The topic of selecting the right fishing line for a given lure often involves several variables. The size of the lure, fish in that body of water, and personal preferences all go into the equation for picking the right line type and pound test. Add in the fact that different lines can also affect a lure’s action and using the correct line becomes critical.
Bassmaster Elite Series pro Bill Lowen keeps his approach relatively straightforward when selecting his line to make sure that he can stay in control of his lures and let them work as intended.
For the most part, topwater baits are best when fished on either monofilament or braided line and Lowen will use both depending on the bait and where he is fishing.
Little Stik and Big Stik
For both of these large topwater baits, Lowen prefers braided line for several different reasons.
“These baits will cast a country mile with any line, but they will cast farthest with braided line,” Lowen said. “There is no benefit to using mono here because when the bait is that far away and one gets it, you don’t want any stretch and the braided line doesn’t have any. That’s why I go with a 30-pound braid. The only thing I change between the two baits is using a heavier rod for the Big Stik.”
He also prefers braid for working the baits more effectively.
“You have more control with braid and can walk it much better,” he added.
Skimmer and Skimmer Grande
These two walking baits are lures that Lowen is comfortable fishing on both braided and monofilament lines and he says they walk well with either type of line.
“They are smaller baits with a subtle action, so I don’t want to use too heavy line,” Lowen said and he prefers a 12 or 15-pound monofilament or a 20-pound braided line.
The Finesse Popper is a bite-sized topwater bait that excels when fish are feeding on smaller bait and Lowen says he is careful to select the right line to maximize its action.
“It walks really well, but you don’t want to use a line that is too heavy because it can take away some of that action. You don’t want to hinder the natural movement of the bait,” Lowen said.
With that being said, he fishes it with a 12 or 15-pound monofilament line or a lightweight 15-pound braided line.
“Braided line and prop baits don’t mix. Because braid is so limp, it tends to fold back on itself and wrap up in the prop,” began Lowen. So, he prefers a 15-pound monofilament when fishing the HeliPs.
Crankbaits, Jerkbaits and the Glide Fluke
For this collection of lure types, fluorocarbon line is the gold standard for modern bass anglers and Bill Lowen believes it is the way to go.
Bill Lowen Square Bill Crankbait
Lowen will fish his signature series squarebill crankbait on anything from 12 to 20-pound test fluorocarbon and he adjusts it based on how he wants to fish it.
“I will use 12 if I want it to get down to the maximum depth, which is around 3-feet. I change my line based on how deep I want it to go,” Lowen said. “I’ll go all the way up to 20-pound test if I want to have it wake on the surface.”
Pinjack 200 and Beast Hunter
For these two diving crankbaits, Lowen typically goes with a 12-pound test.
“For the Pinjack, I want it to get down as deep as it can go and 12-pound lets me do that. I also think you get the best action with it,” Lowen added.
For the bigger Beast Hunter, he follows the same reasoning but will go to 15-pound if fishing around heavier cover.
This flat-sided crankbait is one that Lowen said is highly affected by the line you use and because of that, he always goes with 12-pound fluorocarbon.
“The way I fish the Shaker is with a lot of twitching during the retrieve. I will also hesitate for a second and pause it when I come by a piece of cover,” Lowen began.“If you use too heavy of line, the bait tends to come back on itself when you pause it. With a heavier line, it also doesn’t twitch as well.”
Rock-n-Vibe and Suspending Vibration Lipless
Lowen keeps it very simple for all of his lipless crankbait fishing and uses the same line across the boat.
“I use 15-pound fluorocarbon for all of my rattle baits. It gives you the best casting and you still have good contact and control with your lure,” he said.
Like the Square Bill, Lowen finds himself adjusting his line size for the Flit jerkbaits based on the conditions and what he wants to achieve.
“Adjusting the line is the easiest way to control the depth that your bait will get down to. The Flit already dives down more than a lot of baits that are the same size and adjusting your line can get them even deeper,” Lowen said. “They are the deepest diving ‘shallow jerkbait’ I know of.”
For the most part, he will use a ten or 12-pound test but will increase it at times.
“Going up to 15-pound will keep it up much higher in the water column,” he added.
When fishing either size of the Glide Fluke in both the sinking and floating version, Lowen sticks with the same 15-pound fluorocarbon line.
“To me, that’s the perfect balance where you can still get good action from the bait and still withstand all the movement from the bait. I fish it with a bunch of jerks and twitches and that puts stress on the line, so 15-pound is perfect,” he added.
