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.

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