Take It To The Top Pt.2
By Bob Popp
In Part I we discussed popper topwater baits. In this article we will continue our discussion of topwater baits by including "walking" type baits like the Heddon Zara Spook, Strike Pro USA Finesse Walking Stick, Skipshad, and the Ambush Pop-A-Long.
Walking baits can provide explosive topwater action. One type of walking bait, the Heddon Zara Spook has been a bass fishing favorite for years. The Zara Spook comes in three different sizes: Pooch 2" 1/8oz, Puppy 3" 1/4oz, Original 4 1/2" 3/4oz. My discussion will center around the Zara Puppy and the Original versions.
Other favorite walking baits are the Finesse Walking Stick and Skip Shad by Strike Pro USA, both of which come in two sizes. The Finesse Walking Stick comes in: a 4-1/2" 5/8oz and a 3 5/16" 5/16oz sizes. The Skip Shad comes in: a 3 5/16" 7/16oz and a 3" 3/8oz sizes. Both baits come in an array of realistic colors making it very easy for fishermen to match-the-hatch.
One other "walking" style of bait that has become a confidence bait for me is the Ambush Pop-A-Long. This multi-functional lure simply drives fish wild. This bait can be twitched, popped and walked so it actually falls into several topwater categories.
Just like the Pop-R, I make several modifications to the Zara Spook before fishing it. The first thing I do is unscrew the hook hangers and remove the hooks. The original Zara Spook takes 1/0 hooks and the Zara Puppy takes size 6 hooks. I add Daiichi Bleeding Bait hooks along with good split rings to both baits. I am a firm believer that the Daiichi Bleeding Bait hooks make a world of difference. I have also added some hackle to the rear hook just like on the Pop-R. Adding the split rings helps prevent the fish from throwing the bait once hooked. When people have fished with me and seen me work a Zara Spook, I get asked the same question, How can you work the bait so easily? There is actually a modification that I make that enables me to do that. I take a file and on the line tie I file a notch on the underside of the tie, what this does when you tie the bait on it keeps the knot towards the bottom of the tie and makes the bait easy to work.
Like the Zara Spook, I add Daiichi Bleeding Bait hooks to both the Strike Pro USA Finesse Walking Stick and Skip Shad. An addition of hackle tied to the rear hook of both of these baits make the awesome finish appear that much more lifelike.
As far as modifying the Ambush Pop-A-Long, I can say this is one bait that I have used right out of the package with tremendous results even though I will eventually be adding the Daiichi Bleeding Bait hooks to these baits as well.
When talking about the action of baits like the Zara Spook the first thing comes to mind is the "Walk the Dog" retrieve. Twitched properly, the lure slides from side to side during the retrieve. Bass love the motion. I prefer to stand while fishing, point the rod at the water, with slack removed, begin twitching the rod tip down and toward your feet in short, rhythmic pulls. Each subsequent twitch should be done on a slack line, using the wrist only. The length of each pull, along with the cadence, determine the distance the lure travels on each glide.
I use both the Original Zara Spook and the Puppy in both stained and clear water. When the water is clear the Zara Spook can draw bass out of deep water. I have had days when fishing the clear waters of the Thousand Island region of New York that I caught smallmouth in 30 feet of water. When should you use the Original or Puppy? I like throwing the Original when there is a chop on the water and like using the Puppy in and around shallow cover. Don't underestimate the size of the Zara Puppy this bait when used in the right conditions can draw strikes from monster bass. I like using the Zara Puppy when I see small baitfish on surface in calm water.
Strike Pro USA Finesse Walking Stick and Skip Shad
The Finesse Walking Stick was designed to allow the anglers walk the dog with ease. When you first look at the Finesse Walking Stick you can tell it's completely different than the Spook. The Finesse Walking Stick has an arced bottom, an indented flat mouth, and a much slimmer profile. And of course, you can't miss the premium coating that Strike Pro incorporates onto all their tournament quality lures. This lure isn't something you can you just toss and retrieve. The angler must work the Walking Stick effectively to be successful. Because of its exact molding and shape, the Finesse Walking Stick does make the technique of "walk-the-dog" easier than the traditional cigar style lures.
Strike Pro Finesse Walking Stick
I like using the Finesse Walking Stick using a stop and go retrieve (walk the dog) With the ultra real finish this bait draws strikes at rest. The Strike Pro Skip Shad is a great bait when the bass are feeding on bluegill or shad. This bait also is made to walk the dog with ease.
Ambush Lures Pop-A-Long
This bait is actually multi-functional, it can be twitched, popped and walked. This bait is actually four baits in one: walking bait, clacking bait, popping bait, and spitting. All four of these features come into play when this bait is walked. This is a dual section bait separated by medical grade titanium wire which means it can be bent in any direction and will come back to its original shape. The lure also features recessed 3D holographic eyes and extremely sharp hooks. As you walk-the-dog, the Pop-a-Long darts side to side, but has a clacking, spitting, and rattling performance that calls to the fish and tricks it to believe it's a baitfish fleeing or injured on the water surface. As I continue to use this bait I am learning more and more how versatile this bait actually is. I have used this bait in both clear and stained water with success
As with all topwater baits I keep my color selection of walkers 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 a more natural colored bait 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/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.
I recommend using baitcast tackle for all the baits mentioned. A Kistler HELIUM LTA 6' Medium Heavy Casting (He60MHC) would be an ideal choice. A medium heavy rod is recommended due to the weight and action you want to impart to these baits. I use a TICA Sculptor reel spooled with a minimum of 15lb McCoy Mean Green Line. I find that when you using braided line with walking baits it tends to overwork the bait is why I don't use it for these baits. 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.
There is one thing for certain that there is nothing like a bass blowing up on a topwater bait. Hopefully by following some of the tips that I outlined on walking type baits you can experience that same thrill of a bass exploding on top of the water.