By Rob McComas

Learning about swimbaits and swimbait fishing was a tough road
for me. Before the days of Facebook, email, Southern Trout Eaters, and
even the www, (I know the www was around then but not for most of us),
I was learning thru a wide curve how to swimbait fish.
I had gotten hold of an A.C. Plug in the early nineties from a
local hardware store that sold them for Muskie fishing. With an old
school Quantum flippin’ reel and a 7’6” B.P.S. flippin’ stick, and 17
lb test Stren Easy Cast, I set out to see if the giant trout eating
fish that were being caught in California were inhabiting the very
similar waters here in the mountains of North and South Carolina.
After countless hours hauling water, I finally started putting
pieces of the puzzle together. From things like only taking one rod in
your boat, with only swimbaits tied on so you are not tempted to lay it down
for something else, to weather patterns, to times of year, and so
This grueling process I feel caused two negatives in my fishing.
One was being ultra secretive. I mean, give me a little sympathy, the
number of miserable days and cost of fuel I spent to learn to catch a
swimbait fish was something I was not going to give away so that
everybody and their brother could catch all my fish. I couldn’t just
watch Southern Trout Eaters, visit, or email a friend and
expedite my learning process. I had been burnt by friends in other
types of fishing this way so it wasn’t going to happen this time.
The second negative was getting stuck in a rut. I had so much time
spent catching nothing, that when I finally got something going, and I
might add it was going very good, I was not going to change anything.
This worked for years, but finally newer and better baits, more
swimbaiters, and the education I had given the fish were catching up
to me, and the refusal to change was now keeping me from catching
The rut or ruts I was stuck in were many, so let me be brief and summarize:


Many of us develop ’milk runs” in our fishing. And although I
still have and use them, you can rely on them too much. I had got to
where I would fish my same spots from the same direction at the same
time of day. I feel this not only educates the big bruisers we pursue,
but it keeps us from thinking and observing.
I was amazed after my milk run had apparently dried up, that if I
fished the same spots from different angles or different times of the
day, that I was catching fish again. You’ll have a hard time
convincing me this type of rut fishing is not harmful.

I love to fish fronts, and I had done well fishing them. I think
fish operate much differently before a front. But that being said and
understood, there are fish to be caught between fronts. After all,
most folks can’t go fishing just whenever the conditions are perfect,
so learning how fish behave on those “less than perfect days” is a
good thing.
I will still hold to the thought that I catch bigger fish when its
raining, snowing, windy etc, but there are still big fish to be
I despised sunny days, I would fish my milk run in the sun and
score a goose egg. I finally realized by seeing the changes the
conditions made that I needed to fish other areas on those bright
days, or change my retrieve.
Part of my front theory is lowlight, well if fish like low light I
needed to find it on a bluebird day. Its amazing at the “dark places”
that exist on a lake in the full sun. Besides the obvious docks and
shady coves, a small drop off can make quite the dark spot. A stump or
lay down will provide just enough dark to hold a fish. And a bluff
wall has jot outs in the rocks that fish can feel hidden in.
A small shade line of just 2-4 ft is plenty enough shade to hold
fish. And if you think of it in the right perspective, the sun that I
so dreaded seeing on water, is the very thing that “positions” the
fish on these areas. It can actually reduce the amount of water you
need to fish so you can focus on the key areas.

I made 2 changes in my technique that helped me along with the
changes mentioned below in the tackle segment.
One really bad habit I have had since I first started bass fishing
as a young teenager is setting the hook hard, and I mean ridiculously
hard. The men I learned to bass fish from were primarily worm
fishermen, and they took a great deal of pride on how hard they set
the hook. Well, I fell in line with that mindset, but with age (and
many lost big fish) came wisdom. After 25+ years of slamming it home,
it was hard for me to stop, but it was easy for me to start setting
the hook with a backhand hook set. I am left handed so instead of
setting the hook to my left, I now set across my right side which has
softened my hook set a lot, but not too much.
I decided to change my hookset after watching Matt Peters set the
hook. He honestly has the smoothest, most fluid hookset I have ever
seen, in person and on film. And since he had a very good bite/hookup
ratio I figured that might be for me.
I also started parallel fishing some. Now I am a firm believer in
fishing perpendicular to the bank, but there are situations that are
more efficient when fish parallel.
I feel like a lot of the fish in our deep mountain lakes are
suspended away from the banks a lot of times, and you can get these
fish by fishing perpendicular, but when the fish are keyed in tight to
cover, or hugging a shade line, paralleling is the way to go.
It is a new angle to present your bait, and a way to stay in the
strike zone a bit longer (you’ve heard that a 1,000 times) , and you
can also learn more about the cover/structure the fish are holding on,
this was a big big plus for me.

