April 14, 2017
By Terry Madewell
Topwater bass action: Using poppers makes for exciting and highly effective angling.
Topwater bass popping lures have been catching bass for generations. Poppers on the market today have evolved tremendously and offer anglers lures to target specific fishing situations. However, to be consistently successful, poppers must be used to highlight the lures' strengths.
Brett Mitchell is a successful tournament angler, bass fishing guide and fishing rod designer for ALX rods. His extensive experience and partiality for popping lures have enabled him to develop a keen insight to maximize effectiveness for these lures.
"I've learned specific strategies for fishing poppers will vastly improve catch rate," Mitchell said.
According to Mitchell, to use poppers productively, anglers need to understand why bass are attracted to the noisy lures. While poppers produce reaction and feeding bites, he believes that their advantage is making bass mad at the popping noise.
Mitchell says that to properly use poppers begins with equipment. His rod of choice is one specifically designed for poppers — the ALX Toadface, a 7-foot, 2-inch rod with plenty of backbone and a fast tip. This combination enables maximum casting distance and delivers the tip action to maximize the effectiveness of the popping lure. Getting a good pop on a lure begins with the right rod.
In heavy cover and dingy water he uses braided line, but in clear lakes he opts for monofilament.
"Monofilament floats and fluorocarbon sinks," he said. "To get the right pop, either braided or monofilament line works best and it will make a big difference."
Popping lures are designed to mimic baitfish, and Mitchell says it's crucial to keep the color combinations right for the targeted lake. During spring, the targeted forage may be shad, bream, crawfish, frogs or a myriad of other lake-specific food sources. Lure color combinations make a distinct difference depending on the lake. Match lure color patterns to what bass eat in the lake.
Specific techniques vary, but Mitchell says he's found some to be crucial.
"I've learned a popper can be fished and worked in any manner and have the potential to catch a fish; that's one of the fun aspects of this great lure," Mitchell said. "But to maximize this bass-catching tool, I have a specific plan."
Mitchell always casts to a specific target. It's often a hard target like a stump, log, rocky outcrop, weedbed or dock, but not always. On open lakes, underwater points are the target, as well as humps and ledges.
Get the lure as close to the target as possible and keep it in the target proximity to maximize effectiveness. Accurate casts, close to hard targets, are a real key to more bites.
"Bass will tell you how to work the lure," Mitchell said. "I vary the retrieve pattern to capture the tone for that day. One favorite is to pop the bait a couple of times, stop and repeat, but endless varieties exist. Some days the pace must be slow, others days it's fast. Pattern and pace can turn a five-fish day into a 15- to 20-fish day; it's that important."
Poppers in the spring and summer often produce the combination of being the most effective tactic, along with being the most enjoyable and exciting bass fishing experience.