August 28, 2018
Prop baits are bass fishing’s answer to rock n’ roll. A good surface-lure angler can make one dance, sputter, jingle, pop, rattle, shake and shimmy. Fishing them is fun, especially when temperatures start cooling down in September and bass are cruising the shallows.
Some folks call them floater-spinners. Others prefer the term “propeller lure” or “slush bait.” Call them what you will. Prop baits are bass catchers extraordinaire, and if these topwater plugs aren’t already part of your bassing blueprint, they ought to be.
A small propeller on one or both ends of an elongated lure body characterizes this group of artificials. The plug floats when at rest, and on retrieve, water twirls the propellers, causing them to sputter like a trolling motor tilted too high.
You can fish large areas by reeling rapidly or cover small spots thoroughly with a twitching retrieve. Prop baits create more disturbance than most topwaters, so they work well even on windy days and in muddy water.
An added bonus is the fact that prop baits are lunker bass lures. That feature, as much as any other, has given hall-of-fame status to venerable names like the Smithwick Devil’s Horse, Cotton Cordell’s Boy Howdy, Luhr-Jensen’s Nip-I-Diddee and the Heddon Torpedo.
Following are tips for using prop baits. Try them, but by all means, add your own personal magic. Your magic wand is your fishing rod, and every movement of your rod tip breathes life into these whimsical little lures. Do it right, and you’ll pull a bass out of your lake – maybe several.
One Prop or Two?
In general, single-prop lures are best for use in smooth water. Two-prop lures are standouts on choppy surfaces.
Steady As She Goes
Prop baits sometimes produce better when reeled steadily, setting up a repetitious sound sequence. This is especially true in murky water and at times when visibility is low.
Because they can be cast and retrieved at a steady pace, they are ideal bass lures for children and novice anglers discovering new techniques and routines.
Prop baits are superb for night fishing when the outdoor temperature is still high. The continuous sputtering sound makes it easy to monitor the lure’s location, and with a steady retrieve, the line stays taut so you can detect strikes.
Cast on Past
Bass in oxbow lakes and river backwaters often hold near cypress trees and other shallow timber. Cast past a tree and make a quick retrieve, buzzing the lure across the surface as close to the tree as possible. If that doesn’t produce, buzz the lure on top and let it hit the tree and “die,” sitting quietly on the surface.
Use the Right Line
Heavy line, 12-pound-test or higher, is ok when using a straight steady retrieve, but if you’re working with short twitches and sputters, prop baits will perform better if you use relatively light line (8- to 10-pound test).
Many bassers overlook prop baits when fishing rivers, but the effectiveness of these lures increases where heavily oxygenated water and current keep bass active. Most river bass live in less than five feet of water. Consequently, prop baits work great in running water. They’re dynamite on river smallmouths and spotted bass.
Pick a Pocket
Some prop baits have a flattened or dished face, resulting in more erratic action than models with a pointed nose. Work these in small pockets in lily pads or other cover. A gentle twitch makes the lure spit little sprays of water. A sharper twitch produces an audible pop.
Let the lure stay in one spot a long time, and see how many different movements you can impart with your rod tip. One particular quirk may entice a strike.
Stop the Flop
Prop baits sometimes rotate, especially if both props turn in the same direction. For this reason, many anglers tie the lure to a swivel to prevent twisted line.
Be sure the swivel isn’t too heavy or it may cause the lure’s nose to run below the surface, preventing the propellers from throwing water.
Mad About Shad
When casting to surface-feeding schools of black bass, use chrome-colored prop baits or those that otherwise resemble shad. The more closely the lure resembles a shad in size, color and action, the more likely it is to garner a strike.
More Than Black Bass
Although generally considered black bass lures, prop baits will also catch striped bass, hybrid stripers, white bass, pike, and muskies. Part of the fun of fishing them is the fact that you never know what you’ll hook next.
Don’t Give Up
If you’ve made up your mind to catch fish with prop baits, stay with it. Don’t make 10 casts and then switch to something else. Confidence is as important here as in any other method of bass fishing, and the only way to gain it is to keep that bait wet.