Take It To The Top Pt.1
"Nothing Else Like It"
By Bob Popp
There is nothing like a bass hitting a topwater bait. There are many different types and brands of baits out there and it can be confusing to when to throw what type of bait. Topwater baits, like any other bait, has a time and place to be fished. It is up to the angler to determine what type of bait to throw when. This is usually learned through trial and error, but hopefully I can clear up some of this confusion. In this first article in a series of how-to articles on topwater baits, we will discuss popper baits.
Popper-type baits have always been one of my favorite styles of topwaters. One of my all time favorites is the Rebel Pop-R. This bait at one time was taken out of production, but demand from tournament pros made Rebel to again begin making it.
There are many other brands of poppers out there, and all are not created equal. Each brand seems to have its own characteristics that make it equally effective. The other poppers that I have fallen in love with are the Spit N Twitch and the Gobi Popper, both made by StrikePro USA.
All three of these baits have unique characteristics all to itself, which include blooping, spitting and popping and a combination of the three of these.
1.Modifications- I never fish a Pop-R right out of the package. There are several modifications I perform on it. These modifications come from years of fishing this bait under a variety of conditions.
The first thing I do is remove the factory hooks and split rings, including the rear buck tailer hook. I replace the split rings with a quality brand, like Worth or Rosco, that is made of brass or stainless so that they do not rust. I add two split rings to the rear of the bait (I will explain why shortly).
Now comes the change that I feel has made all the difference in the world to the productivity of this bait. Using Daiichi Death Trap Treble Hooks, I hand-tie white hackle onto the hook. Unlike buck tail, the hackle breaths when in the water making the bait have even more of a life-like appearance. Lately I've been tying the hackle on Daiichi's Bleeding Bait Hooks, which I feel makes a world of difference. I feel the Bleeeding Bait Hooks make the most reluctant bass to strike.
On the P65 Pop-R, the bait comes with size 6 hooks. One other little trick is to use a size 4 hook on the rear of the bait which increases your strike-to-hook ratio.
The reason why I add a second split ring to the rear hook has two purposes: 1. It makes the bait sit almost perpendicular in the water making the action and sound of this bait irresistible to the bass. 2. By adding the second split ring, it makes the bait sit lower in the water and I feel this helps me land those short-striking fish that is common when fishing this bait.
As far as modifying the StrikPro Spit N Twitch and Gobi Popper, the only thing that I have started doing is using the hand-tied Daiichi Bleeding Bait Hook with hackle on the rear. I really believe that the Bleeding Bait Hooks have made a tremendous impact on all aspects of my fishing. Walleye fisherman have been using colored hooks for years so it's about time we steal a page out of their book.
When talking about Poppers most fisherman feel that these baits perform a popping action. I feel there are other actions that make these baits attractive to bass which vary by the bait you are using. Again, these are actions that work for me. My best advice is try them with an open mind and always be willing to experiment to see what works best for you.
Pop-R: After making the modifications that I described above, this bait will now make the loudest blooping sound of any bait that I have found. Many like to fish this bait so that it spits water, but I feel there are other baits that perform that action much better than the Pop-R. I like the blooping action when the fish are not very active. I feel this blooping sound draws fish from long distances including very deep water. I have also found that I get the best blooping action when the water is somewhat calm.
Strike Pro Spit N Twitch: As the name indicates this bait is the ultimate bait to use when you want the bait to spit or throw water. When would you want this type of action? I have found the spitting action works best when the bass are active and chasing baitfish. This is a great schooling bass bait. This bait will also draw bass out of deep water. I work this bait in calm to choppy water.
Strike Pro Gobi Popper: The Gobi Popper is one of those crossover baits that have the features of both the Pop-R and Spit N Twitch. This bait sits in the water with part of its mouth underwater ready to bloop or spit depending how hard you work the bait. I have had great success with this bait in calm and choppy water.