Change requires compromise. Compromise requires wisdom.


There is A LOT of equipment geared toward the ever growing swimbait following.The days of 7 ‘6” flippin’ sticks and 17lb Easy Cast
are gone, but I will add, to the dismay of some, that set up was
highly effective for some reason. Anyway, I progressed  rapidly to
custom built rods and Muskie gear, much to the frowns of my swimbait
colleagues, but I wanted some serious horsepower. The custom built
Calstar 800L was a clydesdale among horses. The unbendable lower section
of this hybrid rod was a brute, and the flexible fiberglass tip gave
it enough flex to be fishable.  Otherwise a pool stick would have been
about the same. The Calstar was my Hudd rod.
And the 8’6” Muskie crank bait rod I used for super long casts with
MS Slammers was no small toy. This bad boy would bomb the lighter Slammer
wood bait a mile, and cast it a good distance in the wind.
The “extras” that came with the rods had their side effects. These
rods were heavy. Fatigue will cause you to have poor rod position and
cause you to cut your day short. And after some health issues that
caused a lot of forearm and wrist pain, I had to concede and lighten
up. I switched to the much lighter Okuma big bait rods. And to be
honest, at first they felt like snoopy rods, and I had serious
reservations that these “ultra light rods” would be capable to handle
swim bait fishing. But after a fish or two, and being able to fish
correctly for a full day, I was glad for the change and have no
regrets. Now if you are the big bull in the pasture and can handle the
big stuff have at it, but for most folks you can get too big with your
equipment, causing adverse side effects.
Terminal tackle was another improvement. This was another hard
lesson. The number of good fish lost was ridiculous, and even though I
have still lost fish, the catch ratio jumped dramatically after I
started changing my stock hooks to Owner hooks. I’m talking a 70-80%
increase. There are times to save money, but hooks are not the place.
Sticky hooks will hold better, and get some of those curious
“nibblers” that otherwise would never be caught.
Line has been a real circus for me. After the end of the Easy Cast
era, crazy but that line would very rarely break for me, I went thru a
difficult search for the right line. Everyone would swear by such and
such, and it would end in broke fish for me. From 20-30 lb I broke on
a regular basis, till I finally started using Berkley big Game 30 lb.
in green, you know that really really cheap line that comes in big
spools, that I walked by because it didn’t cost enough or have the
right name. That line has proven great. The 25 lb I still broke but
the 30 is just right for me.


I guess the old saying that you are never too old to learn is
true, and even though it may be difficult, change can be a good thing.
I really feel like the changes I have made has improved my fishing. So
don’t get so set in your ways that you quit learning, fishing is ever
changing and you need to as well. And if you haven’t figured it out
yet, I got over the sharing information hurdle as well.  RM




If I wanted to tell you that a Rate of Fall 5  (ROF 5) Huddleston Deluxe Trout is sometimes better than a ROF 12 or ROF 16 Huddleston Deluxe Trout, I would explain it two ways.  One has to do with the Rate of Fall and how slow sinking the ROF 5 is, compared to the other two.   The other measurement I’d like to provide you is it’s Rate of Stall score, meaning something I can ‘score’ the bait on and speak to the East and West travel of the bait (not just the North and South, as in Rate of Fall).   You can creep the ROF 5 along, and it still maintains its parallel to the surface posture, but moves toward you much much slower than doing the same thing with the ROF 16.  The ROF 16 wants to sink out and forces you to reel faster to get the bait planing toward you, which speeds up how fast it comes at you, the subtle difference between the time a ROF 16 vs a ROF 5 in terms of how slow you can reel each bait and fish it properly is a based in an understanding of Rate of Stall, at least, that’s what I’m calling it for now!  When fish are on points or offshore it requires a slower and more thorough presentation, and at times, the ROF 5 8″ Huddleston is the better choice (amongst the 8″ Huddleston Deluxe family of trout baits)  for 2 reasons:  Rate of Fall (ROF) and Rate of Stall (ROS).  ROS is not just a Huddleston thing, in fact, understanding ROS within the swim of the Huddleston conversation is an ‘advanced’ conversation.   Floating baits best help visualize Rate of Stall, a la the Nezumaa Rat, as you’ll see in the video clip.

