When the conversation turns to topwater baits, prop baits are often neglected. Misunderstood and underused by many bass anglers, Elite Series pro Kelly Jordon says if you don't give the prop bait a chance, you're missing the boat.
"There are only three kinds of topwaters," explains the Texas pro. "Walking baits, popping baits and prop baits. Any time you're catching bass on top, it's a good time to try a prop bait."
While he utilizes the prop bait throughout the year, Jordon claims the offering is most deadly during the postspawn, when male bass are chasing baitfish and guarding fry and the big females are taking advantage of the bluegill spawn.
"That's one of the best times to throw a topwater," he declares. "The prop bait generates a different sound. It's more subtle than a popping bait, but louder than a walking bait."
Another advantage of the prop bait is that it is effective in both choppy and calm water. Jordon says that in choppy water the blades create flash and noise, but in calm water it can be altered to generate spray and a subtle "slush" on the surface.
"It sounds like a minnow jumping and bass slashing at baitfish. It's a different noise and it's really natural," explains Jordon, who favors Lucky Craft's Kelly J prop bait — a lure of his own design.
By slightly bending the blades on the prop bait, Jordon can make the bait generate more spray and a different sound.
"Flattening the blades creates a lower pitch," explains Jordon. "The spray looks like baitfish or maybe bass fry scattering." Jordon is quick to point out that when modifying the blade action, it's important to take baby steps; a small tweak will make a big difference.
Jordon warns against "overworking" a prop bait. To achieve the correct action, simpler is often better.
"You can work it a lot of different ways, but the most effective is usually a slow, steady pull of 4 to 5 inches followed by a pause," he explains. "It's actually really straightforward." Most strikes occur between pulls, when the bait is sitting motionless. If not then, "as soon as you start to pull the bait again, a bass will explode on it."
If the simple retrieve isn't working, Jordon believes it's important to experiment.
"There are also times when you can fish the prop bait almost like a buzzbait," he says. "I'll always try reeling it in nice and slow because it makes a little motorboat noise and sometimes that's what the bass want. I know that seems odd, but it works."
At the 2006 Bassmaster Legends Major on Lake Wylie, Jordon utilized a prop bait to target roaming bass and record a top 10 finish.
"In practice, I could see wolf packs of bass cruising the shallows, but I couldn't get them to react to anything that I threw at them," says Jordon. "When I threw the prop bait out there, one would crush it every time. For some reason, that's just what they wanted.