By Jeff McGovern
Fishing with a topwater or surface lure is lots of fun. Out of a W kayak, it’s down right exciting, since you are so close to the action. The equipment required is fairly simple and there are many topwater lures to choose from. For the purpose of this short article, we will look at hard baits (also known as “plugs.”) These are lures made of wood or plastic that float on top at rest. When fish attack them, it looks like a giant hole just opens on the water and the bait disappears.
The basic types are: walking, popping, minnow, and prop baits. These lures have been around for years and still consistently catch large numbers of fish. There are variations, but these are the ones most commonly available. All four types can be used in freshwater or saltwater and for a large variety of game fish. Let’s take a look at a few examples.
The best example is a Zara Spook. A newer version is the Spit’n Image. The angler provides the action this lure has on the water. This plug looks like it could have been carved from a broom handle, and, indeed, the originals were. Worked properly with a side to side wiggle, fish will blow them right off the surface in their effort to grab them. This bait requires practice to use. The angler must work their rod hand wrist and turn the reel handle in cadence to create the walking motion. It will wear you down at first, but the results of practice time are well worth the effort.
POPPING BAITS OR POPPERS
These lures are just plain fun. With a large exaggerated mouth on them they pop and gurgle when the angler pulls their line. Some of the cupped mouths on these baits throw water a few feet in front of the plug as they move. Classic examples are the Chug Bug and the Rebel Pop-R series plugs. To work these lures, you cast out to a likely spot and let the lure settle down. Then “pop it” and hold on for the strike.
These lures are best represented by the classic floating Rapala minnow. The history of this lure could fill a book-suffice it to say it’s every bit as effective today as it was 40 years ago. These lures have a slim profile and resemble a minnow. They have a small clear plastic lip that allows the lure to dive a short distance on retrieve. Their life-like wiggle is very attractive to game fish. To work the bait, throw it out let it sit for a moment. Then begin a slow retrieve, briefly pausing from time to time.
These lures are some of my all time favorites. Propellers are located at the front and/or back ends of these fun lures. Simple to work, they are represented today by the Devils Horse, Tiny Torpedo, or, in handmade excellence, by the Lil Zip from Sam Griffin. They can catch fish just sitting there. The moment they are moved, they get crushed by aggressive game fish. Work them by throwing to a likely area and allowing the bait sit until the water calms down from the splash. Then begin working the bait back in short, soft jerks until you find a pattern the fish like.
The equipment you use for topwater water fishing can be any that throws the lure properly. Spinning, casting, or spincasting gear will all work just fine. Line sizes can range from 8 to 20lb test (depending on the angler’s preference) and good old monofilament line is fine for these lures. The best piece of advice I’ve ever had for fishing topwater lures came from Sam Griffin himself. He told me “give the fish time to read the menu.” In other words, fish them slow for the best results. This is the best way to start out– you can always speed things up later if the fish are ready to order. So, this season, try a topwater water lure and prepare for excitement.
Jeff McGovern is a life long angler and fishing equipment expert, a professional consultant in the fishing and kayaking industry., and a distributor of Emmrod fishing rods.
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