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.
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’.
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.
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.
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.
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.