My brother’s baby boy, Donovan, who just turned 1 the other day. 24 hours into Southern California…4th of July in San Clemente with my brother, sister and their families. My liver hates me. I have been a little thirsty since I’ve been back!

I have been quietly transitioning back home to Southern California.  In May, I was at a company event in Chicago, when I overheard a conversation about a new office for BeyondTrust in Aliso Viejo.    Actually, it was moving the Irvine office back down to Aliso Viejo.   That is a 15 mile move to the South, closer to my hometown Dana Point/San Clemente area, and a significant savings in commute time, toll road costs, and just hit me a time when I was already looking to relocate from West Palm Beach to a more beachy scene within S. Florida….Jupiter/Juno area to be exact.   So, rather than move 15-20 miles within Florida, I made a quick assessment of things, and decided right then and there I was heading home.  Florida is awesome.  My decision to bail on Florida is complicated….understand Okeechobee, of all the years I’ve fished it now, 2013 was the worst for swimbait fishing I’ve encountered.  The lake is overgrown, choked out and more a flip/punch thing than an open water swimmer thing.   So, Okeechobee’s tough cycle, and the amount of rain we endured (and it was still raining when I left) told me it was gonna be a harsh year on the Big O for a guy that likes to swim bigbaits.

And they say California has a lot of red tape!  Count how many regulations and rules there are to fishing a pier in Florida!
And they say California has a lot of red tape! Count how many regulations and rules there are to fishing a pier in Florida!
I was 'this close' to moving from West Palm Beach to Juno...just to be near the surf and even closer to Okeechobee, but tide and time wait for no man!
I was ‘this close’ to moving from West Palm Beach to Juno…just to be near the surf and even closer to Okeechobee, but tide and time wait for no man!

Getting Gone

I essentially closed down my apartment in West Palm Beach within a week, downsized my stuff for the 50th time, and headed for Georgia.  Getting back to California, from S. Florida, wasn’t going to be easy.  Thankfully, I have good people, a good career now so finances aren’t so rough, and I’m really good at just packing up and getting gone.   So, this was the itinerary:  FL>GA>AR>CA.    I had to get from Florida, back to Georgia and the Atlanta area and shut down things in Atlanta first.  So, I was able to touch bases with my tenant, in my Roswell home, get some things squared away and focus on getting all my stuff out of my phenomenal friend, Rodger Ray, Social Circle home.  Social Circle has been my Atlanta base of operations on and off for the last 4.5 years since renting out my apartment, and of course, meeting Rodger, as my co-angler partner,  Day 1, Lake Eufaula, FLW Series 2009.   Rodger has been so hospitable, professional, fun, interesting and wise—-I cannot thank him enough for his friendship.

General Sherman aint got nothing on me.  He marched to the Sea.  I towed to the Pacific, from the same starting place, and the only burning and looting I did was on the White River. And the assualt on Orange County has just begun!
General Sherman aint got nothing on me. He marched to the Sea. I towed to the Pacific, from the same starting place, and the only burning and looting I did was on the White River. And the assualt on Orange County has just begun!
Rods inside.
Rods inside.
Amazing how much 'spare' room I had to utilize my truck with a Uhaul in tow, at least until I got to Arkansas and the other 50% of my stuff!
Amazing how much ‘spare’ room I had to utilize my truck with a Uhaul in tow, at least until I got to Arkansas and the other 50% of my stuff!
My Ranger Z520 posted some pictures on Facebook with her connected to another truck.  She got me back, don't you worry! That's how I knew she made in the Ozarks!
My Ranger Z520 posted some pictures on Facebook with her connected to another truck. She got me back, don’t you worry! That’s how I knew she was made in the Ozarks!  Blurred out the FL License Plate so she cannot socially engineer and manipulate me either!

