A six-pack of topwaters that doesn't fit the mold

Laurie Tisdale

About the authors

Pete Robbins

Pete Robbins

Veteran outdoor writer Pete Robbins provides a fan's perspective of B.A.S.S. complemented by an insider's knowledge of the sport. Follow him on Twitter at @fishywriting.

You’d have to forgive Jon Bondy if it appeared as if he’d gone a little bit crazy during practice for an Elite Series event on Falcon Lake in 2008. While the other pros flipped and Carolina rigged, maybe threw a spinnerbait here and there, it’s almost certain that no one else was throwing the bait on the end of his line — a beastly 8-inch contraption from Musky Buster Lures called the Top Walker.

There are no muskies in Falcon

Maybe the long drive had gotten to him. After all, in terms of changes in latitude, there are few points in the continental United States farther away from his Windsor, Ontario, home than Zapata, Texas. Then again, Bondy, who guides for both muskies and smallmouth when he’s not fishing tournaments, catches tons of big bass every year while targeting muskies. In fact, he said it’s a rare muskie fishing day when he doesn’t latch on to a 4-pound smallmouth that’s decided to crash his oversize baits.

While he eventually caught his tournament fish on soft plastics, the Top Walker gave away their locations during the practice period. The front half of the bait is a bulbous section of wood that rotates like a buzzbait, while the back half is a traditional bucktail. It weighs 1 1/2 ounces with dual 3/0 trebles — probably too big to specifically target bass on most lakes, and that’s why it appealed to him.

“It’s totally off the wall,” he says. “Something they’ve never seen before, and I’m sure they think it’s some type of terrestrial animal.”

Indeed, it’s a good lesson for anglers everywhere to learn. When bass have become conditioned to every standard popper, walker and prop bait on the tackle store shelf, but prime topwater conditions prevail, sometimes it pays to go with something they’ve likely never seen before.

John Bondy: Frantic Fred

Bondy’s Falcon experience caused him to connect the dots even further about applying muskie lures to tournament bass situations. Indeed, while ­educated fish are acutely aware of just about every popular bait, the ability to show them something new intrigued him. Since then he’s had some killer days with the Frantic Fred from Sledgehammer Lure Company. While it comes in a 9-inch size, there’s also a lesser-known 4-inch version that is just right for tournament applications.

The Frantic Fred can be walked like a Heddon Zara Spook or a Lucky Craft Sammy, but unlike most walking baits that have little or no action on a straight retrieve, it also has a distinctly appealing action when reeled across the top. On a steady retrieve, the curved body shape “causes it to just kind of snake across the top,” Bondy says. “And when you walk the dog, it does a little bit of spitting, too. It’s just a different look.”

His guiding business typically puts him on world-class smallmouth waters, even when he’s focused in on muskies. He’s realized that when confronted with the snaking action of the Frantic Fred “the smallmouth go absolutely nuts, and when you catch one, it’s usually at least 3 or 4 pounds.”

He’s also pleased that it’s American-made, which is typical of most of the muskie genre. He fishes it on the same 6-foot, 6-inch to 7-foot medium-heavy baitcasting rod he would use to heave other bass-size walking topwaters. The lighter, shad-oriented color schemes will work from coast to coast, although in the North he dotes on a natural perch pattern.