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Topwater lures and plugs refers generally to stick baits, prop baits, and crawlers. They’re called plugs because they were originally carved from blocks of wood. Though, not they’re mostly made of plastic. Plastic Plugs end up less expensive than wood. They tend to hold their finish better and are easier to produce. Wooden plugs tend to have better action.
How to Fish Topwater with Plugs
Most plugs imitate baitfish even though they all aren’t designed to look like bait fish. Some plugs can look like lizards, crawdads (crayfish, crawfish, etc.) mice, ducks, frogs, and any other potential food for a big fish. Plugs attract fish through a few specific ways. Crankbaits dive and wiggle.
Minnow plugs wobble side-to-side. Vibrating plugs, you guessed it, vibrates with a tight wiggle. Trolling plugs create a large erratic wobble. Jerk baits float and dive with jerked.
Some plugs are designed exclusively for surface fishing. Surface plugs work especially well when fish are spawning or feeding in shallow water. But they will sometimes draw fish up from deep water. Surface plugs work especially well when fish are spawning or feeding in shallow water. But they will sometimes draw fish up from deeper water.
Stick baits walked noisily across the surface will draw gamefish from deep water better than any other surface lure. In clear water, fish may rush the lure from 15 feet down. Stickbaits rank among the top lures for big largemouths, but they also work well for smallmouth and spotted bass, white and striped bass, pickerel, northern pike and muskies.
How to Fish with Stick baits
The basic retrieve for these lures is called “walking-the-dog.” Because of the way it is balanced, a stickbait will move in an alternating left-right-left manner when retrieved with short sharp jerks. The action mimics a crippled minnow struggling on the surface. A large part of the stick baits action is caused on the ending movement of each zig or zag as the tail-weighted back end of the stickbait stirs the water wildly causing a large boil. Every time the stickbait zigs or zags left or right, the final movement of the weighted tail stirs the surface into a large boil, and the lure slips out barely ahead of the boil, just like a desperate baitfish narrowly escaping a bass’s lunge. The lure’s action then becomes a non-stop series of ever-widening boils emanating behind it
Fast action rods with springy tips work best for walking-the-dog because it enables you to twitch the lure sharply. Stickbaits work best when fished with relatively light line, usually from 8-10-pound test. Light line allows the lure to move from side to side easily. Stickbaits should be tied directly to the line, without snaps or leaders. For pike or muskies, use a wire leader no heavier than necessary to hold the fish.
TackleReports Best Stickbaits
The Ima Skimmer is unique among hard plastic topwater stickbaits in that only the Ima Skimmer has the slender body shape of a 5″ soft plastic stickbait. This slim profile has proven to be one of the most appealing bass lure shapes ever. There’s a whole lot to be said simply for this slender profile and silhouette, and the Ima Skimmer is really the only topwater hardbait that has it. If there’s ever anything that gets a non-committal bass to bite, it is other bass feeding in front of it – and that’s the competitive feeding cue that the Skimmer’s tail-stirring movement sends out to all bass within range of sensing the surface-feeding boils trailing out behind the Skimmer.
Kingdomfishing bait’s pencil stickbait is a great choice for Bass, perch, panfish, and pike. Don’t count it out for trout and salmon as well. The streamline design creates a brilliant wobble and jerk for those who can adequately walk-the-dog. There are a variety of colors available for near any occasion, great for both saltwater and freshwater.
Twitch tip: Twitching with a slack line is best because it allows a sharp jerk while only moving the lure a very short distance. Twitching lures with a tight line will create a sharp jerk, however the lure will travel a great distance, often looking unnatural or too erratic.
Propbaits are the most versatile of all surface lures. You can fish small spots thoroughy with a twitching retrieve or cover large areas by reeling rapidly. And propbaits create more disturbance than most other surface lures, so they work well even when wind ripples the surface. Prop baits have a flattened of dished face, resulting in a more erratic action than models with a pointed nose. Models with a propeller on each end create the most disturbance and work best for fast retrieves.
How to Fish with Propbaits
Slow twitching retrieve generally works best for largemouth, smallmouth, and spotted bass. A fast-steady retrieve for pike, muskies, stripers, and white bass. A few prop baits have a weight in the rear, so they can be fishing with a walk-the-dog retrieve.