Selecting the right line for each lure is a critical piece of the puzzle. Picking the right line will ensure that you are getting the best action from your lures and set yourself up for success on the water.
If there’s a hot, hard bodied lure type out there today, it’s the glide bait. For the longest time, two sectioned baits were an under the radar bait – especially the big ones. Now, every lure manufacturer out there is either scrambling to bring one to market, or they have several from which to choose. At ICAST 2017, ima introduced us to their competitor to the market, and today, we take a closer look at their Glide Fluke.
Every fall, bass focus their efforts on baitfish. Whether they are threadfin shad or gizzards, blueback herring or any other small forage, all species of bass are gorging on them across the country. There are many ways to catch them when bass have their eyes on schooling baitfish, but this time of year professional angler Michael Murphy is throwing the ima Glide Fluke because of its ability to perform in many situations and because it has a knack for catching larger fish.
Early Fall Glide Flukes
We all know that shad and other nomadic fish head for the backs of creeks and into the shallow water once fall begins and Murphy says this occurs once the temperatures start to cool and the days begin to get shorter. “Length of day, water temperature and rain are three of the triggers for the baitfish migration, and this time of year the bigger bass are following them into the shallows,” Murphy says.
“Usually this time of year I am using a standard cast and retrieve with the Glide Fluke. It is a lot of fun, and I will use it all of the same places where you would think to throw a buzzbait,” he begins. “I’ll cover water quickly and focus on shade lines and hard cover like docks and rocks that bass use to ambush shad.”
He uses both the 125 and 178 size Glide Fluke, but he feels that the sinking version of both is better than the floating models this time of year. As far as which size to use, the larger 178 is his pick if the fish are eating Gizzard Shad and the smaller version if they are eating smaller forage. A simple “match the hatch” approach is how he decides which of the eight colors offered for the Glide Fluke gets tied on first.
While he uses a regular cast and retrieve, he does like to fish it fast. “Doing that gives it a nice erratic action. If I bring it near a corner post on a dock or piece of wood, I will give it a quick twitch of the rod and then give it a very brief pause,” he shares. “This causes the bait to kick and is usually what triggers them, and they will come out like a rocket from under the cover to get it.”
Late Fall Glide Flukes
While Murphy generally runs the banks in the early stages of fall, he moves to points as autumn moves along. “The fish start to get back out of the creeks and head towards the mainlake. It is just the bass following the food, and sometimes it is as easy as locating diving birds to pinpoint where the bass are,” says the South Carolina pro.
According to Murphy, late fall is a period where the sinking Glide Fluke is the best choice to catch fish feeding on baitfish. “The best times to use it are when it is a little too cold to still be throwing topwaters and when the fish are not positioned on the bottom. You can fish the Glide Fluke at any depth and fish it both fast and slow and still catch fish this time of year,” he says. This temperature range varies based on region, but generally, the 60-degree mark is prime late fall Glide Fluke time.
How he determines how deep to fish it comes through utilizing his electronics as well as trial-and-error. The same applies to the speed in which he fishes it. The old adage to “let the fish tell you how they want it” definitely applies here.
Cold Water Glide Flukes
Murphy feels that when the water temperature cools to a certain point, there are lures better suited for bass fishing than the Glide Fluke that he designed. He believes that mark is right around 55-degrees and has learned that at that point jigs and other baits fished on the bottom will outperform his creation. With that being said, he still has one rigged up and ready to go if a specific situation arises.
Murphy has learned by watching his electronics that once a fish is hooked and brought up towards the boat, other fish may follow. These fish often stay suspended for a short period, and Murphy has figured out that they will eat a Glide Fluke in these situations regardless of how cold it is.
“It could be 25-feet deep, and you get one on a jig on the bottom and start to reel it in, and the rest of the school will follow it halfway and then suspend 10-feet down. I’ll throw the sinking version and count it down 10-seconds or however deep they are,” he begins. “I’ll use a more meandering retrieve with four or five steady cranks and then give it quick twitch of the rod or harder crank to trigger a reaction.”
He adds that the sinking version of the Glide Fluke has a rate of fall of approximately one second per foot and uses that in his approach to catching suspended bass in all situations regardless of the season.
There are many scenarios where the Glide Fluke will catch bass, but during the early fall to the winter, this is how Michael Murphy utilizes the lure. Knowing the habits or how bass feed and figuring out a way to catch notoriously difficult suspended bass has helped Murphy have success with this lure throughout fall and winter.
