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Critique my Topwater Troubles

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I'm looking for any critique or feedback on my continued frustrating topwater issues. 

 

I have 4 clips from 4 fish from yesterday morning; they're shown once each in real time and then again slowed down for easier critique/analysis. 

 

The first 3 clips are Whopper Plopper fish, the 4th and last is a shallow running crankbait fish that shakes off last second. I threw this one in because it came on the same setup just minutes after losing my first plopper fish and because it seems to involve the same treble hook issues that have plagued me. The primary focus IS on the topwater treble hook troubles but perhaps there's something useful in the crankbait clip that can help in identifying the overall issues. 

 

My Background
-This is my second calendar year of bass fishing, first full season of fishing

-My only confidence presentation is a Texas rig on a spinning rod. I actually don't really even use anything else (though I bring a whole bunch of stuff with me). I'm really trying hard to expand out to have more than one "confidence presentation" in my arsenal

-I've had limited success with the whopper plopper coming into yesterday - definitely not for lack of trying. I have had some strikes on them but have only landed one single fish prior to yesterday (a small Largemouth way back in eary Spring) 


Having watched this footage and slowing it down during editing I have some thoughts and questions but I'm hoping for some raw feedback first. 


I do understand not 100% of these fish can be landed, however, my landing ratio is so low it makes me want to put this stuff down and go to the Texas rig exclusively .. but I don't want to be just a one-trick pony. 

 

Below is the pertinent info on the setup/lures. I'm don't want to name brands - you can see whatever you can see in the clips. I don't want this to become any kind of debate over manufacturers. I feel strongly this is an issue with me and my actions. 

 

Rod: 6'8" M - It is specifically identified by the manufacturer as a "Topwater/Jerkbait" Rod

Reel: 6.3:1 Ratio

Line: 30lb braid connected to 10lb copolymer leader 

Lure: Whopper Plopper 90 (no modifications) and Rapala "Clackin Crank 53" (weighs approximately 1/4 oz - no modifications)

 

BTW I purchased this rod specifically hoping it would help with these issues. This was just it's second time in action. I feel like I can eliminate the rod as the problem.

 

What am I doing right and what am I doing wrong? I'm very open to feedback on anything you see. There are no bad critiques, I just want to know what you see because I just want improve. My fishing time is valuable to me and it's a serious burnout to consistently not be able to land fish in certain presentations. Thank you in advance. 

 

 

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This is an easy fix.

You are NOT setting the hook. You are hoping the bass hooks itself and just reeling it in.

Sometimes it happen, most times it does not. 

Rarely does simply reeling in a bass after it has struck a bait - including a topwater presentation sufficient to successfully land it. Despite having treble hooks, it is almost always a good plan to have at least some semblance of a hook set.

With your bait seen in the clip you provided, it's not necessary to come out of your shoes with it but once you feel the weight of the fish, a sudden yank back to bury some hook points, BEFORE you start reeling it in, will No Doubt improve your strike to land ratio. 

Here's a clip of a smallmouth I took on a topwater bait this week. 

You'll see the strike and what I mean about the hookset fairly well.

Good Luck.

:smiley:

A-Jay

 

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52 minutes ago, A-Jay said:

Here's a clip of a smallmouth I took on a topwater bait this week. 

You'll see the strike and what I mean about the hookset fairly well.

I just watched that about 10 times... Excellent Stuff. Just out of curiosity, is that a Fast Tip? 

 

The hookset was one of my chief concerns after going through the footage and putting the clips together. I've had issues previously on trebles where it seemed I was setting the hook too quickly and pulling it away. I stopped using a Fast tip and bought this rod in hopes of helping with that. 

 

So before the hookset though ... can I ask about the location of the rod while working the lure? I've found I get hit more often working the lure at a marginal speed. Just enough to get a steady "plop-plop". I find this is achievable only by keeping my rod tip up. So, when the strike comes, my instinct is to set UP (this probably also comes from bottom fishing texas rigs). It looked like you set the hook upward, however, your rod was initially to the side as you were working the popper. 

 

So my question is, can I have the rod tip in an already upward position (say 9 to 10 o'clock) and then SET FURTHER UPWARD on the strike?

 

Below was a fish I lost on July 23rd on a 6'10" sort of all-purpose spinning rod (MF). Same whopper plopper 90 on there, 20lb braid to 10lb fluoro. Did I do the same thing here? My hookset definitely seems late. I felt drag rip almost instantly. I'm unsure why I'm hesitating. Do I just need to stick it hard to them the moment I feel the strike? And what's the best way to set the hook with the rod in an already upward position (like here)? 