The above video clip is an attempt to present the idea of Rate of Stall, and is the beginning to what will be a multiple part online discussion. We touched on Rate of Stall in Southern Trout Eaters, and I talked about how I learned how to alter my MS Slammer retrieve from a straight wind, to a more walk the dog, start and stop–more stalled retrieve based on what I’d learned from fishing the Nezumaa Rat.  I was able to keep my MS Slammer around the shade lines and steep faces of the Ozark Lakes, and that was where the fish were, and what it took to draw the strikes.      I’ve asked Rob McComas (who is featured in Southern Trout Eaters) who is a MS Slammer specialist and Matt Allen from to provide some feedback and prepare a video response to Rate of Stall.  I watched a video clip of Matt talking about the Lunker Punker and talking about fishing it over points, and I knew he would understand Rate of Stall and what I’m proposing here, so I reached out to get Matt’s perspective on the theme of Rate of Stall.  I’m hoping having an online discussion where multiple people can provide video responses can be done in an orderly and effective fashion and provides a refreshed medium to have online fishing discussions.    So, here is my part, just proposing Rate of Stall as a form of measurement and a rating or scaling system we might consider in talking about our baits.  The “East and West” if you consider Rate of Fall to be “North and South”.   I’m on Okeechobee right now, testing out Rate of Stall as it relates to fishing softbaits like the 3:16 Bluegill and neutrally buoyant and floating hardbaits like the 22nd Century Bluegill, rat baits, and MS Slammers in the grass, keyword:  “grass”.  I have other additions to Rate of Stall already underway, and I’m anxious to hear what Matt and Rob have to say about it, and we go from there.  Check back here, for updates and the various responses.  I have my fingers crossed, this online discussion format, with varying responses being stacked chronologically and playing off each other, will fly.   We shall see.  Please comment below, if you have some input on Rate of Stall.

nezumaa rat rate of stall
The Nezumaa Rat helped me grasp something I knew, but couldn't fully explain. Talking to Rob McComas, hearing what Matt Allen said about the Lunker Punker in one of his videos, my experience with ROF 5 vs ROF 12 or 16, and grass fishing has lead me to: Rate of Stall. . Oh the grass fishing, probably nowhere more important is Rate of Stall and understanding it in bait selection, line (braid and its neutral buoyancy adds Rate of Stall for example), the vortex of the tail (boot vs. wedge vs. modified wedge), or the buoyancy (floating vs. slow sink vs. neutral) properties of various hard and softbaits. But Rate of Stall, I argue is a missing dimension in talking about the swim of most of the baits we fish. You've got to be able to talk about the East and West and track a bait as it swims or can be stalled, toward the boat (not just the sink rate, or North and South, as in Rate of Fall). The Net Net Net of this conversation is picking the right baits for the right situations and also applying the right retrieves, and/or a combination thereof. Ryan Thoni catching a small one, and the Nezumaa Rat shifting into high-low gear.
Nico Raffo MS Slammer
Nico Raffo shared two baits that have caught a ton of big ones and are proven in the field. I've never seen a 9" MS Slammer with more wear marks. An indication this bait gets fished A LOT.

The 9” MS Slammer is the first swimbait I ever committed to and was the first swimbait I ever saw fished.  The 9” MS Slammer was developed in Central California, very closely with Lake Santa Margarita.  Mike Shaw, the ‘MS’ in MS Slammer, lived in Atascadero and developed the bait, and tested it by casting, trolling and targeting big striper and big bass.  Rob Belloni, was early on the bigbait scene, got to throwing Mike’s bait because he fished Lake Santa Margarita often as a Cal Poly SLO student.  Cal Poly is where I met Rob, and Rob introduced me to the MS Slammer.  The MS Slammer has been catching trophy fish quietly and not so quietly since the late 90s.

