Big Hammer Swimbait
Author: Rob Belloni
The Big Hammer swimbait was has been around for so long now that I’ve lost track of when it was first released. I do recall that the first swimbaits I ever bought were Big Hammers and Renowsky’s and that was in the early 90’s. The Big Hammer was designed strictly for saltwater fishing but has developed a following for a number of other freshwater species through the years. There are an almost absurd number of Big Hammer combinations available in this bait (as of this review there are 3, 4, 5, 5.5, and 6 inch models which are available in 84 different colors). There have been 7 and 8" version and probably 20 other colors that have come and gone over the years but are no longer in production. The unrigged swimbait tails retail for anywhere from $.65 to $1.80 per bait but are most commonly sold in clamshell packs of 3-5 baits per pack.
I am a member of the Big Hammer Pro Staff.
When I think of adjectives to describe the Big Hammer words like efficient, simple, consistent, and functional come to mind. The Big Hammer is a staple bait that can always be located somewhere in my tackle box. Over years of fishing with this bait for a wide variety of species I've come to the conclusion that there is simply no season or condition where you can't catch a fish on the Big Hammer. There are some situations however where the Big Hammer works especially well (I'm talking freshwater black bass here).
The first situation that comes to mind where you want to give this bait a try is in the fall or summer time around grass. From the fish’s perspective (underneath) the Big Hammer represents a variety of small fish like minnows, bluegill, and shad. If you're around some stiff grass you can pop the bait through the grass like a crankbait or if the grass is a bit stickier you can straight wind the bait over the top. I've seen the Big Hammer work especially well during the summer time when you would normally think to throw a topwater around grass. If your topwater bites are of the smaller variety, back off a little and try the Big Hammer. Your quality will improve and quite often you'll outfish the topwater baits.
A real plus with the Big Hammer is that when you get the proper leadhead / swimbait tail combination you can achieve a fluttering action on the fall. If you put the 5" tail on a 3/4oz leadhead and let it freespool under the boat you'll see exactly what I mean. There are not a lot of swimbaits that work well on the sink but the Big Hammer is one of them. This can be especially effective on suspended or schooling fish. I've thrown the Big Hammer in to schools of fish and had them eat it on the sink more times than I could count. If you're chasing busting fish this is a great lure to have tied on.
Another situation where the Big Hammer excels is in sight fishing. I have personally caught two 14lb bass and an 18lb bass on the Big Hammer while fishing the beds. The flutter on the sink and the fact that you can really fish the Big Hammer slow and steady around bedding areas help it to excel in this area. I would recommend your brighter colors for bed fishing like White, Chartreuse, Invader, or my name sake color, the Rob's Bluegill which has a chartreuse back with purple and beige/gold sides.
Since there are a wide variety of small swimbait tails like this on the market we should ask the question - what makes the Big Hammer different? The thing you will see with the Big Hammer and not with other boot tails is the distinct body wobble, even on a slow retrieve. The square tail of the Big Hammer causes the entire body to roll side to side and this dual action, in my opinion, creates an illusion of life that you don't get when only the tail of the lure is moving.
Now, 84 colors is probably a bit of overkill but one can never complain of having too many options! If you're trying to pick some basics I would stick with the shad patterns and the green/brown options. The full color chart is available on the Big Hammer website. The fact that there are 5 sizes available is also nice. You can scale up or down to cover a wide range of applications from spotted bass fishing with the 3" to big bass fishing with the 6". I don't view the Big Hammer as a trophy hunting lure for cast and retrieve fishing, but it will catch your 3-8lbers regularly. On the beds, it will catch them as big as you can find them.
Considering that the average Big Hammer tail price is similar to the price of a single large Yamamoto Senko, we should not complain overly much about durability, but one should understand that this is a bait that will probably catch between 2-10 fish per tail. I've caught 14 largemouth bass on a single tail before, but typically you're going to get tearing after 3 or 4 fish and if you get a real aggressive one you might lose the bait in one cast. Don't go out expecting to catch tons of fish per tail with the Big Hammer.
Another issue to talk about is quality control. Being on the Pro Staff I am probably more acutely aware of the QC issues that have arisen over the years than the typical consumer but there have been a few issues worth mentioning. There was one batch of baits that came out with a 'sticky' feeling to them. This didn't affect the action but it was just weird to touch the lures and feel their odd texture. There were also some small batches that were splitting along the color lines especially if used with a large leadhead and left in a tackle box in the sun. As of this review (February 2007) I am not aware of any QC problems with the baits but no matter how inexpensive a lure is, one should expect it to perform.
Overall the Big Hammer is a solid performer with a fishy action that just gets bit. With a wide variety of sizes and colors you can match a tremendous number of situations with this bait without breaking the bank. As a sight fishing lure it is tremendous, and for the guy who wants to target some nice quality fish with cast and retrieve fishing it's certainly worth a try. When lures like this stand the test of time you can be assured that it is for a reason.