topper popperWith summer unwilling to leave, it seems there are going to be extra days, perhaps weeks to throw topwater in 2009. And that’s good.

But it is surprising to me that there continues to be some argument about what tackle components are best suited: often including line, but also relating to rod choice, yet almost never referring to bait types. Worse than that, everyone of these “discussions” tends to conclude with a narrow statement declaring the opinion is the “end all” on the subject.

When possible, we should try and separate fact from opinion. The answers some people put out there just seem waaaay too pat for me and my experience regarding topwater tools. By the same token, that doesn’t mean there aren’t some universal concepts. We probably all agree that braided line and frog fishing are a great fit.

big walkersBut does that mean that braid is the answer for every floating lure? (Look at the differences in these walking baits top to bottom: Super Spook, Vixen, Rico Suave, Sammy 115 and Sebile Slim Stick.)

Any line–braid or fluorocarbon or mono or hybrid– is only one part of a multi-layered equation. And you need to know the properties of each. Think about it. You make bait choices for cover, water clarity and lure action, but with those choices come the related issues of lure buoyancy, friction in the water as well as castability and casting distance.

However,  by virtue of its stretch, diameter and flotation qualities, that line can directly affect the movement of the lure, your hook-setting effectiveness (especially at distance), which is also balanced against its degree of shock resistance (usually an issue of stretch) when you get a piece of the fish.

The rod choice, of course, is part of each of these elements and, in all truth, that probably means that one rod (no matter what pro calls it his signature topwater model) will not fit all. A desired retrieve on a specific bait may require a specific line type and test (or diameter) and, it may also require a specific rod tip action. I have fought this concept for years, but I just can’t deny it any longer, it is virtually impossible to get the same walk with say Super Spook, 14-pound test mono and fast medium tip than you can with 10-pound test (pick a line) and a parabolic rod.

It takes so much discipline and virtuosity to try and duplicate one action with different set of tools, it’s almost futile. I hasten to John Kerr’s U.S. Open win, when he chose fluorocarbon because his long casts and a more violent, high speed retrieve that required less stretch for hook-setting, and helped him move the bait with designed rapidity.

That would be the absolute wrong combo for Charlie Campbell and his method with the original (fatter, more buoyant) Zara Spook of the 1980’s.

When it comes to chuggers or prop baits, fore and aft or tail-bladed, the rod/lure/line issue is less critical. Line is probably of first import because it (a cast length on the water) can balance against, (or over-power) a bait that should ideally have enough flotation/friction to push water (or turn a blade) with a relatively short flick of the rod tip.

Since the bait stops after each pull, it’s relatively easy to control, and you can adjust the force needed to get the chug rhythm and splash you want. That range of mono at 10 to 12-pound test is a good fit, but recognize, a long cast with 12-pound creates quite a bit more drag than a short cast with 10-pound. And a Lexan Pop R has a lot more drag than a Rico of the same dimensions…so the line diameter will affect each lure in its own way.

Sometimes, of course, it makes absolutely no difference. But there are plenty of other days where either you or your partner seems to get more bites. When that happens, it’s best not to argue, but rather it’s time to investigate all the variables.


6 Responses to “The topwater argument is no argument”

The first priority for me with any topwater plug, is to be able to comfortably get the lure to the strike zone with enough precision or accuracy to feel confident. Then adjust your muscle memory to the presentation idiosyncrasies of any given lure. That gives you a starting reference point where you can find a way to fine tune your equipment.

You mean there are no rules in topwater fishing? 🙁

How do they sell so many technique specific rods now days? Goes along with my theory on local anglers…they just want an answer, not the reason behind the answer. My favorite Super Spook rod this moment has a picture of a Carolina Rig on it. Oh and my favorite Gunfish rod says its made for spoons. George, send me an email when you publish part 2 of this story, the one with all the answers in it ;).

Coming right up. I’m collecting the model numbers….

From us novice topwater guys…THANKS! I have asked, and recieved, so many different answers regarding line and sticks that I have been hesitant to lay down any hard earned dollars for any specific topwater equipment.
It’s good to come to realize that all the so called “experienced” guys don’t have all the secrets.
What I take from your article is to try for myself, and see what works.
Thanks again!

The Rico Suave’ is really amazing. I’ve only just started using it, but it sure has been lucky for me so far. I’m not sure if I agree on the rod helping with the affect of the lure because I’ve only used my Rio Rico Rod; I am not familiar with any of the different types of rods. I’ve only been fishing for about 2-3 years, but out of all my lures, my Suave’-Bone is my favorite.
I like the personality in your article-good stuff!

finding out more and more that choices in what lure to use at what time is subjective. No science up to a point. Fishermen recommend specific lures and techniques from the history of the catch. Anecdotal reasons at the best. I might go as far to say fishing is pserdo-science, Ooga, booga stuff. Filled with charms and talismans to appease the gods. Reproducable up to a point. Til a jonah shows up and tries to reproduce under the same circumstances and NOTHING. A sad excuse for a sport. A past time a hobby yes. Not a sport.
Just my thoughts.