New Colors: 135 Bone and 172 Ghost Rainbow Trout
With so many great lures available to today’s anglers, picking the right one comes down to knowing the situation. Topwater baits like the Finesse Popper can be situational depending on the season, water temperature, weather conditions, and more.
Bass fishing success is all about finding the right time to throw the correct lure. It is the challenge that keeps us all coming back for more. Professional anglers make a living making these decisions seem easy and have a knack for choosing the right bait. Professional anglers Fred Roumbanis, Bill Lowen, and Michael Murphy share their go-to situations for fishing the Finesse Popper.
The Three Spawns
One of the situations where Bill Lowen reaches for a popper is when there is any spawning activity.
“Any time there is some spawning going on, whether it is largemouth or smallmouth spawning or bream or the shad spawn, I am going to be using the ima Finesse Popper. For me, the popper is a shallow water technique when I am fishing five feet of water or less, and the great thing about it is that you can fish it really slow and just leave it there,” he says. “I’ll twitch it some and walk it some, but you can fish it much slower and more methodically than you can with a walking bait.”
To keep things simple, Lowen matches the color of his popper based on what is spawning. “The Bluegill color is excellent and works well when the bass are spawning or when they are focused on eating spawning bluegill. If it a shad spawn, Bone is hard to beat,” says Lowen.
The Finesse Popper is tailor-made for fishing around shallow cover according to Bill Lowen. “I use it as a target bait when I am shallow. I will fish it around isolated rocks, docks, laydowns and small patches of grass,” he begins. “This popper walks well, and you can do so much with it in terms of how you work the bait. It is also heavy enough that you can use baitcast gear which helps me make more precise casts to those targets.”
Some anglers prefer spinning gear for poppers, but for Lowen, it is more of a power technique. “I have never been a fan of using spinning gear for topwaters and use a rod with a soft tip and some backbone. The rod I use is a 6’10” spinnerbait rod, and I’ll fish it on braided line with a short 12” leader of 17 to 20-pound mono,” he says.
When the Bite Stops
Recall a time when you are catching fish consistently on topwater walking baits, and then the bite suddenly stops. We’ve all been there, and it can be frustrating to see the fun end. This is a situation where Fred Roumbanis switches to the Finesse Popper.
Roumbanis, unlike Lowen, likes to fish it on a spinning rod and light line to maximize his casting distance. “I grew up fishing them on spinning gear, and you can launch it with 10lb braid. It makes it easy to make those longer casts and be stealthy,” he says.
“After the bite slows down for walking topwaters and it gets hot, and the water calms, a popper can be the best way to get a bite. You know the fish are still in the areas you and sometimes you need to change your approach. The Finesse Popper is great because it is so easy to walk and you can also get it to spit and spray water during your retrieve,” adds Roumbanis. “You can also let it sit as long as you need to.”
Each year as summer turns to fall, something changes with bass. Whether it is the length of day, cooling temperatures, or the lake turning over, there is a change in the air. This can lead to tough fishing conditions, and this is one situation where Michael Murphy ties on the Finesse Popper.
“I don’t have solid evidence of what causes the fishing to be tough, but the lake is turning over, and the oxygen levels are changing as well,” begins Murphy who holds a degree in Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences. “This time of year is the start of prime buzzbait fishing in many parts of the country, and there is a period where bass will start to slap at those baits and won’t commit. The Finesse Popper has a treble instead of the single big hook, and you can usually hook those fish that are just coming up and swatting at it.”
This transition varies when it comes to regional temperatures, but for Murphy in South Carolina, it is water temperature around 75-degrees and the point where it beings to cool down. “There is a time and place for fishing a buzzbait, but the Finesse Popper during this fall transition is excellent because of how you can fish it. It has a unique sound compared to other poppers, and you can also walk it very easily,” Murphy shares. “If the fish want it moving quickly, you can do it, but if you need to slow it down and let it sit, you can do that too. That is something you can’t do with a buzzbait.”
Topwater fishing is a staple for bass anglers who enjoy a surface explosion and chance at a big bass. Like any lure, situations dictate when to throw it, but the Finesse Popper has proven to be a versatile and effective topwater.
Catching schooling bass on topwaters and subsurface baits can be some of the most exciting times of the year. The action is often fast and furious and there is always a good chance to catch a true giant.
Professional angler and fisheries biologist Michael Murphy spends most of the year with guide clients chasing schooling bass on Lake Murray, South Carolina. Over the years he has developed a system for catching fish keying on baitfish and it is based on his scientific knowledge of how water temperature and forage size impacts how bass feed. In this article, he shares his schooling system that covers spring to late fall.