Of boats and men

I own 2 boats.  I have a Ranger Z520, and a 16 Grizzly Tracker aluminum rig (I loaned it to Team 85 for the filming of Southern Trout Eaters, because they needed some help getting on the water with current states of affairs with their lives at the time).   I literally cleaned out my Ranger, and left a pile of paperwork and stuff that will be needed to sell the boat (if that is the route I take), and just left it parked up in Social Circle.  I have learned, when you don’t know what to do, no decision is the best decision.  I needed to take a U Haul trailer full of stuff from Georgia, and onto Arkansas, where I’d fill it up and cull thru stuff from Arkansas, next.  The problem:  You cannot simultaneously tow a 20′ fiberglass boat and a dual axle U Haul trailer!  So, the Ranger sits in Atlanta, paying for insurance and the 14 months of warranty my Yamaha still enjoys ticks away toward expiration.   On one hand it makes a ton of sense to sell the boat:  I have equity in the boat, the engine is still under warranty, and truthfully, I’m not worried about fishing tournaments where a Z520 is required anytime super soon.  I love my Ranger Boat, don’t get me wrong, but to me, boats are tools, and usually very expensive tools.   I am now living <10 miles from the Dana Point Harbor, where I can out throwing swimbaits at calico bass within minutes.  I’m sorta re-tooling if you will, and the transition time will be longer than anything I can predict–that’s just how things go.   An inshore series boat, deeper v, and better able to handle ocean type conditions is in my future.  Something that I can still tow and hit the San Diego lakes and such of course.  There is a compromise in there somewhere with the right boat….ie, the great lakes/walleye style of Ranger Boat…the Fisherman Series.  Or perhaps a Whaler type boat, center console style. I’m not sure yet.  Trolling motor mandatory of course.

One last trip to Clarks Hill, while I stayed over in Social Circle.  In search of the herring eaters with the SSB Herring.
One last trip to Clarks Hill, while I stayed over in Social Circle. In search of the herring eaters with the SSB Herring.

The Other Boat/Arkansas

My 16 foot Grizzly (that I bought from Triton Mike Bucca, btw) has had a wild journey itself.  I got a 25HP 4 Stroke Yamaha, and a 82# thrust Motorguide up front.  The rig frickin charges.  I got the boat back to Arkansas last year, right about this time, as I was trying to make Arkansas work as ‘home’ and figure out a way to make a living thru fishing, sans tournament fishing.  Well, things in Arkansas didn’t go as I’d hoped, and then opportunity came knocking with getting my software career back in action.   This boat I will keep.  I am flat addicted to the idea of hunting big brown trout with swimbaits on the mighty White River.  I spent 2 weeks in Social Circle/Atlanta (first half of June) and spent the second half of June in Arkansas.  Understand, end of June is end of fiscal quarter, end of Q2, in the business world.  I stalled and timed everything to travel on the weekends, work on my move after hours, and just be in a position to sell enterprise vulnerability and risk management solutions to new customers.  I had more like 10 days in Arkansas, but man, was it great to be back there. I have some really good friends and family there.  My friends are friends thru fishing, and they are as ate up with it as us.  I had some really close calls and learned a lot in that short window I was in Arkansas about the White River. I had more action in approx. 7 outings, than I did the ENTIRE 7 months I spent there last year.  I did NOT put any fish in the boat, and had “the one” on, but she came unglued.  Doh.  Still haunted by that one.   So, I put the cover back on the boat, parked her up and just left her.  I foresee visiting Arkansas often, to spend time with my parents and Grandmother (who lives with my parents now too), and of course, to fish the Ozarks.   There is an airport in Branson, MO about an hour from my parents house.  It’s a no brainer, easy, and financially feasible for me. I will be able to work during the day, and fish after hours/on weekends, and spend a couple weeks at a time there, with a boat that can fish the river or the surrounding lakes.    And the wade fishing around the Ozarks is sick.  Canoes are probably the best boat at times too.  My buddies there are blowing it up and I’m excited to get back there.  It’s a different deal though. It’s not tournament fishing blowing things up…it’s fly fishing, guiding, outfitting, and getting their world’s right with relationships, marriages, finances, real estate, etc.  Which I’m learning is the key to fishing and pretty much everything!

