It was a typical summer afternoon in Georgia, hot and humid. I had taken one of my friends fishing in one of my coveted honey holes, an agricultural pond in my hometown of Moreland, where I had been fishing since I was a child. My friend was from the Northwest and was only in town for the week, and I intended to show him a good day of fishing for southern bass. Unfortunately, the fish did not cooperate. We hadn’t made a single catch that day. Just when we were about to give up all hope of a fish fry that night, I decided to strap on a Zara-Spook and make one last effort. I dumped it near a thick undergrowth near the center of the lake. After a few shakes, the water around the lure exploded like a depth charge as it was engulfed by a large six-pound mouth. After I had secured my prize on a crossbar, I decided to try my luck again near the same spot. To my and my friend’s surprise, there was a repeat performance of a fish that could have passed for the others’ twin. I guess we were going to eat fried fish after all!
In the same pond a year earlier, he had caught two fish at the same time on a Bagley Chug-O-Lure, one on the front treble hook and one on the rear. They weren’t trophy-sized by any means, maybe a pound each, but memorable nonetheless. And I realize that as I reflect on all the big, memorable fish I’ve caught, the only ones I can recall the exact details of the catch are the ones I caught with surface lures. There’s nothing like watching a fish explode from the depths to attack a surface lure, or watching a huge bucket mouth lift its head out of the water as it sucks your lure into its mouth. There is something about not only feeling, but also seeing this event as it occurs. And over the years, I think this is why the surface lures in my box have become my favorites for fishing in almost any condition. Some of my favorite lures and techniques are listed in this article.
The buzz-bait is a fairly new lure design, having only been around for the last twenty years, but it is very effective. I have found that some fishermen have not yet added this lure to their arsenal or are hesitant to use it. I think that’s usually because they haven’t been given a chance or taken the time to learn how to fish it properly. This is one of the most versatile lures I have come across and it is also an excellent fish finder as it can cover a large area due to its high retrieval speed and long casting distances.
Buzz baits are available in a variety of sizes and designs. Some have two bladed propellers, others three, and some have an additional “cluck” blade that collides with the propeller during retrieval. My personal favorite is a medium-sized two-bladed smooth propeller with a plain white or chartreuse skirt.
These lures are especially effective in shallow water near shores and around obstructions and vegetation, places where bass tend to congregate in the late afternoon and early morning, however they can also attract the attention of fish in deeper waters and bring them to the surface. The lure’s design makes it fairly weed-free, allowing you to fish in areas where you may not be able to use other surface lures. Sometimes I purposely bounce the blade off a log or other obstruction during recovery as this seems to drive even stubborn bass insane, resulting in furious hits.
For the beginning buzz-bait user, it may take a couple of tries to perfect your technique, but don’t be discouraged. The rewards of learning the proper use of this lure will be great. You will have to start recovering it almost as soon as it hits the water and keep it on the surface of the water. To do this, you will require a quick recovery and you will have to keep the tip of the reed high. As you get used to the lure you will also learn to handle it around obstructions by moving the tip of the rod from side to side, this is useful for bouncing the blade off an obstruction, as I mentioned earlier.
Walking the dog
The technique of dog walking has been around for a long time, but it still works like a charm. I still use the original Zara-Spook for this method, but there are also many other lures made now with a similar design. The size of this lure seems to attract large fish, but you will also catch a lot of smaller fish.
To use this technique with a Zara-Spook or similar lure, simply move the tip of the rod to one side on retrieval, which will cause the lure to move from side to side. This movement appears to be one that actually attracts fish, probably because it resembles the actions of a wounded minnow.
Another advantage of the full-size Spook lure is that you can cast it a mile out of the field. But it is also available in smaller sizes depending on your preferences and fishing conditions.
Surface worm rig
This worm deck simply consists of a soft plastic worm mounted without weeds and without weight. You probably want to use lightweight spinning rigs with this rig because of its light weight, which makes casting difficult.
Any type of worm can be used with this kit, but some will float better than others. Many anglers use the old straight long worm that does not have a curly tail as they offer unique action when fished this way and tend to float well. The recovery method is up to you, jerking motion or direct, slow or fast recovery. Experiment for yourself and find what works in the given situation.
Assembled properly, this is one of the least weed-less lure setups, making it ideal for casting in dense water lilies and weed beds. It is also ideal for fishing close to shore, such as around bulrush and other vegetation. Bass doesn’t seem to resist this rig, even fussy or spawning fish will attack this lure if you can get it close enough to them. If the snooks are in bed, I have found that this is sometimes the only lure they will pay attention to. If you see a large bass on the bed, or hanging out in the shallow water, don’t be afraid to cast this lure in the same area more than once because sometimes it takes multiple times to really get your attention.
Poppers have been around for a long time too and come in many different styles, but they are all fundamentally the same. The main feature is a concave mouth at the front of the lure that traps the water and causes the popping sound. This is a fairly straightforward lure to use, you simply retrieve the lure with a jerking motion that makes the lure jump. I usually let the lure settle for a few seconds after it first hits the water. This allows time for any fish that may have been momentarily spooked by the release to return and investigate. Sometimes you will even take hits while the lure is there. I usually try to allow enough time for the ripples caused by the splash to disappear.
The speed of recovery is up to you and you may want to vary it to see what works best on a particular day. An old trick I’ve used is to remove the rear treble hook and replace it with a trailer of some kind, like a curly tail or a minnow jig with a short guide. Larger, louder poppers are sometimes good to use on a windy day when you will need to cause a little more commotion to overcome the waves.
In closing, I hope everyone can have as many memorable experiences using surface lures as I did and still do. Try all of these methods if you haven’t already, and don’t be afraid to try new things and experiment with these techniques to make them your own. I can’t wait to get back to the lake and experience the next memorable catch!