Rob McComas was early on the bigbait scene too, he just lived across the US, and was fishing Mike’s 9” MS Slammer on the trout fed lakes mountain lakes of Western North Carolina in the 90s.  Rob was not only featured, but was a key figure in the ‘go ahead’ and production of Southern Trout Eaters.    His footage is some of the best of the film, incredible topwater bites, big flushes…really capturing how it is with the MS Slammer and how it works and fishes.   Rob has really opened my eyes to wood bait fishing and how to apply it.  He fishes laydown trees and shade lines and focuses  on and thoroughly dissects spots where the fish live.   It’s a slower paced, more thorough approach to structure fishing.

Rob McComas MS Slammer fishing
Rob McComas, 9" MS Slammer fishing in Appalachia. Rob has been fishing the MS Slammer for over 10 years in the South, and has taught me a ton about fishing wood baits.

The 9” MS Slammer is an absolute workhorse.  A bait you can tie on and fish all day and night and never have to adjust or fix.   Its a killer night fishing bait, probably one of the best and the first bait I reach for when night fishing.  It’s literally slaughtered big fish, I mean 12-17  fish in a single night and in broad daylight out West.  It is a staple.  Wood baits are killer. Each bait is unique.  It has its own swim, own vortex, own buoyancy properties and tendencies.   Wood bait fishing is so roots.   The beautiful thing about wood is all the differences in wood and how you get a really bulks and bigbait that doesn’t necessarily weigh that much.   9” MS Slammers don’t weigh but X ounces, and they get an A+ in fishability.  Just easy on you to fish and killer baits, and because it floats, you can fish intimately around wood, boulders, structure of any kind, just stalling and killing the bait along with swimming it along to keep it around the sweet spots longer.

Peters MS Slammer Clarks Hill
Clarks Hill 9" MS Slammer, white. Waking the bait over hydrilla in 10-14 feet of water, the Slammer is part of our blueback herring lake assualt. Why? Because its one of the proven baits, you take the proven baits and apply them to your water. Keep it simple.

There are various retrieves and styles of fishing around the 9” MS Slammer.  The most common method is a relatively slow and steady grind, making the single jointed top water bait swim fluidly and clacky, move a lot of water, throw a big wake, and have a brilliant tail that licks the surface and compliments the jointed swim.   You can stop the bait and walk the dog or just pause it, and the buoyancy of the bait makes it do a 180 or so and it’s a cool way to change it up on ‘em.

You can definitely reel the 9” MS Slammer and fish it 4-12” inches under the surface.  Rob McComas has some excellent retrieves he uses to keep just the top tip of the tail above the surface while the entire bait is under the water swimming along with a small disturbance on the surface for the tip of the tail sweeping along back and forth.     Rob uses the 9” MS Slammer as a deflection bait too, making contact with the wood and rocks and things purposely to draw bites.

Gear for the 9″ MS Slammer:

Rod: G-Loomis 966 BBR or Okuma 7’11” H

Reel: Shimano Calcutta 400 B or Shimano Cardiff 400

Line: P-Line CXX Xtra Strong, Moss Green, 25 or 30#

Hooks:  Owner ST-36 Stinger Treble Hooks, 2/0 front and back

Split Rings:  Owner Hyper Wires, size 7 front and back.

Strengths:  The strength of the MS Slammer is its fishability.  You can use various retrieves and styles of fishing the bait (wake, twitch, slow rolled, etc) and change things up cast by cast as you approach your targets.   The bait rarely fouls up when casting or needs any sort of maintenance.  You will need to change tails every so often, but just find yourself a good swimming 9″ MS Slammer and hang onto it.

MS Slammer Hook Change
Change your hooks and split ring to Owner. The MS Slammer is a workhorse and if you put quality hooks and rings on your baits, you're likely to catch and land most of your bites, even the ones that just slap at the bait. Sticky sharp Owner ST-36 Stinger Trebles and Hyper Wire Rings is what I recommend for all wood and big hardbaits. Once your bait allows you to throw anything larger than 1/0, the ST-36 is the hook.

