Bass Fishing, Bass Lures, Bass Boats, Russ Bassdozer

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Smallmouth Surface Commotion

By Russ Bassdozer

Ever want to snoop inside someone's tackle box, uncovering their secrets? Well, here's my topwater smallmouth bag unveiled for you! So make sure you check out every compartment. Leave no pocket unopened. You just don't know what you'll find in here!

Soft stickbaits. Zoom Flukes, Lunker City Slug-gos, Lunker City Fin-S-Fish, Baby Bass Assassins, Bobby Garland's new BG Custom Minnow and other soft stickbaits often tend to plane up towards the surface when there is the slightest line pressure on them - especially when twitched or ripped on the retrieve - especially when there is current or wind pushing against the line too! I try not to fight this natural tendency in them. Therefore I use Flukes, Slug-gos and many other soft stickbaits in a surface-oriented manner. Just develop a cadence of reeling in a few turns, then jerking or "ripping" the lure with the rod tip, and then pausing momentarily. They will flutter and flit around, and smallies will chase after them, striking repeatedly. Therefore, I often superglue the bait to the offset neck of the hook so the plastic does not get pulled down and balled up on the hook during a series of repeated strikes.Occasionally, just let it drop dead and drift down a few feet. Bass will suck it up as it drifts helplessly! If not, just let it lie still for a while, then rip it good - and brace your feet for what happens next!

Floating worms. I like to use buoyant floater worms along deeply cut banks. I am sure many vendors make good worms to use...Zoom Tricks, Needles, Danny Joe Humphrey...many others. Simply pierce them through the nose! When nose-piercing, you can use an incredibly small size of hook such as the Yamamoto Split Shot hook! Such a small size lets the worm float better and it avoids weeds/snags better. Other times, especially in slower flows or calmer side pockets, I will use a Cuckoo Bird rig. To make this rig, simply pass the Split Shot hook through the bait - about 1/4 to 1/3 the body length back from the bait's nose. I use a larger size hook than when nose-piercing. Cast this quivering Cuckoo Bird weightless around cover for topwater twitching action. My friend Eto invented this rigging as far as I know. The Cuckoo Bird makes a lot of surface disturbance that just cannot be gotten with a nose-hooked floater worm.

Double Hula Hula. Get a 1/16 oz. feathered Arbogast Fly Rod Hula Popper...any color will do. Strip off all the feathers. Get a 4" Yamamoto double tail Hula Grub or a Haddock Kreepy Krawl'r spider grub...any color will do. Lace the hula or spider grub onto the bare hook shank of the Hula Popper. Secure the grub with a little shot of super glue. Tie it onto an 8 to 12 lb. spinning outfit. Splat this bug down near the outside edges of tall reed stands and weed beds, or next to wood or rock cover. Use it anywhere along shallow banks where you might otherwise toss a floating trick worm. Pop it, shake it, twitch it. Whoosh! If anyone asks, just tell 'em you got them on the double Hula Hula!

Twitchbaits. There is a model of twitchbait that I have used for so many years - the Rapala Floating Minnow. From the outside, twitchbaits look like jerkbaits - both plastic-lipped minnows - but jerkbaits are tools to be used for their superb sub-surface suspending abilities, whereas twitchbaits are shallow floating minnows used for topwater.

I love to cast twitching minnows parallel to weed bed edges or along the face of thick reed stands on calm days. Just cast parallel and let the lure sit there until all the ripple rings are gone. You could get hit right away. If not, just wait so long that you can't stand it, then twitch the lure again so it sends out more nervous ripples but does not really move forward. Pause and wait, which is when you get blasted. Do it some more. When you are ready to move it forward, keep your rod tip down next to the water and just as you wind all the slack out of your line, snap the rod tip back to the side and start reeling in at a moderate speed. Turn the handle a few times, snap the rod tip again, turn the handle a few more times, snap the rod tip, and STOP DEAD. The minnow will bob back up to the surface, and as stillness settles in and starts to linger, it should be blasted by a big bass that just can't stand it any longer. If no hits, just repeat all the way down the weed edge or reed stand.

Black Jitterbugs. The Arbogast Jitterbug has been around for over fifty years, and it is still going strong. Ask any night time bass angler if they carry a Jitterbug, and chances are you will hear that they do. Ask them what color they use, and you will no doubt hear that it is black. Yes indeed! Black Jitterbugs produce plenty of night bass. A Jitterbug is so easy to use, and fun too. In short, it is a winner - for night expert or beginner! There is only one size and one color of Jitterbug that is the best one in my opinion for smallies. That is the 3" long, 5/8 ounce model G650 in black (02).

Yellow Magics. These are small, very active poppers. Work it fast when the smallies are aggressive, especially sunrise/sunset. Rod up with line held out of water makes a fast slashy, spitty action. Rod held to the side on a sinking line makes plenty of muddling, blooping action on a slow, tantalizing retrieve. Can single-step "walk" it after a pop or rod jerk. Use light action rod, 10 lb. test. Fish will easily hook themselves on the original hooks - needle thin and hypodermic sharp. These baits are made in Japan, and not always easy to find in the United States, but they are well worth the trouble to find.