 

 

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Again no hook set.

I was using a 7' M fast stick right there.

As for rod position - you'll have to play with that and find what's good for you.

There may be no right answer - just needs to be effective and that can start from a variety of different positions (angles).

Braid helps with hook set for sure and so does sharp quality trebles which do not always come standard on many lures.

I change most all my stock trebles to either Mustad, Owner or Gamakatsu after market trebles.  Seems to make a difference for me as most stock stuff is pretty bad. 

:smiley:

A-Jay

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The only way I can get away with a lean and real-estate is with a jerkbait.

With the rat and WP, I use braid on a CB or top-rated rod.

If memory serves me right, I think I went to bigger Garmmy's, 41's???  I will check.

 

I use a sweep like I do my TRIG 

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I am no expert but also keep the rod pointed away from the fish so the flexibility in the rod keeps constant pressure to keep the hooks dug in. A split second of slack is bad news. 

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If you are going to target small fish sitting on that first break, go with mono and a softer rod and some Gammy round bends. It can be tough to set the hook on small fish with a stout rod. Also I'm seeing unnecessary rod movement with too little even pressure, and maybe a little less caffeine to keep the hands from shaking. 

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SET.THE.HOOK. With baits like this you don't need to really crack them, usually just leaning into them does the trick but there needs to be some sort of sweeping motion to the side to firmly stick those hooks in the fish. Another thing is once you have the fish on, keep the rod angled to the side a bit, so that the rod will stay bent as you fight the fish, allowing it to bow and flex if the fish jumps or shakes it's head. The way you have it in the video you are pointed straight at the fish, so there is no bend in the rod and they can easily shake the hooks which are already not in the fish that well. I hope this helps, it should hopefully make a drastic difference next time you go 😃

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Not to downplay anyone's advice here, but do what A-Jay said and set the hook. You'll land more fish. Sometimes when wer're frustrated we overanalyze and think there are multiple things causing our issues. But in this case it's really that simple.  

 

I have no idea why I can't get rid of this:

    @A-Jay

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You do need to set the hook a bit, but don't overdo it, that braid will drive those trebles very easily. I would lose the leader if it were me, but since you're also fishing a crankbait on the rod you may need it for abrasion resistance. I also do not like the hooks that come on the 90 ploppers and change all of them out. Normally, I would never suggest an EWG treble for a topwater, but because of the straight retrieve used with a plopper they've been by far my best option. These hooks seem to sew them up better than any other I've tried on a 90 Plopper. 

https://www.tacklewarehouse.com/Gamakatsu_EWG_Treble_Short_Shank_2X_Magic_Eye_6pk/descpage-GETX.html

The EWG's lock them in and the fact that they're short shank keeps that bait from flopping around and tearing the hooks out like you were having happen at the bank when the fish were jumping or shaking. 

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It's hard to think about setting the hook in the moment as a bass smashes your top water. I always remind myself before every cast to pause if I get a hit, then slam that hook home. I have to constantly remind myself to do this. 

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I think everyone here has great suggestions. You need a solid hookset for sure, but also and especially with braid you have to keep that rod tip either higher or to the side like these guys said.

 

Braid has little or no stretch, and in every clip your rod is majoritively pointed at the fish. You need that rod to load up with the fish to keep them pinned. With your rod pointing at the fish there is very little "shock absorbtion" going on. They can throw trebbles no problem.

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have you replaced the trebles. really sharp hooks will cure alot of hook set problems.

 

also, i'd say that set up is a little fast for treble hook baits. softer rod and or line with more stretch will help delay the hook set. i'd start with trying mono (much cheaper than getting a slower tip rod).

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Stock hooks are fine.  Trebles are fine with a fast rod, or even an extra fast rod.  Set the hook. 

 

I'm using a St. Croix Avid AVC62MXF with zero stretch Tuf-line Supercast.   The bait is a Popmax, but I'd do the same thing with a Plopper.  Notice how quickly I put the snap set n the fish.  It's no a cross their eyes set, but you can hear the rod whistle as I snap it up.

 

 

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The other thing I'll as is, ditch the flouorcarbon leader. Switch to a 15lb. mono leader and you'll be able to work the WP with the rod tip down in a better position for the hook set. 