Know Your Forage
As a fisheries biologist, Murphy knows more than most when it comes to what is going on underneath the surface of the water and he is always willing to share his knowledge to help anglers catch more bass. One thing that he points out when it comes to baitfish is how their spawning rituals affect bass.
“The first shad spawn of the year typically overlaps with the last part of the bass spawn. Generally, this is in April in many parts of the country and the water often has a slight stain to it,” he begins. “Shad need something hard to spawn near and this can be seawalls, docks, marinas, shoals or any kind of vertical cover they can use to spawn.” The shad spawn also generally kicks off the bass schooling season.
For lakes with blueback herring, their spawning habits can also impact fishing and lure choice. “Bluebacks spawn on much flatter cover and are mostly subsurface. Rocky points are one of the best places to find them spawning,” he says.
Know Your Bass
As we all know, bass are opportunistic feeders and they eat whenever they are given the chance. When it comes to topwater baits, Murphy says to pay close attention to the weather. “One thing I always talk about is the temperament of bass. If you are fishing during post-frontal conditions, it can definitely affect the topwater bite,” he says. “Any temperature drop, even if the water is 80-degrees and drops, will affect how bass act and how willing they are to eat a topwater.”
With this in mind, he always has a subsurface bait like the ima Glide Fluke ready and this is also the bait that he says kicks off the bass schooling season around the time the shad and bluebacks spawn.
Step 1: Glide Fluke
This bait was designed by Murphy and fit a need for the periods right before surface feeding begins. “In the past, I would always start the season off with a soft jerkbait, but they often swipe at it and miss it. The Glide Fluke has the same action but since it is a hard bait it has trebles and the rear treble is at the very rear of the bait. You land many more of those fish that are just swiping at it,” he says.
Murphy will generally use the bait until the water is warm enough to start the topwater season and then also has it ready as a back up throughout the year when fish are not as willing to hit topwater baits.
Step 2: Skimmer
The Skimmer has a unique action compared to many walking baits and Murphy describes it as a turkey call. “It has a nice tail action that grabs water and it has a unique sound to it. As you are walking it you can hear a crunching sound when you are walking it,” he says. “The key is to not give them a good look at it and if you are seeing fish following it but not striking then speed it up a little.”
Step 3: Skimmer Grande
Next in Murphy’s schooling system is the Skimmer Grande. “Your progression to bigger and bigger baits has to do with the size of baitfish getting bigger. The fish will let you know when they want a bigger bait,” he shares. “As it gets warmer the fish want a bigger profile and more of a commotion on the surface.”
Step 4: Little Stik
Continuing to climb the bait size ladder, Murphy moves on to the Little Stik next. “It makes a big commotion on the surface and this is necessary because during the middle of summer bass are typically much deeper and need to be called up to get strike a topwater,” he shares.
Step 5: Big Stik
“The next step up is the Big Stik. Some years the water will never get warm enough where it comes into play, but for warmer years this can be a big player in September in October,” says Murphy. Like the Little Stik, the Big Stik has an aggressive sound that calls fish from the depths. “When the bass are feeding on fall bluebacks and big gizzards, the Big Stik is the perfect size lure. It is also a great tool to catch the biggest fish in the school instead of the two pounders.”
Step 6: Reverse
Murphy has learned that once the bite with the biggest topwaters slows, you can go backward in the cycle and continually downsize your topwater baits and then return to the Glide Fluke. “The difference is that the progression up in size will take several months and the reverse only takes a few weeks or up to a month,” he adds.
This system has worked for Murphy for years and he is happy to have a complete arsenal of baits from one company. “In the past, I was using this system and had baits from several different brands, but I worked with Ima to so we have a bait for every step in the system,” he says.
By following the forage and their growth throughout the year you can utilize Murphy’s system to have success with schooling fish for the better part of the year.
Most anglers reach for the jerkbait when the water gets cold, but they can be just as effective with warm water temperatures throughout the year. Pro anglers are discovering that there is never a bad time to throw a jerkbait as they perfectly imitate baitfish. There is never a situation when a bass turns down an easy meal.
When you think of fishing Florida during the winter and spring months you most likely envision big weights, punching vegetation and using soft plastics. This is no doubt the way to go many times, but as Kurt Dove and other FLW Tour anglers proved at the Harris Chain, a jerkbait can produce big fish in Florida. Dove was able to finish in 8th place and it was with the help of the Ima Flit 120, even though the water was in the mid-70s.