I recommend baitcasting tackle for fishing all of the baits mentioned. There are a few things to remember about choosing tackle for fishing topwater baits. The action you want to impart to the bait will determine the tackle; primarily the rod with the correct action should be used.
For imparting the spitting action, choose a rod with a moderate-fast action with medium power like the Kistler HELIUM LTA 6' Medium Casting Rod (He60MC). The moderate-fast action of this rod will directly affect the spitting action of the bait with little effort.
For the blooping action you want a rod with a little more give, like the Kistler HELIUM LTA 6' Medium Heavy Casting (He60MHC).
Remember the difference in the action and power of a fishing rod: Action is how a rod bends. Moderate-Fast Action means the upper ½ to 1/3 of the rod will bend. That it is why the Kistler HELIUM LTA 6' Medium Heavy rod would be ideal to make the bait spit.
The power of the rod is how much pressure is needed to get the rod to bend. This particular rod needs medium-heavy pressure to bend the rod.
One thing to remember when fishing topwater baits is to wait until you feel the fish before sweeping the rod to the side. It's not really setting the hook so I'm really using the rod to fight the fish, not to set the hook. So in the case of fishing poppers, I'm really more concerned with the action of rod than the power. But when fishing poppers around heavy cover is when I would be concerned about the power of the rod to keep the bass out of the cover.
With the Kistler Rod I recommend using a quality baitcast reel like the TICA CA or CM Series of reels. Both of these reels offer all the features needed to ensure trouble-free popper fishing. I like a like a reel with a 5.2 gear ratio. That means the higher the gear ratio, the faster it reels in.
As far as line goes I like using 12-17 pound test McCoy "Mean Green" Line. Some anglers like using fluorocarbon or braided line when fishing topwaters. There are basically two reasons why I don't: 1. Flurocarbon line sinks, which takes away from the built-in action of the bait. 2. Braided line basically has zero stretch which could result in the angler overworking the bait without realizing it. Bass fishermen can steal a page from the fly fishermen by coating the last two to three feet of line with fly line dressing which will make the line float even more making the bait easier to work.
The technique that I use for all three baits is very similar. Basically with the Pop-R I cast out and let the bait sit for say 15-20 seconds, then I give it a hard jerk. If the bait is modified correctly you should hear a loud bloop. I then let it sit for say 10 seconds then give it a hard jerk. This is an excellent technique for using around submerged vegetation.
I have also had very good luck throwing it into holes in matted vegetation. When doing that, I will let the bait sit much longer than if I were fishing open water situations.
I do not work this bait all the way back to the boat. I usually work it to a point where I feel that it is out of the strike zone, which can only be determined by the situation you are fishing.
The technique I use when fishing the Strike Pro Spit N Twitch is faster than I work a Pop-R. I use this bait for covering water. Remember the action I'm looking for out of this bait is a spitting action. The faster I work the bait the more it spits. Let the bass tell you how fast to work the bait.
One critical point to bring out here is this, when you are working this bait fast and a bass strikes and misses the bait, KEEP THE BAIT MOVING DO - NOT STOP THE BAIT! I learned this from experience. As soon as you stop the bait the fish will not strike again.
The Stike Pro Gobi Popper is the bait that I use both the techniques that I described above. It has a softened blooping and spitting action. I find that if I am missing fish on the Pop-R or Spit N Twitch, I will switch to the Gobi Popper and see my strike to hook up ratio go up.
I keep my color selection of poppers relatively simple. I use two factors to determine which color I use. 1. water color 2. predominate baitfish.
When the water is clear I like using more natural colored baits like silver or white. If the water is stained, firetiger is my go-to color. I would also use firetiger in clear water if the lake or river I'm fishing has a lot of perch in it. If I see a lot of baitfish activity on the surface I will usually fish a natural colored bait.
There is one thing for certain - there is nothing like a bass blowing up on a topwater bait. Hopefully by following some of the tips that I outlined, you can experience that same thrill of a bass exploding on top of the water.