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There's something so dang jarring about these plopper strikes - catches me completely off guard. That's my fault. I've been finessing a texas rig most of the summer and this is just downright violent in comparison. 

 

I had two strikes this morning and lost both. Both were going to be good fish (for me). I only have footage on the first one, which is exceptionally unfortunate because the second one was a lot more interesting. 

 

This first one is basically the same as the others above. I'm caught completely off guard somehow. I'd venture to guess this was a Largemouth given the cover and fact I was running a Loon 90. I had the d**n thing exactly where I wanted it, when I wanted it, and earned myself a good strike. Yet nothing but frustration. This was that prime time as the sun was just slightly still below the horizon + I had cloud cover. 

 

 

 

The second fish I actually reacted to the bite by sweeping my rod to the side! Y'all might have been proud of me ha. Of course, I didn't turn my gopro on once I arrived at that spot so I have no footage.

 

I really felt like I had him, he stayed low and I could feel he was a decent size smally. I did NOT land him ... last minute he somehow just got off (no shake). I think the treble(s) may have ripped out (unfortunately for both of us). This is so frustrating. 

 

One thing I did do this morning (after losing the first fish) was tighten my drag. I feel like it may have been too loose. I did indeed get something of a decent hookset on the second fish but I fear there might have been too much pressure "in the system" and the breaking point was at the hook/fish. I'm also afraid I may have really horsed him in too strongly. One particular comment from above comes to mind when I think about why the second fish wasn't landed:

 

22 hours ago, reason said:

Also I'm seeing unnecessary rod movement with too little even pressure, and maybe a little less caffeine to keep the hands from shaking. 

 

Here's the thing: I am still getting used to handling a baitcasting set up. Not so much in the reel itself, but the conversion of actually managing a fish on the other end with the different grip on the baitcasting rod - not to mention my hands are reversed from the spinning setup I'm used to. I really wish I had that footage so I could see for myself if I was going nuts and not keeping even pressure on, just cranking (too) hard and low to keep him down. 

 

Before I went to bed last night I read all the responses up to that point, knowing my alarm was going off @ 4:15am to try again. I wish I was reporting better news for those of you trying to help. 

 

A few thoughts... this rod is a 6'8" M rated specifically for topwater (and jerkbaits). I have a 6'9" MHF Veritas that I'm NOT afraid to use for this madness. Sitting here thinking about this I feel like I can really bury the necessary hooks with a faster tip. With braid I think that could be too tight a system but I am thinking the copolymer leader would provide the necessary give/stretch???

 

Also I'm wondering about my drag for this. I've read multiple times to set your drag looser with a fast tip on trebles. Does the same logic behind that apply to topwater treble applications? Seems to me that I need every split second of leverage I can get to pin the fish.

 

Last thought ... how are you guys connecting your plopper? Tie direct? Swivel? I tie a palomar to a crosslock snap and connect the lure to that. I do this for the obvious benefit of lure changes. I've seen some different types of rigging for the plopper and I wonder what folks are generally doing or if there's any consensus. I don't know how much difference it would make, but clearly I'm wondering if tying direct would give me any additional split-second edge on this craziness. 

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In that last clip it's definitely better than the original post. It still seems to me you are getting excited and start reeling fast before getting the hookset. I can't fault you for the excitement, it definitely takes some time to get the composure during topwater strikes. But when you get bit try not to overreact, just reel down until you start to feel the fish and then sweep the rod to the side while still reeling. It should be pretty fluid and should end with your rod loaded up to your side, then just keep enough pressure to keep the rod loaded and keep the fish out of cover. No need to horse them in if you don't need to. 

 

As for the rod, I fish braid with almost all my lures. IMO you want the rod to be doing the work, not the leader, not the drag. A leader is not really giving you enough stretch to absorb headshakes, a more moderate action rod will. A looser drag can help prevent a last second run from tearing out the hooks, but again, it will not help with headshakes. So all that being said I would stick with the 6'8 M rod. I used to use basically a jig rod (7'2 Heavy Fast) for whopper plopper 130's. After losing several PB smallies when they completely unloaded the rod with violent jumping headshakes I stopped using fast action rods to fish trebles. 

 

The connection to the lure itself shouldn't have an impact on keeping the fish hooked. 

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@TotalNoob 

Please explain in your own words, how & when you "set the hook"

What are the exact steps / procedure YOU USE to help cause the points of the treble hooks to sink past the barb and into the fish ?

