release of our “Southern Trout Eaters” Huddleston Rig tutorial video, I thought the following was a good chronology of events and that ultimately have led up to where we are with our the Southern Trout Eater Huddleston rig.  The rig is literally 10 years in the making.

The first softbait I ever fished with any consistency was the Eagle.  The Eagle is a line thru bait and it weighs a good 4-5 ounces.  It’s a straight up bigbait and was the first bait I ever committed to fishing for days and days.    The problem with the Eagle was hook up ratios.

swimbait hook harness for the Eagle swimbait
This is the stock hook setup for the Eagle. Hook up ratios were a real problem in the early days with this rig. Even though this hook setup is worthless fo the Eagle, notice the skills and the ability to use crimps, figure eights and 80# mono to create a double stinger trap hook. Note to self, save this, you will want to re-use this harness on another bait with for another application, someday.

We (Cameron Smith, my pal from Dana Point, CA) and I were fishing San Vicente lake back around 2001-2003 quite heavily with the Eagle.  Looking back on it, it is funny because I’m not kidding I would miss 5-8 bites per day on this rig.   It wasn’t until Cameron and I got to tinkering that we made some adjustments.  I remember Rob Belloni came fishing with me on San Vicente one day.  He took one look at the Eagle and the stock hook harness and told me I need way bigger hooks, maybe play with rigging?    Bass World West was going on in Southern California and so was Anglers Marine.  Both places had their own ways of rigging up Osprey’s, Eagles, etc.  It’s hard to say where exactly this stuff came from but we wanted hanging trebles, bigger hooks and had to leverage the line-thru design because those were the baits of the day…The Rising Son, The Rago Trout (name escapes me, Jerry’s original line-thru) and the Eagle kept me busy for years.   Our hookup ratios went way up with our modifications, but God what I’d do to go back in time and have those days back.   The fish were there and eating.  We’d just miss a lot. Upper water column swimming bait that we’d fish super fast at times.  Burning it, popping it, making it look like a trout trying to escape.  Probably not always the best retrieve, but it worked for us, for a time.

Eagle Swimbait with stock hook harness
Here is the Eagle with the stock harness properly oriented as if it was rigged. 4 trebles pointing down and we still missed most of the bites. This bait swims in the upper water colum and doesn't get inhaled like a Hudd much, hanging and bigger treble setups soon followed. Fish would literally bounce off the bait.

Here is what we did in response and the evolution of our rigs and rigging.  Double barrel crimps, 80# mono for the harness, cut paper clips, split rings and Gamakatsu hooks.  You can tell my early swimbait rigs and trials because my baits have Gamakatsu treble hooks on them.  I have long since been fishing Owner.    Just a superior family of treble hooks in my opinion, hands down.

eaglette swimbait rigging
The Eaglette, the smaller version of the Eagle. Notice the harness, allowed us to put a treble hook under the chin of the bait to catch the fish that made the kill shots to the head,and had a rear trap that either dangled below or was imbedded up in the bait. The size of the Eaglette coupled with this setup made our hookup ratios go way up.
Eaglette Harness
Notice, cut paper clips. The paper clips up front for the trap hook under the chin had to be modified to fit around the line thru created by the OEM. We are still modifying paper clips to fit our Huddleston's today. Used a split ring as where to tie your line, and created loops and and hook hangers with crimps and 80# mono.
3 treble harness rig for Eagle
Here is a 3 hook setup harness that we used on the full sized Eagle. One hook under the chin, one right below the line-thru, and one near the rear fins. This was creative, and helped us get more fish to stick that came up on the Eagle.
three treble harness for Eagle swimbait
Here is the 3 treble harness rig, better visualized how it sat on the bait. That's a lot of hardware on a bait, but it definitely helped get fish to stick.
2 hook harness
Full sized Eagle with a 2 hook harness rigging. The rear treble was dangling and this is a definite pre-cursor to where we got our Southern Trout Eaters Huddleston Rigging. Cut paper clips and double barrel crimps and 80#. Too small a rear hook for sure, looking back on it. Still, we caught them much better on this rig, way less hardware than the 3 hook harness which tends to foul up quite often let alone get bit as well.
sample harnesses
The 3 hook, 2 hook and stock trap hook rigs we used for baits like the Eagle, Rago Soft Trout bait and Rising Son
The early line thru baits
Back in the day it was all about Eagles, Ospreys/Rago, and Rising Son baits. This was pre-Huddleston Deluxe 8" Rainbow trout. These baits fished well near or at the surface, but are limited in so many ways compared to the Huddleston
the early line thru baits
The Rago Osprey was custom rigged to become a line thru in this case with a small coffee stirring straw, while the Rising Son wisely used a plastic insert. The Eagle used a machined piece of aluminum as the line thru and I can tell you there are a couple of Eagles at the bottom of San Vicente that broke off on the cast with 20# P-Line. Stupid me should have been using way heavier line and been more diligent about checking for burrs in the machined aluminum.

And then came the Castaic SoftBait Company.   Not that they ever went anywhere, it was all the sudden coming together.   Ken Huddleston used to work for Castaic or own it or something along those lines.  Ken had direct involvement in Castaic Bait Company for a time and that can be seen in this next evolution.  These soft Castaics are a definite precursor to the 8″ Huddleston Deluxe   You had to literally remove the internal stock harness of the Castaic bait, then use a coffee stir straw to create a line thru and come out the belly at the right angle and get it all right, then create your double hook harness.  The crazy thing was, I nailed this rig the first time I attempted it, and I caught a fish around the Chimney area of San Vicente within the first 15 minutes of fishing the rig, and the fish choked it.   About a 6 pounder.  Anyway, to me, this modified and glued up and line-thru’d Castaic rig is a clear connection to where we are with the Huddleston Deluxe today.

castaic swimbait
Removed the internal 'top hook' harness from the bait, glued it back together, created a line thru with a coffee stir straw, and leveraged a double hook harness rig. Clearly headed in the direction of the Huddleston Deluxe of today.

And here is a Castaic Sardine with a trap hook rigging.  I will drop down to 60# mono and use the same 1.0B double barrel crimps to have a little bit lighter and more flexible harness that fits the smaller baits better.  The Castaic Sardine is an excellent bait for those looking to explore blueback herring.   If you do a little homework on herring and sardines, you’ll find the two are quite related, and both saltwater run.

castaic sardine rig
The Castaic Sardine with a mini version of our trap hook setup.
castaic sardine swimbait rig
Up close, those are #2 and #4 ST-36 Stingers....way too light weight of hooks for me now. This rig caught them Lake Lanier fish pretty good one spring for me. But they inhaled it. I'd probably use ST-56 in the same sizes now, but the bottom line is you can rig small swimbaits with a harness and double trap rig. I masked the hooks and hardware to match the belly of the bait, again all relating to things we did to get to our current Hudd rig.

There has been a lot of trial and error in our rigs and rigging and there will continue to be more.  The better you get with rigging and the tools of rigging, the more you’ll be able to create your own rigs for your own applications.