A reader wrote recently to say that while he enjoys our magazine, some of the topics and discussions were just a bit over his head.
"Please give us some intro-level lessons, especially with topwater lures. My brother and I have been live bait fishermen all our lives and we have just recently begun to catch a few fish on soft plastics. Topwaters are a puzzle to us. We know they work but so far we've had no luck. The guides say throw this lure or that, but can you please tell us more?"
Well yes we can, and we apologize for not having done so already. Here's a few tips that just might help put some fish on the end of your lines. Let's start with presentation.
Begin by attaching the plug with a loop knot to help it swing freely. The basic presentation is called walking-the-dog and is accomplished by making chopping motions with the rod tip during the retrieve. The more vigorous the chop, the wider your lure will step left to right. Retrieve slowly, just enough to gather the slack. I describe it as a hobby horse, rocking like crazy but not going anywhere.
Fish have moods. When you find them feeding aggressively they will hit anything, sometimes it takes a little finesse. Try walking the lure a few feet and then let it rest for a couple of seconds. Another good technique is banging the heck out of it and then reeling slowly without chopping or twitching for a few feet. If a fish boils or slaps at it stop! Twitching over a curious fish will sometimes produce an explosive strike. Vary your casting angle. The obvious temptation is to wail the plug straight downwind and then work it headfirst back into the chop. Throwing across the angle of the wind and letting the plug surf on the face of the swells works too.
Long casts are often the key as fish will sometimes follow a good distance before striking. Any fish that strikes under the rod tip is tough to catch. When I have a fish following curiously and getting close I take the plug away, cast beyond where I last saw it, and start over. I try to mimic the same rhythm and speed that drew their attention the first time.
Resist the temptation to set the hook! I cannot even begin to count the times I've watched excited anglers take the plug away before the fish was hooked. Fish that are not feeding aggressively will sometimes blow up or slap a plug several times before finally becoming foul-hooked or deciding to eat.
MirrOlure She Dog
The She Dog is one of the most productive baits for calling fish up from deep water and is an excellent choice in just about any depth in heavy chop. The key to this plug is its signature voice. Sometimes too loud, but it can always be slowed to soften that incredible clack. Mike McBride calls it obnoxious, but is quick to say there are conditions when nothing else will draw a strike.
Rapala Skitter Walk
One of my personal favorite surface lures. A versatile floater, works in range of depths and surface conditions, moderately loud, medium-pitched voice, makes more of a clunk than a clack. Comes in two sizes and a rainbow of colors, I like the bright ones. The full-size Skitter Walk is 4.38 inches long and the "baby" is 3.12 inches. I find the short model works best in depths of two feet. The one pictured here has seen a lot of action.