Notes:  You may fish the bait with a snap. It might change how you fish the bait and might work for some instances. I like to fish without a snap wherever possible, but understand that wood baits are unique and each one a different animal, so don’t be afraid to tinker and find what works best and makes your bait swim best.

Mike Shaw MS Slammer
Mike Shaw, Mr. MS Slammer himself, in his workshop. The 9" MS Slammer is a staple wooden swimbait and set the tone for waking bigbaits in the late 90s as big fish catching baits, day or night.
Ozark MS Slammer fish
The Ozarks proved to be an unlikely place to validate the effectiveness of the 12" MS Slammer, as seen in Southern Trout Eaters

Big Wood.  No doubt about it, the 12” MS Slammer is big wood and one heck of a bigbait.  There aren’t too many 12” hardbaits that get bit, and we showed in Southern Trout Eaters, that the 12” MS Slammer is a standout big wood bait.

Mike Shaw, who now calls Utah home, used to live in Atascadero, CA, which was right up the road from where I went to college.  Mike got hooked up with my good friend Rob Belloni, and Rob was who first introduced me to Mike’s baits.  The MS Slammer is a simple yet effective bait, and one thing is clear, they get bit.

ozark big wood swimbait fish
The 12" MS Slammer, fished in the shade lines and pockets of the bluff walls of the Ozarks, will get you a 20+ pound sack if you execute

Rob McComas has made an art of big wood bait fishing.  Rob showed you how to catch 9” MS Slammer fish in Southern Trout Eaters too, but I got confidence in the 12” MS Slammer after talking to Rob at length about the number of bites and just overall fishability of the bait.   You have to understand that even though the bait is 12” long, it’s made of wood, so it doesn’t weight that much.  Composite and resin baits weigh much more at 12” than do wood baits, so the 12” MS Slammer is extremely fishable.  It won’t wear you out and doesn’t require specialized gear to fish it.

rob mccomas ms slammer fish
Rob McComas, who has spent more time fishing big wood baits in the South than anyone, was where I got confidence to throw the 12" MS Slammer more

Gear for the 12” MS Slammer:

Rod: G-Loomis 966 BBR
Reel:  Shimano Calcutta 400 B  (the B is a slower reel than the 400 TE and is preferred for fishing big wake baits, but either will work)
Line:  P-Line CXX Xtra Strong Moss Green, 30 pound
Hooks:  Owner ST-36 Trebles  (3/0 in front, 2/0 in rear)
Split Rings:  Owner Hyper Wires #7s  (you need #7s because the size of the hardware on the MS Slammer requires a big ring to get around the eye hook your hook attaches to)


The 12” MS Slammer is a noisy, clacky, and super fishable big topwater wake bait.  You can fish it around laydowns, shade lines, man made structures, grass lines and keep the bait near the critical zone for a long time.   It stalls out nicely around structure.   The hanging trebles hook fish and you have a very high hookup ratio on this bait.  The MS Slammer family of baits are workhorses.  You can fish and fish and fish them and rarely do they foul or need care.  That fishability also makes them an excellent night fishing bait because you don’t have to fuss with the bait, just fish it, not to mention the loud clackity clack of the bait helps attract big nocturnal bass.

Mike Shaw MS Slammer
Mike Shaw, the "MS" in MS Slammer, in his workshop. The MS Slammer was a wakebait before wakebaits went mainstream, and they've been catching tournament and trophy bass since the mid 90s. You won't find a nicer, softer spoken man, or a workhorse swimbait like the MS Slammer.

Ideal Conditions:  Rainy and cloudy overcast days are ideal for hunting big trout eaters with the 12” MS Slammer.  Fish the bait slowly around key structure and vary your retrieves from a straight wind to walk the dogs with multiple pauses to get the job done.  Anytime you have a lake with big fish and you are swinging for the fences, the 12” MS Slammer is a good call, and certainly anytime you go night fishing, reach for one of these and beware of toilet flushes and bowling balls falling from the sky style bites.

Notes:  Carry spare tails, you never know when you might rip or tear a tail off on a fish.  Tie directly to the bait and don’t worry about snaps to tie to.

The MS Slammer tail
The tail of the 12" MS Slammer is big, bulky, pushes a lot of water, and produces it's own unique vortex