June Stoke.  Chad knows where they live, has access to the land to get to the fish, and his wife will drop us off and drive the shuttle for us too!
June Stoke. Chad knows where they live, has access to the land to get to the fish, and his wife will drop us off and drive the shuttle for us too!
Few people I've encountered are as awesome as my friend Chad Johnson, Flippin, Arkansas resident.
Few people I’ve encountered are as awesome as my friend Chad Johnson, Flippin, Arkansas resident.
The 16' Grizzly, and a chance to take my Aunt Kim out fishing. She's battling breast cancer and has risen to the challenge.  We took some pics to celebrate the fight and be crazy bald heads together.
The 16′ Grizzly, and a chance to take my Aunt Kim out fishing. She’s battling breast cancer and has risen to the challenge. We took some pics to celebrate the fight and be crazy bald heads together.
Don't think the smallmouth haven't gotten some sore lips. It's not all about fly fishing in skinny Ozark streams.  Bigbaits boy!
Don’t think the smallmouth haven’t gotten some sore lips. It’s not all about fly fishing in skinny Ozark streams. Bigbaits boy!


4th of July 2013

I arrived in Dana Point on the 3rd of July.  I have a good friend that lives at home with his Mom (don’t laugh, this is how we all roll at times in our lives!) and they were awesome enough to have me stay with them until I got settled.   I was able to use the first week of July, after the End of Quarter crunch, to drive from Arkansas to California.  So, I had loaded up all my stuff from Atlanta, loaded up all my stuff from Arkansas, and towed a full UHaul trailer all the way back to California, pretty much backtracking the journey I started in January 2005.    I have had more fun in the last 2 months being here!  Oh my goodness, my liver hates me.  Truthfully, I haven’t made a cast since I left Arkansas.  I am taking some time to allow myself to settle in over here.  I love to fish, I love throwing bigbaits, but honestly, I’ve made a conscious decision to just sorta put that stuff on the back burner a couple months and just let myself get settled in.  Summer time in Southern California is awesome. I have been surfing like crazy. I have a lot of catching up to do.  My surfing has progressed a ton the last couple months, I got my arms and shoulders back to compete from a paddling standpoint, and I walk around with my shirt off and woman generally hoot, holler and whistle at me!  Hahahahahahahah.  Okay, forget the last part of that sentence, but there is a profound difference in healthy life and lifestyle for me lately.

Shooting down the South County Coast from Dana Point.
Shooting down the South County Coast from Dana Point.
Trolling surfboards for white sharks!  10' single fin, yeah boy. My boy Tyler Craig hooking me up with the trip.
Trolling surfboards for white sharks! 10′ single fin, yeah boy. My boy Tyler Craig hooking me up with the trip.
Surfboards and boats are a close second to boats with fishing rods aboad.  Lower Trestles Run. Scored.
Surfboards and boats are a close second to boats with fishing rods aboad. Lower Trestles Run. Scored.


Please visit my companies website sometime: We have very talented security and research thought leaders in the world of internet security.  We have ‘productized’ or otherwise make software tools that emulate the skills and expertise of the white hat style ‘hacker’.   At the end of the day, we make tools that help companies manage and assess risk.  On a scale of 1-10, are we a 7 or a 5 when it comes to overall ‘security’ across the 10,000 assets that make up our computing environment?  Are we compliant to do business with the Department of Defense because we make parts that go into missles or SUVs, and in order to do business with the DoD, you better be compliant to various standards.  Or HIPAA, are hospitals doing the right thing to make sure your medical records are being sold on the black market.  You could be blackmailed if someone knew you had HIV or something gnarly and private, and hadn’t publicly disclosed.   Think Fortune 2000 account that need to assess the overall security posture of their entire network, across multiple locations, mobile devices, virtual devices, etc.,  It’s a cool space, and I’m enjoying being back in the game.   Sales is no walk in the park career and you are on a cycle much like fishing, where you are on ’em and life is good, then …. the droughts and the doldrums come and you have to be prepared to endure and make adjustments to break the cycle.   I work in Aliso Viejo, in a a wonderful little tech corridor.  There are companies like, Dell/Qwest, and Micro Semi in the same building/neighborhood.  I haven’t met the ‘her’ yet….but like fishing, you gotta get around ’em before you can catch ’em.  Catch the right one!   I’m not saying I’m going to find “her” in Aliso Viejo, I’m just saying Orange County is full of young educated professionals who are doing great things with their lives.  Conversations about welfare, DUI, child custody, social issues, etc don’t exist.  Education, sophistication and opportunity abounds and I just am stoked to be around it.   Finally got ‘around ’em’ again!


