Your basic topwater arsenal

About the author

Stephen Headrick

Stephen Headrick

Stephen Headrick is better known to the bass fishing world as the Smallmouth Guru. He lives in Celina, Tenn., and is the owner of Punisher Lures.

There are three topwater plugs I’ve used for years. They’ll catch bass almost anytime there’s a topwater bite. Before we talk about them, however, I want to answer a reader’s question.

Mark Killens from Delta State University wanted to know if the techniques and locations I talked about in Think Shallow would work on Pickwick. The answer is, you bet! Smallmouth are fish. They react to their environment pretty much the same everywhere.

Hey everybody, I love to talk smallmouth bass and want to help you catch more of them. Post your questions. We’ll talk.

OK, here are my three best and most reliable plugs:

1. The Chug Bug from Storm Lures 

These baits have a long body, a scooped out mouth and a feathered tail on the back. My most productive technique is to keep the lure moving. Smallies are aggressive. They’ll chase something they want. And, if it’s moving, they can’t get a good look at it.

Color doesn’t matter much so long as the lure has a white belly. They do have a couple that have orange stripes on the bottom that work pretty good. I fish them on braid, especially if I’m making long casts around grass; but if you have a tendency to set the hook too fast, go with monofilament. The stretch will give you a little delay that’ll help.

2. The standard size Zara Spook from Heddon 

The trick to using this bait is to learn to walk the dog. Now, I don’t mean just being able to swish it back and forth. I mean learn to really make it move around.

You should be able to make it look like a snake with short and wide swings, and you should be able to raise a ruckus with it by splashing water all over the place. This is a lure where details in the retrieve matter. Each day is different.

My colors and lines are the same. Pick whatever color gives you confidence. It needs to have a white belly, though. That makes it look natural and it’s all the bass sees, anyway. Pick your line the same as with a Chug Bug.

3. A Sexy Frog from Strike King

This one’s for heavy grass, mats and stuff with a lot of cover. You can bounce it, swim it or walk it depending upon what’s going on. I fish mine fast, like a buzzbait. (My fourth choice would be a buzzbait.)

My color rule stands — white belly. But I will say that some of the Elite guys throw different colors. Black is really popular. Always use braided line. You need the strength.

All of these baits should be thrown with a fairly stiff rod that has a fair amount of tip. The stiffness will help control your fish and the tip will help you work the bait as well as take the shock out of that last run smallies like to make at the boat.

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