Fish Head Walkin' Stick Junior. A small, versatile lure with superior hand craftsmanship. Does all kinds of topwater actions, including dog-walking, popping, spitting, slashing, etc. The design of the Walkin' Stick allows the bait to be worked very slowly, moderately, or very quickly without loosing any of the walking motion or a loss of control. Because it is so versatile, many Midwestern tourney anglers use it exclusively because they can meet almost any topwater bite requirement with this one single bait. Ronnie Pettit makes these.

Zara Spook. Big smallies love the original 4.5" Zara Spook walk-the-dog style of surface lure. It is one of the most exciting lures! It has a built-in "walk the dog" action that must be manipulated by the angler. Done properly, this creates a spitting, side-to-side slashing commotion that irresistibly draws fish to it! The Spook is deadliest in open water over 6 to 12 foot depths wherever fish are spread across small, scattered pieces of bottom cover. Just cast far and wide, thereby covering lots of water and attracting lots of fish to all the commotion topside. Watch mad smallies skyrocket to the top from hidden crooks and crannies in the bottom to smash it!

Johnson Silver Minnow. The 1/4 ounce, 2 1/4 inch model is the best one for me for smallies! I always sweeten the deal with a 3" or 4" Mister Twister grub. The key point about the Mister Twister is that the curly tail is much thicker than most other curly-tailed grubs so it creates very strong vibrations as it wriggles frantically behind the spoon. Equally important, the tail is thick enough to drag through tough cover all day without being torn off. Don't just put the grub onto the hook so it lays straight like usual - instead thread the grub body a little bit up onto the curvature of the hook - tail pointing down - and secure it to the butt of the spoon with a little spot of super glue. It will look a bit odd this way as it kind of points up at an angle. I use black, white, and chartreuse grubs. A gold spoon/black grub combo is pretty as a picture, and it is deadly under low light conditions at dawn and dusk. Use silver/chartreuse in turbid or muddy water.

You really want to retrieve it so that the lure barely stays under the surface and kind of bulges the water. Just reel in steady, never jig it or let it drop...just cast the spoon/grub far across fish-holding emergent cover - weeds, timber, has a flexible metal tine that protects the hook, making it weedless and snagless. One of the oldest of all bass lures still in production, rather underutilized today, but still so very deadly!

Bulging Spinnerbaits. You can also burn a spinnerbait so fast that it bulges just under the surface in shallow water (0 to 6 feet). In clear water you can burn it on the top in water as deep as you can still see the some clear smallmouth impoundments,  there can be 15 or more feet of water clarity on a good day. Smallies will skyrocket to the top to blast it...the heavier the jig head (within reason) the faster you retrieve, the better the smallies blast it!

I like to modify buzzbaits to create spinnerbaits out of them for waking and bulging on the surface. Take the buzz blade off the wire arm, just clip the buzzbait wire, form a loop in it, and attach a premium Sampo swivel and big Willow blade. It should look like a regular spinnerbait, except for the rectangular buzzbait wire. This positions the blade far back over the skirt - and it keeps the skirt just under the surface - much closer to the blade's surface commotion than a regular long-arm spinnerbait wire! Keep your rod tip high and burn this back so the blade wakes and bulges the water without popping through the surface.

As with bulging the Johnson Silver Minnow (see above), the Mister Twister curly tail worm makes a deadly trailer for bulging spinnerbaits. The extra strong curly tail produces a heavy rippling vibration that attracts gamefish at the faster speeds used with the bulging tactic. Most of the delicate, thin-tailed curly grubs on the market today just cannot produce the strong vibrations that stimulate fish to strike like the Mister Twister does whenever you are fishing your spinnerbaits at a fast pace. Rig with the tail pointing up. Try a gold blade with black twisters and black skirts in low light. Also chartreuse twisters on white skirts. Try chartreuse skirts, copper blade with a white grub trailer! You're bulging now!

Buzzbaits. White by day or black by fire tiger in spring & fall! Works equally well under calm or windy conditions. To me, the blade's buzzing surface disturbance obscures the actual jig dressing (silicone skirt, soft plastic body, trailer, etc.), preventing the fish from eyeballing it too closely. This is why I also prefer to use modified buzzbait arms to bulge spinnerbaits - so that the willow leaf blade obscures the bait with its surface disturbance and does not let them see it clearly. It's kind like a "Romulan cloaking device" for lures! So how they slam it!

Kalin's 5" Salty Lunker Grub. Use the fat-bodied 5" Kalin's Salty Lunker Grub in black, white, smoke, chartreuse - or any color. It fits perfectly on the light 1/16th oz. or 1/8 oz. model WSH Brewer Slider. Even still, I may clip some lead off the back to square it up where the grub head will be glued on. Stick a glass rattle or two into the fat body! Texpose the hook.

I love to hold the rod tip way up to make the Kalin's grub bulge and ripple just under the surface near cover on glassy calm days. If you retrieve it slow and steady hardly under the surface, it creates a wide, side-to-side rolling, wobbling waddle that smallies cannot resist! You must rig the curly tail pointing up, otherwise the grub spins. You really cannot use the WSH head with other models of grubs - they tend to spin even at slow speeds - whereas the Kalin's will not.

I am sure that I probably left something off the list, but I have at least one of each of the above lures in my bag whenever I go out to try to stir up a surface commotion with scrappy smallies!

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