Ledge Zeppelin: Physical Graffiti. This 5″ Bay Smelt Big Hammer on a 1 oz head got tore up. This is the baseline, the 5″ Hammer. Go bigger from here is my advice.


I’ve been sitting on this footage, unsure of how or when exactly to release it, and finally just sat down and cranked it out.  I was concerned this information might hurt me, but I’m starting to think completely differently than I used to about sharing information and ideas..  I am not headed to Kentucky Lake anytime soon, and it appears to be ‘good timing’ all things considered.   Stroking baits is something you don’t learn in San Diego.  Stroking a bait, literally means jerking/ripping it 1-8 feet off the bottom and letting the bait settle back down to the bottom.  Think about snatching rattle traps in the grass, where you snatch the bait clean of the grass and the fish eat it on the fall.   Stroking football head jigs and spoons on the Tennessee River is a staple and it took me some years to clue into.   Some local tricks you pick up instantly at the gas station, other things, you somehow miss for years.  Stroking is not something I’d done ever, until I arrived at Kentucky Lake in 2011.    Stroking is now one of my presentations of all baits I fish. It just makes sense.  To really snap and snatch your bait hard off the bottom, and then let if free fall back to the bottom seems to be a truth of fishing….it just works at times.

Stroked and Choked Big Hammer Swimbait on the ledges of Kentucky Lake, but ultimately a good choice for any of the TN River, or any open water offshore bite.


So here goes, another meandering, long winded, ‘first chapter’ of a thing I’m calling Ledge Zeppelin I, Stroking Swimbaits.   This footage is post 2011 FLW Tour on Kentucky Lake, and my 2011 summer in Southern California, where I did some saltwater fishing.  I blended things together to share how and where I got the methods and tools that ultimately led me to start stroking my Big Hammer swimbaits, instead of just swimming and jigging them along:



If you are ready to stroke swimbaits off the ledges of the Tennessee River, or any other offshore lake, this stuff applies lots of places (the Ozarks, Champlain, Great Lakes, etc), here is what you need:

I was stroking my Big Hammer swimbait on a Medium Action 8 foot rod and Shimano Calcutta 300 TE reel, and 20# P-Line CXX….however, this is something you can do with standard low profile reels and I always recommend 8 footers, and braided line.  Especially adding a short leader section to your braid.  I am slowly migrating all my fishing over to braid, in case you haven’t noticed.  You have more sensitivity, more hookset, more torque, and more guts to do more with your bait with braid.

My buddy Brian Somrek was as stoked as I was on the bite. We were learning as we were going. Brian was catching them on the 5.5″ Big Hammer, which to many out West is the best Big Hammer swimbait.


We speak to Warbaits and the effect their swim jigs will be having.  You are seeing the future now.  When Strike King, Spro, and Berkley come out with a swim jig that is >1 ounce, it will be as a result of the Warbait Slayer Swim Jig.  These things are legit and taking the West by storm.  You have an early warning and heads up. You need to check their Slayer Swim Jigs and Weedless Swim Jig Heads out.  Just by having a weedguard, you are helping yourself out in some cases, because exposed top hook single swimbaits are really sticky around wood.  Swim jigs are just awesome and popular and catch fish, so why not fish them out at 20-30 feet, instead of 1-3 feet?   You can stroke them or just fish them on the slow grind, and look out.  Fish love baits with skirts.

I cannot say enough about the Warbaits Swim Jigs, and I’m finding the more rounded paddle tail of the Robo Ocean Swimbait Tails are a fine swimming and stroking combination.


Stroking Swimbaits Photo Gallery:

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Justin provided some insights into the rod, reel, line, he was using to fish the 5″ Berkley Hollow Belly, single swimbait style.  I found his input very interesting.   The above video gives insights into the Powell 765 Swimbait Rod that Justin was using to fish the 5″ Berkley Hollow Belly Swimmer (Hitch color) , combined with an Abu Garcia Revo SX reel, and 17# Berkley 100% Florocarbon line.  Notice what Justin says about the importance of the action of the rod, and the speed of the reel. “Not too fast, not too slow”.  I couldn’t agree more.  I am not a 100% florocarbon guy with swimbaits most times, but if I was going to be, fishing open water, mid water column/suspended fish is where I’d fish it!  Justin is on point, his fishing, positive vibration and momentum speak volumes.

