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

Ish Monroe: River2Sea Whopper Plopper

When Ish Monroe needs a big, noisy bait with an oversized profile, he turns to the River2Sea Whopper Plopper, a 5-inch jointed hard bait that kicks up a fuss. The front section looks much like any other walking bait, but the tail end of this 1 3/8-ounce behemoth rotates like a buzzbait blade and sprays water. There are also glass beads inside to make additional noise.

“Since I got it last fall, I’ve been throwing it over grass and around docks,” he says. “In slick, calm conditions, you can wind it like a buzzbait, but in windy conditions you can really rip it. You have to let the fish tell you. I was on Clear Lake one day winding it, and I never had
a bite. Then I started ripping, and I caught a bunch of big fish.”

He uses it when searching for beds, too, and that’s how he’s caught some of his biggest fish this spring. Typically, he starts with a mostly black loon pattern that provides a big profile under all conditions.

“You can catch lots of 2- and 3-pounders on it, but when you need a big bite, 7-plus, that’s when you should pull it out,” Monroe explains. “The strikes are absolutely explosive.”

He throws it on a 7-foot, 7-inch Daiwa Ballistic composite rod, paired with a 6.3:1 Daiwa Zillion reel, spooled with 50-pound Samurai Braid. “I use braid on all of my topwaters except a Devil’s Horse,” he says. “You can make longer casts, get a better hookup ­ratio and you don’t break fish off.”

Randy Howell: Molix Proteus

When conditions are calm and bass want an aggressive topwater with a small profile, Randy Howell turns to the 3 1/2-inch Proteus from Italian lure manufacturer Molix. Unlike many other walking baits, which are roughly the same diameter from nose to tail, the Proteus has a narrow nose before widening out substantially just beyond the midsection. Combined with an internal tungsten weight system that moves but doesn’t float freely, in addition to walking, “this bait hops,” Howell says.

As a result of its architecture, at rest this lure sits low in the water, to the point that just its nose is sticking out above the surface.

“I fish it pretty much with a fast retrieve, then stop it suddenly, then get fast again,” Howell says. “A lot of times, when you stop it, that’s when they’ll blast it.”

He used it successfully this year in an Elite Series tournament on Okeechobee and expects that it will be particularly deadly on lakes with blueback herring.

His favorite colors are aurora ocean and silver bait, and he throws the lure on a 7-foot, 2-inch Daiwa Steez rod paired with a Daiwa Type-R Zillion reel spooled with 55-pound-test Samurai Braid.

Aaron Martens: Megabass XPod

The XPod can’t decide whether it wants to be a popper or a walk-the-dog lure, so Megabass decided to make it both. It comes in two sizes — a 4 1/4-inch, 3/4-ounce version and a 3 1/2-inch, 1/2-ounce model — but the trick isn’t in the profile of the bait. Instead, it’s all about the built-in adjustable lip, which can be placed in any one of seven different positions, taking it anywhere from a gaping-mouthed popper to a true walking bait.

Aaron Martens says his favorite ­position is “three clicks down,” which allows the lure to walk and chug, but he’ll make it either more or less aggressive depending on how the fish react. If they want it walked fast, there’s an application that’ll get that done, or it can be changed to chug and spit.

Most importantly, it’s a lure that allows for different fish attitudes. “You can go from quiet to obnoxious real fast,” he said. He can adjust on the fly without retying, even from cast to cast, to take advantage of the amount of chop or shade on the water.

Martens fishes the XPod and the XPod Jr. on a Megabass F5-72XRC baitcasting rod, a 7-foot, 2-inch medium action rod rated for 1/4- to 1-ounce lures. By combining a main line of 20-pound Sunline braid with a short leader of 16-pound-test Sunline Shooter, he can maintain the lure’s action, but he can also set the hooks at the end of a long cast. He likes a variety of colors for the lure, but if forced to choose one for all conditions, it would be GG bass.