I love to be able to recommend something I’ve used for years and years and years and have no reservations at all about recommending. The G-Loomis 966 BBR is an excellent rod for the 8″ Huddleston Deluxe, which in itself, you need an 8″ Huddleston Deluxe rod, therefore, do not pass go until you have an 8″ Huddleston Deluxe rod! No kidding, that is what makes this rod something to consider in the BIGbait picture. So, dig this, you can throw all 4 ROFs from Ken Huddleston with the rod, but its also what else the rod can do which is serve as your ‘bigbait’ rod, the one rod you have multiples of so you can also fish 10″ Triple Trouts, 9-12″ MS Slammers, XL Nezumaa Rats, and various hard and softbaits in the 3-7 ounce range. This rod is not the beefiest of rods in the bigbait world. I totally understand and get where the G-Loomis 966 BBR is NOT a good rod for the ‘megabaits’ lets call them, these giant hardbaits and giant softbaits pushing 10-16 ounces and upwards of 18″ long or longer. You need super specialized rods for those baits for sure. What about the Alabama Rig and other castable umbrella rigs? You plan on throwing any 4-5-6″ swimbaits on it?
I need a rod to get after it with the 8″ Huddleston, the XL Nezumaa Rat, or the 10″ Triple Trout, or whatever combinations thereof, so having one rod that can handle multiple bigbaits is key. I have at least four G-Loomis 966 BBR rod and four Shimano Calcutta 400 TE reel setups in my boat when I’m seriously getting after the trout eaters. And at least one of the above said combos onboard at all times, because it can fish whatever bigbait I might want to explore in a more tournament centric lake that has big fish in it, like an Okeechobee or Seminole or Santee Cooper. I know that with that rod, if things are good, and feeling right or just feel like chunking some big stuff, I have a rod that will handle any of my best big search tools. Rod management. If you’ve seen Southern Trout Eaters, about 90% of the fish I catch in the film are on that rod. The other 10% are fish I catch on ‘medium’ rods. But the film itself should serve as validation that the rod is a workhorse and staple tool in my bigbait fishing approach.
Braided line? You bet. Try 80# braided line on your G-Loomis 966 BBR, and add whatever bait of your choice. 8″ Huddlestons in the grass on 80# braid? No, don’t do that. You will realize that a Shimano Calcutta 400 TE and G-Loomis 966 BBR not only match well in the mountains, but they match well in the grass. You might migrate south down the peninsula called Florida or wherever grass grows thick and heavy. It is scary the amount of force and stopping power that rod and reel combo deliver with 80# Power Pro. I’m seriously contemplating moving to Fort Lauderdale, selling software, regrouping, and fishing in S. Florida and Central Florida for a few years until I get more bites on 8″ Huddleston Deluxes with 80# braid involved and G-Loomis 966s and Calcutta 400 TEs!!! Talk about addicting. Big fish, big bites and vicious battles in shallow grass where your gear better be balanced and able to get the job done. Braid and a slow action parabolic rod is the reason God made hydrilla.
The A-Rig Affect
I found the G-Loomis 966 BBR to be an excellent rod choice for lobbing the ‘bigger’ castable umbrella rigs with the larger 1/2 to 3/4 ounce heads and 4-5″ swimbait tails. Another usage for an already proven combo. The rod can load up and handle the lob casting and swimming of a lure that weighs in the 4-5 ounce zone really well. And it doesn’t suck that the rod can whip 4-7 pounders like other rods handle 2-3 pounders. So with the effects of the Alabama Rig coming down on our heads, guys who’ve never considered a big rod for anything but flipping might like to know this rod will handle the rigors of the castable umbrella rig as well as swimming big swimbaits.