I love hearing what stuff other guys are really using and why. Justin knows what he is doing, and since I can only mostly talk about Shimano/G-Loom stuff  with any crededbility because that is what I’ve invested in, I find it really helpful to get input from what stuff other guys are REALLY using….and why. Realism isn’t just a swimbait thing. It’s an integral part of my life and business. Keepin’ it real, thank you Justin.
The 5' Big Hammer
"Ladies and Gentleman, the mighty LEDGE ZEPPELIN" The 5" Big Hammer Swimbait, 1 ounce head, 5" tail in color #63 called Bay Smelt which looks a lot like sexy shad

The Big Hammer is a staple swimbait on the Pacific Inshore saltwater fishing scene.   The Big Hammer is a combination of a soft swimbait tail plus a lead jig head.  The Big Hammer is identified by it’s ‘square tail’ that produces its own unique vortex.   The lead jig heads are available in 1/2, 3/4, 1 ounce and 1.5 ounce sizes with hook sizes that match the bait perfectly.

big hammer square tail
The H-bomb square tail swimbait, producing vortexes and big bites in deep water before you knew the word swimbait
big hammer head
The genius of the Big Hammer as it relates to ledge fishing is bottom contact, rate of fall, and stroke-ability

The 5” Big Hammer, with the exposed lead head design, makes it an excellent deep water and offshore swimbait.  The best example of the 5” Big Hammer in action we can share is from Kentucky Lake.  Kentucky Lake is famous for it’s offshore ledge fishing bite.  You might be fishing the main river channel ledge, or creek channel ledges or where creek channels and the main river channel intersect.  When you look at the traditional baits, like football head jigs and big spoons, you realize there is a special trick to getting the schools of bass that position offshore on the ledges to bite, and that bite is called  a ‘stroke bite’.

big hammer bay smelt swimbait
Fish don't have hands, so they will 'catch' your Big Hammer when you rip it off the bottom and let it sink back down, Tennessee River stroke bite

I highly recommend checking out a video that Omega Tackle Company put out, that is over 2 hours long and a serious look into jig fishing and what is going on from a traditional fishing standpoint to catch fish on the Tennessee River (and the Ozark Lakes) .  Like many themes from Southern Trout Eaters, I think there are techniques and discussions that require more than a 5 minute YouTube clip to cover, and this Omega video is legit and worth checking out.  Stroking a bait wasn’t something intuitive to me.  I had never ripped any bait off the bottom to create the bite at a depth like that. It makes a lot of sense now, but wasn’t something that I just knew to do.  Stroking is key on the Tennessee River ledges to excite the school of fish and get them eating.

Stroking a Swimbait:

When you stroke a bait, you literally rip your bait 4-5 or more feet off the bottom, bringing your rod tip from 9 o clock to 12 o clock.  You drop your rod tip from 12 oclock back down to 9 oclock and pump and rip the bait off the bottom, creating a bite as the bait falls back to the bottom.  Rate of Fall is key to the bite.  You need a bait that falls really quickly and gets the fish fired up to eat.  Once you get one fish going, usually the entire school gets active and you can sit on one spot and catch a bunch of fish.   In the world of swimbaits, very little has ever been done to fish real swimbaits on the ledges.  Bobby Lane famously won an event on Kentucky Lake with the Power Mullet (now known as the Berkely Power Swimbait) , a saltwater swimbait that doesn’t have an exposed lead head, nor does it have the rate of fall of the Big Hammer.