The same kind of gear applies for propbaits as it does for stickbait. Propbaits should also be tied directly to the line. Heavy snaps and leaders may force the nose below the surface, preventing the propeller from throwing waters.
If your prop-blades don’t spin rapidly, adjust the angle of the blades by bending the blades backward or forward.
TackleReports Best Propbaits
The action on this lure is incredible. There isn’t anything like it. At first glace it seems to be similar to a jitterbug but it is much noisier. The bass hit this lure really hard, similar to how they attack topwater frogs. The difference is that the treble hooks are really sticky so you hook up more often with this than with a frog. It casts unexpectedly well. Despite the wings attached to the lure, you might expect them to create a lot of drag, but somehow it doesn’t. It’s a very well designed. The main problem is quite obvious. You pay for quality on the Jackall Pompadour.
The X-Rap Prop marks the X-Rap family’s entrance into this productive category. Simply by adding X-Rap Attitude we have taken a good bait and made it great. Stainless Steel Props create X-size noise and splash, churning, spitting and gurgling with the slightest tug. Whether you’re fishing a snap and pause, straight or shredding retrieve, the counter-rotating blades ensure a straight track back to the boat. Tail drops down during pause allowing better hooks up. X-Rap finish with internal laser-etched scales and holographic foil create an impressive flash. Internal long-cast mechanism lets you cast into the most timid fish from far away, without spooking them with your boat. VMC black nickel hooks all around with flash feather teaser tail on the stern. Hand-tuned and tank-tested to run straight and true right out of the box.
The new 3DB baits from Yo-Zuri have two features that Catch Big Bass. The internationally patent pending 3D Internal Prism and Wave-Motion Vibration spark an instant bite response. All 3DB Series lures have a patented ribbed belly that creates distinctive wave-motions and vibrations that fish can detect with their lateral lines from a long distance. The second impressive feature of the Yo-Zuri 3DB Series baits is the flash created by the 3D Internal Prism. An injured baitfish will swim erratically, sending out flashes of reflected light from its broadside of scales. The Patented 3DB Series duplicates this nervous behavior. The natural patterns combined with the lifelike body shapes and attention to detail on gills, fins and scales creates a strikingly realistic looking baitfish. Add to all these features, large Injured/Dying fish “Redeye” on all 3DB styles, makes these the target for game fish to eat. All have premium components; Black Nickel split rings and Round Bend Black Nickel Hooks.
How to Fish a Crawler
These lures make plopping sounds with each twitch. This makes them extremely effective for night fishing. The plopping creates an easy avenue to track these lures at night. Crawlers work great for bass, northern pike, pickerel, and muskies. Models with a face-plate will swim through sparse weeds without fouling. Hinged-arm models tend to collect bits of weeds or algae at the arm joints.
A steady moderately fast retrieve, enabling you to cover a lot of are ground quickly is the best retrieval for crawlers. Be careful though, a retrieval that is too fast will skim the surface with little action. Retrieves that are too slow and the lure will not produce the gurgling sound. The best speed produces a serious wobble and loudest gurgle.
If you do not strike with a steady retrieve, try adding an occasional pause and twitch. Or, stop reeling periodically and let the ripples subside.
The Heddon Crazy Crawler is a wild acting topwater lure that scrabbles across the surface, creating a trail of splashes as it goes. The normal lure and the tiny version are the two versions presented here. Easily to throw with a bait caster. Excellent alternative to the Jitterbug. Depending where you shop, Jitterbugs can get kind of expensive. These lures creates great topwater noise and gets big hits.
The Bouti1583 Cicada freshwater crawler is great for targeting big bass, snakehead, or even carp. This is a great lure but it takes a while to get use to the action. It has a habit of twisting mid retrieve but a simple adjustment of the wings can compensate.
If you haven’t checked out our new article: How to Fish with Spinners, check it out Here. Keep an eye out for upcoming articles on Crankbaits and Jigs. If you’re still working on the basics, or trying to target specific fish, take a look at our series of articles targeting specific Bass or Muskie.