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With bass leaving their beds and ravenous from the rigors of spawning, now’s the time to cast out a topwater popper and get ready for some explosive action.
On many waters, shad begin to spawn soon after the bass have finished. They swim over rocks, submerged vegetation, and other cover, spurting eggs and milt into the water. Bass lurk just beneath them, looking up for an easy meal. They can’t miss your popper, splashing on the surface like a shad on the run. They usually can’t resist it, either.
This hot surface bite won’t last long, though. Use the three proven tactics to make the most of the fun.
TAIL A dressing of feathers and tinsel gives a popper more action, whether you’re popping or pausing it. A rubber skirt imparts even more action, especially when the lure is at rest, and makes the bait look bulkier to hungry bass.
RATTLE In stained water, the added sound of an internal rattle helps bass find your popper.
COLOR Silvery shad patterns best imitate what the bass are feeding on now. You can experiment, but at the very least, the belly should be white.
BODY Light, slender poppers dance realistically on the surface and entice shallow-water bass without spooking them. For longer, more accurate casts, you need a heavy, fat popper, which presents a bigger profile to pull bass from cover. Long, narrow versions work with a side-to-side, dog-walking action that draws them up from deeper structure.
CUP A shallow cup pushes a small spray of water when you pop the lure, making a subtle spitting noise. A wide, deep cup throws off more water and makes a loud plunk.
• A slender, ¼-ounce, subtly spitting popper such as an XCalibur Zell Pop excels with a chugging retrieve along the edges of boat docks and over shallow submerged weedbeds. Cast out, and point your rod tip at the bait. Then repeatedly snap the tip down a few inches while taking up slack line with short turns of the reel handle. Vary the cadence of the retrieve from slow to fast. For reluctant bass, an occasional short pause can prove irresistible.
POP AND STOP
• When bass hold tight to downed trees, flooded bushes, and bulrushes, bulk up to a 3/8- to 5/8-ounce loud-splashing surface lure. A Hula Popper is a good choice. These heavier models are easier to cast to small targets, and they make enough commotion to attract bass out of cover. Pop the bait hard one to five times, let it pause, and vary the duration of the rest from 10 to 30 seconds. Be patient. The undulating skirt will coax approaching bass into walloping your bait.
WALK THE DOG
• This retrieve can entice bass from all sorts of places, but it is especially good at pulling fish up from deeper rocky structure and gravel points. Tie on a 3/8-ounce long, narrow popper, such as a Gunfish 95 in Ghost Minnow. Use a steady retrieve with very quick twitches to impart a continuous side-to-side action. Don’t waste time pausing this bait. It’s made to cover water fast.