Click the above to be re-routed to a CNN article featuring our company CTO, Marc "Mainframe" Maiffret speaking on cyberterrorism and Syria.
Click the above to be re-routed to a CNN article featuring our company CTO, Marc “Mainframe” Maiffret speaking on cyberterrorism and Syria.


So you quit fishing?

NO, I haven’t quit fishing. I have taken a womping 2 months off in the last 30+ years.  Forgive me!   I see myself re-tooling and getting myself in a position to charge bigbaits/bigfish around San Diego, OC, LA…..and slip the same boat in the Dana Point Harbor and slip slide thru the massive kelp beds and do my best Kevin Mattson impressions!  But these things will take some time. I am super stoked and flattered to have so many invites to come fish with guys. Until recently, I literally haven’t had all my possessions in one location in >5 years when I lived in Roswell, GA.

The irony of all this is new clarity and focus.  My life, especially my fishing life, since Southern Trout Eaters, has really been a rocky road.  Not horrible and I don’t regret any of it, just saying, not a certain path or one that has been easily felt out and gone with.   I haven’t really found one thing that has really worked and stuck.  Florida was hot then got cold.  Arkansas, same thing…hot and cold.  Finances dwindling….. All the sudden, I have 8 years of pictures, video and story, and have gone full circle from Southern California to the South and now back.   I’ve got a story to tell and I hope to see it thru, because I think I can provide perspective, wisdom and insights beyond catching more and bigger fish.   Fishing is our lives, and it’s an addiction.  Making a living from fishing is a crazy wild endeavor that is like chasing the rodeo.  A bunch of young (and not so young) men mostly all chasing their dreams, from all sorts of backgrounds.  And some ARE that good.  You have to be ‘exceptional’ not just good.   The young people today have more opportunity than ever.  It’s the age of the cloud, the age of Facebook, the age of GoPro, and the “i” everything.

Ranger Boats---the follow me everywhere I go.  I see a saltwater series of some kind in my future
Ranger Boats—the follow me everywhere I go. I see a saltwater series of some kind in my future

Now What?

Everything is a work in progress.  I’m by no means back on my feet career wise like I was when I hung it up to go fishing. However, I’m back on that path and track.   It takes money to make money and grow things.  I have plans and intentions, but like most things, they tend to take way longer than originally expected.  And since I’m not able to focus 100% of my time towards fishing with a full time job in software, I’m even more challenged with tide and time.  However, I am in the best mood and general flow I’ve been in years and super stoked, and sorta just re-charging/refreshing.  To me, it’s really healthy to take a break from fishing a bit and just allow myself to get West and get settled.  I am looking forward to missions to San Diego jumping in other guys’ boats, missions with this one guy name Kevin Mattson who charges harder than anyone I know,  and random saltwater and Sierra Mountain trips.

Yes, I am the world’s greatest Uncle. It’s rough work hanging out in San Clemente at the beach with friends and family, but someone has to do it. Don’t worry, I got my Duck Commander safety trunks on, so still representing!!!






