LITTLE ROCK (AGFC) – Look for a bright side, fishermen, in these days of oppressive heat. Early morning excitement can sometimes jar you out of the doldrums on a still, tranquil lake.
Consider topwater lures for bass.
With the popularity of other types of lures, the venerable topwaters may seem like a connection to the horse and buggy days. But they can still be effective.
When a bass goes for a topwater lure, it can be spectacular. It can also bring your heart into your throat. Even a pound-and-half largemouth attacking a topwater lure is excitement.
Few outdoors experiences can rival fishing just after dawn on a lake where the water is totally calm. Toss out a topwater, let it sit then make a twitch. Suddenly the water around the lure explodes like a bomb has been dropped. If the line tightens and the rod bends, then you have a bass.
It's an experience in the class of seeing a wide-racked 8-point deer step out into a clearing or seeing a flock of mallards cup wings and drop toward your decoys.
In Arkansas, the Lucky 13, made by Heddon, remains in use although not to the extent of past decades. The lure was created from wood more than 75 years ago, one of the oldest lures still in production. Today it is plastic.
It's a topwater lure, sometimes called a chugger by fishermen because of the gurgling noise it makes on retrieve. There are all sorts of similar lures. The Heddon family includes the Zara Spook and the Torpedo lure sin several forms. Another is the Rebel PopR, a favorite of some of today's bass tournament professionals.
In times past, a mark of a competent bass chaser was being able to "walk the dog" with a Spook, a Lucky 13 or a Torpedo. This means to retrieve it in short twitches of the rod tip was you crank the reel so the lure operates in a zigzag fashion on the surface. The idea is to imitate an injured and struggling minnow or shad.
All sorts of theories circulate among fishermen about topwater lures.
Many have the notion that they are effective only at certain times of the year and at certain times of the day, like right at daybreak and just before dark.
Anytime you come out with a fishing theory, though, someone will quickly challenge it with a story of the opposite result, like topwaters catching bass in the middle of winter.
It is pretty well accepted that a topwater lure is useful when bass are fairly shallow. The fish will come up to strike a lure from several feet deep in the water – three, four, five feet. But if the bass is hanging out 10 or 12 feet deep on the side of a creek channel, it is not likely to go for a topwater lure.
Topwaters are used around stickups, stumps, fallen logs, boat dock piers and other visible structure. Again, the technique is to cast it to a target then let it sit for a few seconds. Begin the retrieve in a pattern of a short crank then a pause, crank and pause, crank and pause. The crank can be combined with a twitching of the rod tip.
A tactic used on lakes and backwaters with abundant lily pads is to work around the lily pads with a topwater lure. A fisherman may toss a topwater on to a lily pad, let it pause then ease it off into the water and begin the retrieve. Plastic frogs are also worked in this mode.
If a bass blows up and engulfs your topwater lure on a quiet morning with glassy-smooth water, any notion of summer boredom will immediately vanish.