 

A-Jay

 

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1 hour ago, A-Jay said:

@TotalNoob 

Please explain in your own words, how & when you "set the hook"

What are the exact steps / procedure YOU USE to help cause the points of the treble hooks to sink past the barb and into the fish ?

 

A-Jay

 

A-Jay, I feel like the best way to explain (lacking a graphical representation) is to show you via a t-rigged catch from June 21st, I had just started to document my catches around that time. The hookset is about :20 seconds in. Keep in mind this is only from the chest action cam angle so there's a little imagination involved. You can see at the end that fish was going nowhere; further I virtually never lose t-rigged fish.

 

 

I do start reeling rather quickly it seems. I notice this in all of my catch footage that I review. Is this too quick? 

 

The hookset on a topwater treble vs trigged plastic I don't think could be any further apart.

 

I've basically been dragging plastics all summer with a spinning rod (left hand reel) to now these violent eruptions on a baitcaster (right hand reel). I know there's a big learning curve here. 

 

To try and answer your original question...I positioned myself (on the second fish this morning) so that the lure was coming in essentially from my LEFT side (rod as parallel to the water as possible) and if a strike came I wouldn't have to be frantic in that moment; I would just need to sweep to the right. I did so, where I think I went wrong was setting my drag too tight after losing the first fish. I realize now I was probably overcompensating with the drag and in fact possibly is what cost me that fish. I really wish I had remembered to turn that thing on, it would have shown everything.

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Just curious why did you switch hands. Does that mean that your not holding the rod with your dominant hand. I just switched over to a baitcaster my self but I still hold the rod in the same hand as I did the spinner. That might be part of the problem I think your dominant hand wants to hold the rod to work the bait, set the hook, play the fish. Allot less awkward. Just my 2 sense. 

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Sweep the rod to the side and keep pressure on the fish.  Stick with the medium rod for treble hook baits.  Top water and crankbaits.  Medium heavy for Texas rig and the like.  Hope this helps.  There are some good videos on just this out there.  Might take a bit of looking.  

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Question was designed to help you self-access.

 IMO Yes you are reeling too quick: like running the bases before you hit the ball.

You need to swing the bat man. 

Additionally landing a bass is not a race, there are no points for speed an no one is timing you.

Clearly you shouldn't take all day but perhaps while your throwing topwater, if you slow down your whole deal there, you could get the steps right.

Work the bait, set the hook, reel in and play the fish - btw - the rod plays the fish, the reel recovers the line.

Reeling against a spinning drag is counter productive.

Perhaps, instead of using your reel like a winch, fight the fish with your rod.  

Pull the fish to you, lower the rod a bit to reel in the line you've recovered, repeat until the fish is in the net.

You may find it works better.

A-Jay

 

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On 8/16/2018 at 1:25 AM, Bluebasser86 said:

You do need to set the hook a bit, but don't overdo it, that braid will drive those trebles very easily. I would lose the leader if it were me, but since you're also fishing a crankbait on the rod you may need it for abrasion resistance. I also do not like the hooks that come on the 90 ploppers and change all of them out. Normally, I would never suggest an EWG treble for a topwater, but because of the straight retrieve used with a plopper they've been by far my best option. These hooks seem to sew them up better than any other I've tried on a 90 Plopper. 

https://www.tacklewarehouse.com/Gamakatsu_EWG_Treble_Short_Shank_2X_Magic_Eye_6pk/descpage-GETX.html

The EWG's lock them in and the fact that they're short shank keeps that bait from flopping around and tearing the hooks out like you were having happen at the bank when the fish were jumping or shaking. 

 

What size do you order for the 90 WP? Also, if you have a suggestion for size on a 110 WP I'd like to change all mine out too. Thanks

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30 minutes ago, TBAG said:

 

What size do you order for the 90 WP? Also, if you have a suggestion for size on a 110 WP I'd like to change all mine out too. Thanks

I put #6 on the 90s, reduces weight to help them ride higher and reduce diving. The 110 you could probably get away with  #2.

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I agree with AJ. You have more time than you think(especially with no stretch line) and the more you fish it the easier it is to relax and not just jerk at the sight of a blow up. Try to count, while taking up slack, 1-mississippi, hook set-mississippi!

Take it easy on fighting a fish with treble baits, play him gently. They'll often hook themselves with the other treble if given the chance.

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