The 3:16 Rising Son Jr. is a sleeper swimbait and is great for certain applications.  I realized I’d been overlooking this bait as part of my tournament and trophy arsenal this past winter in Okeechobee.  You are going to have to be patient, I have an Okeechobee sessions thing I’m working on that will shed a lot more information and clarity as to why the Rising Son Jr. works so well in some situations, and some insights into how I fish and rig it.   I know this is one of Mickey’s most popular softbaits and for good reason, it comes in great colors, swims incredibly well at fast and slow speeds, and fishes good around hard and soft cover.   Fish bite it.

Exactly. The tail ‘licks’ the surface, the body straightens out, and the bait gets into perfect trim when you get a good swim lane and a feel for the tempo of fishing it.
Almost a great shot. Lens glare got me. Single Owner ST-41 Treble hooks and zero metal inside the bait/as part of the harness = very buoyant.
The body is bulbous. It has a nice tear drop shape that gives it volume, and of course the tail just twists and shouts back there. Mickey’s boot tails are known to get bites and create lift.


I don’t pretend to know it all, and certainly haven’t fished it all. I’ve only messed with the Triple Trout Cut Tails a little bit and never even have fished a hard tailed Triple Trout, but I like where Scott is going with a clacker and a bubbler.  I thought just understanding the why and where those styles of baits apply and why Scott even developed them was important because perhaps their is an application for them in your world.  Besides, I thought the insights into the tail from how it changes the swim and providing swim on the sink was excellent, and also the coloring of the soft tails. I absolutely agree with Scott that bubble gums, chartreuse, and orange are often great colors to get spotted bass and smallmouth bass excited and fired up into biting.    Thought you might enjoy this footage with Scott.  The Triple Trout is a fish catcher, and I’m still stuck on the old standard, and even still learning the floating, stubbie and cut-tailed versions myself.

Need replacement soft tails for you Triple Trout?   Click HERE to be re-directed to Performance Tackle, the only place I know to get replacement tails for your Triple Trouts, consistently.

There is more to the tail than you think, even on a Triple Trout. Color, material (hard vs. soft) and shape (cut vs. standard) influence the swim, noise and signature the bait puts out.
The Big Hammer Sight Fishing Rig is part of a system. It's a system that involves using finesse baits and bigbaits to aggravate a fish into biting. The swimbait is fished as an 'intruder' and provides a power fishing approach to big fish, the female kind usually, but also good for the better than dink males you might need in a tournament situation.

We shared this rig in Southern Trout Eaters.  We have been getting asked a lot of questions about it, and Spring has sprung, so here goes.    Think of the 5″ Big Hammer Sight Fishing Rig as a workhorse bed fishing bait, geared for ‘bigger’ fish.   The one rod you have rigged up in case you come up on or purposely hunt big fish on  beds.   We’ve had a few years to validate this rig, in the mountains, and in the grass of Okeechobee and Seminole.  I credit my friend and trophy bass hunter from the Bay Area, Rob Belloni, for sharing the fundamental of his Big Hammer Texas Rig with me. I’ve sorta dumbed it down since I’m usually not hunting double digit fish with it, most of my world, 4-9 pounders are king, with chances at double digits for sure though.    I’ve made my own adjustments and have made it a staple in my sight fishing system.   Rob has fooled giants, I have now fooled quite a few 4-9 pounders with it in multiple Southern States.   This is a great trophy and tournament style of sight fishing, and it points out the need for a knock out punch in your bed fishing arsenal.

The 5" Big Hammer Sight Fishing Rig. 5" Big Hammer, rigged flat side up. Just bury your hook point enough to keep the bait weedless and free from snagging the fish, but able to sting one that just barely grabs it. Peg your weight, pitch and hop this thing around larger bed fish and see what happens.

