the New England states to the Amazon River Basin to Bill Dance's backyard,
American anglers are throwing top-water lures. If you've ever had a 21
-inch speckled trout slam a top water lure three feet from your rod tip,
you know it will startle you.
- A speckled trout may not sound like a large-mouth bass but no matter
how you describe the sound made when a speckled trout busts a top-water
lure it will give you a rush of adrenalin every time.
- On a nasty gray day in December of 1994, my friend and experienced
fisherman Rick Conner introduced me to top-water trout fishing and "walking-the-dog".
On that day we caught 20 specks between 21 and 24-inches long and left
the spot with the fish still biting. I don't think Conner has thrown anything
but a top-water lure since.
- When fishing with top-water lures, it is a good idea to have good equipment
and it should be kept in good working order as fishertnen like Conner,
who has fished Galveston Bay for more than 25 years, will tell you many
trophy-sized speckled trout are caught on topwater lures throughout the
year. I saw Conner catch a 30-inch trout in Galveston Bay on a topwater
lure. So you never know when that 8 to 10 pounder (or should I say 10 to
15 pounder for those fishing the Laguna Madre) is going to bust your top-water
lure. When she does, you don't want to have last year's line spooled on
your reel. Or, have a rod and reel you haven't picked up in six months.
The better the gear you are using, the longer you will be able to fish
before fatigue sets in.
- Many rod manufacturers make rods designed to fish top-water lures exclusively.
Falcon Rods makes a rod called Cara Top Water, a rod designed for poppers
and walk-the-dog type baits. Falcon also makes a Peacock Special I designed
for big propeller baits and the Peacock Special II rod with added length
for casting distance and fighting power. Castaway Rods makes a surface
bait rod and several different action-popping rods. All-Star Rods has a
Tops-n -Tails Special in the classic model and a more expensive model equipped
with titanium-coated guides and an even more expensive model equipped with
extra coffosion resistant titanium-carbide guides. American Rodsmith also
has a good popping rod.
- G-Loomis makes a quality coastal popping rod and several quality light
to heavy bass rods with a fast taper that would make a fine top-water rod.
These rods are a little stiffer than the average fishing rod.
- A stiffer rod delivers the energy from your muscles to the lure more
efficiently than a flimsier rod. With a flimsy rod, some energy is lost
in the bending of the rod. It depends on who you ask as to what type of
reel is best for top-water fishing. I prefer a bait caster, because I am
more comfortable walking-the-dog with a bait caster. Many people in Florida
like to walk the dog with a spin caster, the reel depends on the individual.
- After a couple of hundred casts, it is a good idea to sharpen the hooks
on your lure; especially the front hooks, because while walking-the-dog,
the hooks hit the side of the lure causing them to dull over time. walking-the-dog
is one of the retrieving actions used by top-water fishermen. To walk the
dog, the angler pumps the wrist back and forth while retrieving the lure.
This wrist-pumping action causes the lure to snap back and forth. As the
lure moves back and forth it makes a wake across the top of the water as
if a small school of finger mullet was passing over. In four feet of water
or less, it is like the lure is calling out for a speckled trout to eat
- The position of the eyes and mouth of a speckled trout make it a natural
surface predator. A speckled trout's eyes are on top of his head so the
fish doesn't miss anything passing over the top of it. I knew someone who
had an aquarium with a speckled trout, a gaftop and a black drum in it.
I asked what do you feed them. He said, "dead shrimp mostly, If I
drop anything live in the tank, the speck eats it before anything else
- Many speckled trout are caught at night on topwater lures. When fishing
in the dark, I concentrate more on hearing because I can't see anything.
So anything that hits my topwater lure at night sounds like a 10 pounder.
When fishing at night, I try to maintain contact with the lure the best
I can so I can feel anything pull back and listen closely. Everything seems
quiet at night so I can hear my lure rattling and splashing from a long
way. Hearing a five pounder bust your lure in the middle of the pitch black
darkness will get your heart pounding.
- At times, larger trout will quietly slurp the lure under. And still,
other times a speckled trout will smack it out of the water a few inches.
After the lure lands back in the water, wait a second or two and on the
first hint of movement he'll nail it. There are still other times when
the trout will smack it once and then leave it alone.
- Conner says when the trout are hitting the lure, but not taking it,
he likes to have another rod rigged and ready.
- "I like a rod with some type of suspending lure such as a MirrOlure
Catch 2000 or even some type of soft plastic tied on to cast to the same
spot where a previous strike took place," he says.
- There is probably a different retrieving style for each individual
angler. The judge is the fish. If you catch a fish, you must be doing something
right. There are several retrieving styles used by top-water fishennen.
- Conner sometimes employs a type of sliding action in his retrieve,
pulling the lure a foot or so with a quick stop and repeating this throughout
the retrieve. Anglers who fish the big propeller baits for peacock bass
use this retrieve. Conner says he is always experimenting with his retrieving
speed and cadence but his favorite retrieve is walking-the-dog.
- There are several types of swimming and jointed swimming surface lures
that have a lip on the bottom giving them a built in swimming action. With
these lures the wrist doesn't get tired as fast. The swimming action is
similar to walking-the-dog; but, they swim just under the surface instead
of on top.
- Most anglers have a favorite condition to fish top-waters, such as
spring, fall, cool water, at dawn, dusk or overcast skies. I know an angler
who caught an 8-pound speckled trout in the middle of the day on a top-water
lure in July with partly cloudy skies. So, the best time to fish top waters
is a personal preference. My preference is spring because in the winter
the water is so cold that the speckled trouts metabolism is at it's lowest.
So, they don't have to eat as often as they as they do during warmer months.
As the water warms in the spring, the fish's metabolic rate increases;
and, at this same time, the females'eggs are forming. These two factors
make the speckled trout feed with less caution in the spring than in the
- One advantage a top-water lure has over other lures is an angler can
cast a top-water lure farther than any other lure or any kind of bait,
except for the surf casting long rodders. This enables the fishennan to
cover large areas of water in a small amount of time.
- Most top-water lures have a large ball bearing in them that not only
rattles upon retrieving the lure, but keeps the weight of the lure in the
rear of the lure. With the weight in the rear, the lure is more aerodynamic
than with the weight in the mid-section. As the lure settles in the water,
the ball bearing makes for easy walking-the-dog action. In addition, the
top-water lure is easy to fish over bottom structure like oyster and grass
beds; two of the speckled trout's favorite types of structure.
- If you are looking to catch a true trophy speckled trout, I believe
a top-water lure will weed out a lot of small fish and give you more time
to fish for an honest eight-plus pound spotted-seatrout. If you want to
join the crowd, try fishing Galveston Bay. If you like a more serene fishing
trip, go south to the Laguna Madre where the crowds are smaller and the
fish are bigger.
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