The exposed lead head, and weight offerings of the jig head make the Big Hammer a superior drop bait.   And you want to talk about bottom contact?   You can feel rocks, shells, and soft bottom better with a 3/4 to 1.5 ounce Big Hammer swimbait than any football head jig, or wanna be swimbait with soft plastic molded around an internal body.

kentucky lake swimbait ledge fishing
Outside ledge fishing, Kentucky Lake, 5" Big Hammer, stroking a swimbait

I caught 17 pounds of fish on Day 2 of the Kentucky Lake FLW Tour Major in June 2011.  I caught the fish on the 5” Big Hammer, and was putting the ‘stroking a swimbait’ bite together during practice and it finally came together on Day 2 of the tournament.  Unfortunately, my Day 1 was a sub par performance, I only brought 4 keepers to the scales, which cost me $10,000.  I was close to getting onto something lethal with that 5” Big Hammer.  The bite was so new and intriguing, that I stayed after the tournament to explore the bite further, roll film and take pictures.

big hammer helmet
Helmet! This is no joke and not staged. You will pick up shells off the bottom with the Hammer heads, they fit the shells perfectly. Excellent shell bed detectors, which is usually helpful to find schools of fish

This technique is something I am proud of.  It is a case study in Southern swimbait fishing.  It was taking the conventional fishing wisdom (ie, stroking a football jig or spoon) and applying it to the right swimbait.  The Big Hammer is the right swimbait.  It comes down to rate of fall and bottom contact and that is where the Big Hammer shines and was the right application of a swimbait that is mostly thrown in the Pacific Ocean for calico bass.

big hammer saltwater fishing
The Big Hammer was born in the saltwater, calico bass fishing inshore style. Taking the Big Hammer to the ledges of the Tennessee River is the essence of southernswimbait.com, mixing appications, cultures and styles to catch more and bigger fish and blaze our own trails. With my bros Brett and Brice, Lower Trestles, CA, setting the kelp on fire.


Baits:  5” Big Hammer Tails  (color #63, Bay Smelt, is HARD TO BEAT)
Jig Heads: Big Hammer Heads.  When in doubt, use the 3/4 ounce heads.  When in wind or deep water, go to the 1 ounce or even 1.5 ounce jig heads.  Bottom contact and rate of fall is key to stroking a swimbait.

Rod:  G-Loomis 964 BBR

Reels:  Shimano Calcutta 300 TE or Shimano Curado 300.  You need to be able to spool up a good amount of 17 or 20 pound mono, where you can make long casts, and get the bait down in 15-25 feet quickly and have plenty of line on your spool to re-tie often and the occassional break off.  The Big Hammer will get stuck in wood, you can bet on it.

Line:  P-Line CXX Green Copolymer.  17 or 20 Pound test recommended.

Strengths:  The strength of the 5” Big Hammer is that you can fish in water 15-30+ feet deep and maintain absolute bottom contact.  The exposed lead head design lets you know when you are on rock, shells, or soft bottom.  You can stroke the bait and it doesn’t foul up, it fishes very nicely as a stroking bait.  There is no wrong way to fish it, but stroking requires a special bait with a lot of weight in the head to make the bait shoot back down to the bottom, triggering the strike.   The fish literally catch it on the sink and on your next stroke, all the sudden you have pressure and a fish. You might feel a tick.  This is THE BAIT for ledge fishing.  I’ll go ahead and make a prediction, that this bait will win a tournament on Lake Pickwick, Wheeler, Guntersville, Chickamagua, or Kentucky Lake when put in the hands of someone like Mark Rose or Randy Haynes or someone with intimate knowledge of where the fish live on the ledges.

Ideal Conditions: Ideal conditions for the 5” Big Hammer are knowing where schools of fish are on ledges on the Tennessee River.   The 5” Big Hammer will get the school excited and usually the    ‘alpha’ female of the school eats the bait right off.  You’ll quickly get to the better fish of the school with the 5” Big Hammer.    Swimbait fishing is no different than conventional fishing in that you have to know where the fish are before you can worry about what to make them bite.   You can fish the 5” Big Hammer in 8 feet of water or in 38 feet of water.  You just change the lead head weight to match the depth and wind conditions.   It can be a great practice bait because you can cast it a mile, hop it and stroke it around and probe the depths efficiently.   If you live on the Tennessee River and like ledge fishing, do not overlook this bait.  This bait is a superior bait to anything Berkley is making or the other wanna be bandwagon swimbait companies out there.

kentucky lake ledge fishing with a swimbait
You can get 20+ pounds a day on Kentucky Lake with the Big Hammer, stroked around the right schools of fish