The 5″ Big Hammer Sight Fishing Rig:

Bait: 5″ Big Hammer Swimbait  (colors:  Pearl, Invader, Glowbug, Silver Phantom, Chartreuse, Fire tiger)

Sinker: 3/4 to 1 ounce Picasso Tungsten Weight or Pro-Metal Weights (since you just need ‘weight’ high performance tungsten not 100% necessary.)  (pegged)

Hook: 5/0 Owner Wide Gap Offset Worm Hook

Line: 25# P-Line CXX Xtra Strong w/ Palomar knot

Glasses:  Kaenon Hard Kore Y35 or C12 Lens

Reel: Shimano Curado CU200G6

Rods: Powell 7’10” MH (7105) Flipping Rod or Okuma Guide Select 7’6″ Heavy Casting (761H)

This 7'10" Powell Flipping Rod is a favorite all purpose 'heavy pitching' rod, for baits >1 ounce but not more than 1.5 or so. ie the Medlock Jig, 5" Big Hammer Rig, pitching 3/4 -1 ounce creature baits in grass, and light punching. The rod has guts. I think of it as a heavy pitching stick. I have whipped some nice fish with this rod. The short handle makes it handle and fish nicely, but long enough for leverage.

When you look at the trends in where bed/sight fishing is going, you will notice certain swimbaits and softbaits have flat sides or can be rigged flat side up are doing the most damage out there.  More cutting edge, more geared towards targeting bigger fish or a better mouse trap for fooling weary pressured fish.   The Dean Rojas Warmouth,  and the Jackall Clone Gill 2.5 and the Mission Fish are all part of the big picture of modern sight fishing.  All have wild variations and secret rigging and tricks I’m sure. I know the Hammer and Mission Fish best, both part of my toolkit.  Believe me when I tell you I use a drop shot a lot when sight fishing.  You need a big knock out punch and you need finesse, so I use the Mission Fish and Hammer as my big knockout punches, and drop shot/wacky and light texas rigs like the Warmouth and Clone Gill as my finesse approach.  I thought it important to note flat side up  or just flat sided bed fishing baits, have something about their swagger.  Flat sides, square/boot/slight swallow tails, realism, perch/bluegill profiles, buoyancy, weedlessness, unique vortex, and big fish attraction.   The Lateral Perch from PowerTackle is a derivative here, and likely a bed fishing bait for someone out there, but too has the this flat side up profile and swim, and is worth noting. I cannot speak to how well the Lateral Perch catches fish, but all of the other named baits I’m 100% certain catch fish on beds really well, and have too much in common not to connect the dots.   They all fish differently, but in the grand scheme of sight fishing, you better have tools that can be drop shotted, pitched, weightless/wackied, hopped, swam, and texas rigged if you want to be competitive.   Don’t just limit yourself to white tubes, craws and creature baits.  Be thinking perch/bluegill too.

The Okuma 7'6" MH Rod getting it done too. You need some 7'6" and shorter than 8' rods for fishing baits like the Mission Fish. This is an even beefier style of pitching stick vs. the Powell, but it takes the conversation to more like 2-6 ounce baits no problem. I liked using it for the 5" Big Hammer rig too. Lots of power and fished very nicely. The rod still has good feel even though my rig was under weighted for the rod, and it just worked for me.

The 5″ Big Hammer Sight Fishing Rig is an excellent sight fishing system.  You can see your bait very well in the black Florida water, and it shows up well fishing a bed fish in >8 feet of water in clear water.   The rig has ample weight involved, which means you can ‘rapid fire’ and harass a fish with the bait, pushing the fish around, and firing them up into biting.  The bait hops really well, and has the square tailed flap on the way back down to the bottom.  It’s more of a hop hop and slight drag and shake style of  bait.  The fish love to ‘catch’ the bait coming back down to the bottom, with a well placed and timed hop.  The 5″ Big Hammer gets bigger bed fish to bite and has an excellent hook-up and land ratio.  There is very little risk of foul hooking or snagging a fish, with the Texas rigged nature of the bait, which also opens up the ability to bounce the rig off of the side, head and tail of the fish, making them eat it.   You can expect to see a sight fishing production from us in the near future, highlighting this rig.  We gave a sneak peak of the bait underwater in our Lake Seminole FLW Evestart Preview video, in case you missed it.


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.