In Part I, we discussed popper topwater baits. This article will continue our discussion of topwater baits by including "walking" type baits like the Heddon Zara Spook, Berkley J-Walker, Damiki Rambler 120, and the Lucky Craft Sammy.
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.
I make several modifications to the Zara Spook like the Pop-R 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 six hooks. I add Daiichi Bleeding Bait hooks and good split rings to both baits. I am a firm believer that the Daiichi Bleeding Bait hooks make a world of difference. Like the Pop-R, I have also added some hackle to the rear hook. 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 efficiently? I make a modification 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. When you tie the bait on, it keeps the knot towards the bottom of the tie and makes the bait easy to work.
When talking about the action of baits like the Zara Spook, the "Walk the Dog" retrieve first comes to mind. 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 slackline, using the wrist only. The length of each pull, along with the cadence, determines the distance the lure travels on each glide.
I use the Original Zara Spook and the Puppy in stained and clear water. The Zara Spook can draw bass out of deep water when the water is clear. I have had days 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 using the Puppy in and around shallow cover. Don't underestimate the size of the Zara Puppy. This bait can draw strikes from monster bass when used in the right conditions. I like using the Zara Puppy when I see small baitfish on the surface in calm water.
As with all topwater baits, I keep my color selection of walkers relatively simple. I use two factors to determine which color I use, water color and 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 will 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 7-foot medium-heavy baitcasting rod would be ideal. A medium-heavy rod is recommended due to the weight and action of these baits. I use a baitcast reel spooled with a minimum of 15lb McCoy Mean Green Line. I find that when you use a braided line with walking baits, it tends to overwork the bait, so I don't use it for these baits.
When fishing topwater baits, one thing to remember when you get a strike is to wait until you feel the fish before sweeping the rod to the side. It's not setting the hook per se, so I'm using the rod to fight the fish, not to set the hook.
There is one thing for sure: there is nothing like a bass blowing up on a topwater bait. Hopefully, by following some of the tips I outlined on walking type baits, you can experience that same thrill of a bass exploding on top of the water.