- Moderate Fast: Parabolic action. The 966 BBR is slow compared to most, and that slower action means it has that parabolic bend, which means it doesn’t wear you out when you decide you’re going to lob bigbaits for 8-10 hours. The rod does the work of the casting and retrieving, and hooking. Since the rod loads up nicely, it has an inherent slight load it maintains while you’re retrieving your bigbait, so when a bite does come, you are in an excellent spot to hook and setup on a bite. The slow action gives the rod incredible power on the pull, which is key to whipping big fish early in the fight. This rod builds and maintains a lot of force and momentum and it really comes in to play once you get a big fish hooked up because you control and fight the fish while applying maximum pressure.
- 8 foot long: I like this rod is a full 8 feet long. I like a rod that maximizes length for added casting distance, feel and touch, and ability to direct my cast as the bait flies thru the air. I can also lay my line where I want it at the end of a long cast, giving me the ability to influence the swim of my bait by the bow of the line at the beginning of my retrieve.
- Balanced: The 966 BBR is not the lightest most advanced rod on the market today. That is okay. You don’t hunt elephants with a BB gun. You need to match power with power and this rod has the mass and make up that matches bigbaits, big fish and has proven itself as a workhorse. We mentioned the physics of bigbait fishing in Southern Trout Eaters. The G-Loomis 966 BBR is a standard to measure the strength of your line, terminal tackle selections, whereby you have a standardized rod that you can shape your rigs and rigging around. The handle is ‘right length’ and the full cork uniform feel makes it comfortable. It just works.
- Shimano Calcutta 400 TE: The 400 TE is the reel. So, think about this. I have a big round gold reel with incredible gears and gearing. It fits and compliments the G-Loomis 966 perfectly. It’s like they were made to fit each other, which they weren’t, but the rod and reel together balance. There are a lot of rods out there where the Calcutta 400 TE would be silly because it so far outweighs and out guns the rod, even though some guy put ‘swimbait’ on the rod. The reel matches the rod, and the rod matches the reel.
- Interchangeability&Consistency: With a few 966 BBR + Calcutta 400 TE reels, I know I approach any bigbait situation, and be able to throw the various tools of my trade and not worry about having specialized rods onboard everytime. I can use the same combo for any of the bigbaits (or A-Rig) I throw and that is huge because rod management and being able to be efficient with your equipment makes a difference in your fishing.
There are plenty of rods out there marketed toward swimbaits and bigbaits. Shimano/G-Loomis doesn’t even highlight or feature the G-Loomis 966 BBR as a swimbait rod. They have other lines of newer rods and actions positioned to serve these purposes. I understand progress and business and ‘how things’ go, but fishing rods are like classic shaped surfboards, or a fine shotgun, or perhaps a Tommy Armor 7 iron…somethings just work and are classic pieces of sporting goods. Gary Loomis is a legend in the rod building world, and this rod is one of his best known in some circles, and is a model you can talk about and appreciate because it was made in the Pacific NorthWest as a mooching and salmon rod, where they’d lob big hooks and lead for big ole salmon, and can connect the dots that the rod is just ‘simple’ but takes advantage of the physics and balances and compromises. Catching big fish by lobbing bigbaits, and we are talking about the same approximate size spectrum, so that is why I think the 966 crosses over from that original saltwater world to the freshwater bigbait space so well. You a V8 engine to tow a boat, so don’t try and do it with a 4 cylinder. You don’t catch trains on a bicycle, you need to match power with power, and the reel has to match the rod, and the big ole round goldie locks 400 TE to the G-Loomis 966 BBR makes me feel like I’ve got the perfect high powered rifle to shoot whatever big game I encounter. The G-Loomis 966 BBR is a ‘classic’ and a rod that set a benchmark out there in the bigbait fishing community and is one you can talk around other rods.
Many of my friends use Okuma Rods, Dobyns, and the G-Loomis Swimbait series of rod. Rods are a personal choice, and sometimes they are a business decision and sometimes they just are because that is what you have and you already invested in them, and they aren’t broken so you use what you use. I have zero reservations about recommending the G-Loomis 966 BBR because it has worked so well for me, for so many years, and continues to impress me with the things I can do with it (ie, 80 # Braid). You need a Huddleston Rod, you need a BigBait Rod, you need an A-Rig Rod, and this rod does it all.