by Steve Butler
Over the 1997 Bass season (April – November up here in N. Wales, depending on the weather) Mike Hughes and I have been experimenting with surface popping lures. Fishing over a wide range of different grounds, kelp beds, shallow and deep rocky areas, clean sand and tidal flow water, has resulted in fish from 2lb to 9lb in weight from all grounds.
Surface poppers do have advantages over diving lures as they do not dive (clue is in the name) and just work along the waters surface, so they can be worked over ground you would not dream of casting your Rebel J30 Jointed Thundersticks or any Rapala lure. The surface poppers Mike and I have been experimenting with are: Lucky 13, Mirrolure 88 mr. Mirrolure 12m, Rebel Super pop-r and the Storm Chug Bug. But the popper we both find to be in a class of its own and had the most success with is the Storm Chug Bug Big Bug (4.5 inches in length, 26gm in weight). It is a fish catcher. I have had a few fish on the Mirrolure 88 mr but the Chug Bug Big Bug is a superior lure, it casts very well being 26gm in weight and looks realistic on the waters surface when worked to its full potential.
Your main aim with your popper is to make your lure look like an injured fish splashing on the waters surface so it looks an easy meal for a bass to snap up and believe me they do.
Calm weather and a flat sea are the best conditions to use the lure. When using your popper, cast out to your selected area where you think feeding fish may be. Then jerk your lure violently to make as much commotion on the water surface as possible for 5 – 6 seconds, then leave your lure still and motionless in the water for 3 – 4 seconds, (the splashing gives the bass something to home in on) then twitch your lure gently for about the 5th of the retrieve, leave motionless for 2 – 3 seconds, then violently jerk your lure for another 3 – 4 seconds then leave motionless again for 2 – 3 seconds, then work you lure with twitches for the rest of your retrieve, pausing your lure for 3 – 4 seconds just before the lure is lifted out of the water.
A bass can attack your lure at any time from when you first start working it, to when you lift your lure out of the water. Bass often take when your popper is still and motionless on the the water surface, it can give you one hell of a fright, when a large bass comes out of the water with your lure in its mouth right in front of you, a fantastic sight. I had one bass attack my popper, in fact make five savage attacks, missing my lure on each occasion, it must have been the Mr Magoo of the fish world. I didn’t hook it.
Mike and I have found out that you should never take your eye off your lure at any time when working it, check for swirls behind your lure as you retrieve, as a bass usually attacks after it swirls behind your popper. Try to work out the difference between the swirl your lure will make and the swirl a bass will make. Remember when you see a swirl be on your guard, it makes you more alert when you know a bass is around. One thing I would like to say about poppers is that you will not hook every fish that attacks your lure, the hooking rate is not as high as you will get with your Thunder-sticks, Rebel or Rapala lures.
We have both been experimenting with braided line using it for most of the season and finding it has it’s advantages. As there is hardly no stretch in braid, we found that we had a higher hooking rate over Mono. Mike has been using the Gorilla braid and I have been using Spiderwire Spectra 2000 with both coping very well with plugging over different grounds.
Mike and I have landed plenty of bass on the Chug Bug Big Bug and we both think it is going to be one of the Top Ten lures in Malcolm’s yearly lure list over the next couple of years. A few different lure have been purchased ready to test out in the 1998 season and if they work half as good as the Storm Chug Bug Big Bug I’ll be happy. All that’s left to say now is I hope to see familiar faces at the AGM and the ’98 Shell Island fish-in.
This article originally appeared in B.A.S.S. Magazine No.86 – May 1998.
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