“Many anglers think of using jerkbaits only during the winter and pre-spawn, but they can be very good during the spawn, after it and throughout summer and fall. The technique is often overlooked and jerkbaits can truly be effective they year round,” says Dove.
In this Ima Pro Tip, Dove shares his approach, bait selection, and gear choices he used to catch big Florida bass. Hopefully, this will open some eyes and prove that the jerkbait can be an effective tool throughout the year.
The Shad Spawn
When shad are spawning, bass know that there is an easy meal waiting for them and a jerkbait is one of the best ways to catch bass keying on shad.
Typically, shad like to spawn on hard cover like rocks and riprap, but in places like Florida, that type of structure is far less common than vegetation. “Shad like to spawn on some type of hard object and they will also use hydrilla. It is a course, crispy grass and gives the shad what they need to spawn,” says Dove.
Dove capitalized on this in Florida by fishing parallel to the grass and then fishing open areas inside of the grass with the Flit 120.
Why the Flit?
There are many jerkbaits on the market, but Dove has found that the Flit family of jerkbaits acts differently than the rest of the jerkbaits on the market. “It is a phenomenal jerkbait because it has an action that has much more darting and slashing compared to other baits. Most of the jerkbaits just kind of flutter,” he says.
The unique action of the Flit allows it to be more versatile as anglers can adjust the action based on how they retrieve the lure. This opens it up to many scenarios from cold water when bass do not want an aggressive action to warmer water when moving quickly is the way to go.
“You can get it to make very wide side-to-side slashes with a hard rip of the rod. But, you can also slow it down or make it have shorter darts just by twitching your rod with less force. You have total control just by how you work it,” says Dove.
Typically, Dove will employ a standard retrieve of two twitches and a pause no matter what time of year he is using a jerkbait. How long he pauses varies based on the water temperature and he simply uses a longer pause the colder the water is. When throwing a jerkbait in the warmer water he will only pause briefly before starting the process over.
Modifications and Gear
Having the right jerkbait gear can make jerking and ripping all day much more enjoyable. Dove prefers a Powell 702, a seven-foot medium action rod that allows for good casts and is not too powerful that it will rip trebles from a fish when they strike. “Having the wrong equipment with jerkbait fishing can be frustrating because it can lead to lost fish. It is important to have the rod and sharp hooks to keep fish pinned,” he has learned.
Speaking of hooks, Dove likes to swap out the trebles on the Flit 120 for size 6 Hayabasu TBL930 trebles. “They have an NRB (Non-Reflective Black) fluorine coating and it helps to prevent losing fish when they are just slashing at the bait. Sometimes I will upsize to size 5 to get the bait to dive down just a little deeper,” he says. “That or I will just switch the front treble to the bigger size so it suspends nose down. The good thing is that it won’t affect the action at all.”
Fishing a jerkbait requires paying attention to color selection as it is a highly visible technique and bass see it much more than they hear or smell it.
Dove has a fairly simple approach to color selection and it is based on the water clarity. In this Florida example, he chose a solid pattern called Chartreuse Shad. “The water in Florida is somewhat clear, but it always has that tannic stain. A solid color shows up much better in that color water and the small chartreuse strip down the bait really help them to key in on it,” he adds.
Kurt Dove and others have proved that there is no wrong time and situation to throw a jerkbait. They are well known for their ability to catch fish when the water is cold, but fishing them throughout the year opens up a whole new world.
Alabama’s Justin Atkins won the biggest event of his career with our Little Stik 135 topwater in chrome. Below you will find an excerpt from the FLW article recapping his win. To read the entire article, click here.
Of the 15 bass Atkins weighed, every one of them came on an ima Little Stick 135 in chrome, fished with a 7:1 gear ratio Abu Garcia reel, 30-pound-test braid and a 7-5 medium-heavy composite rod. Mostly he fired over and roughly around his cane piles, but he did catch some fish that were actively schooling near the piles. He figures he weighed in 11 bass that he “called up” and four that were actively busting.
One of the keys to his success was calling up more fish than average late in the day, and he did that with a slight cadence change for his topwater.
After walking it fast in the morning, Atkins slowed down to what he characterized as a “winter jerkbait” cadence – just fast enough to keep the line from going too slack and to keep the bait moving toward the boat.
He wasn’t the only angler in the Top 10 who was fishing this bait. There were several anglers who were using the bait. Click here to read LAKE MURRAY TOP 10 BAITS.
After the event, he shared with us how he was fishing the bait. Congrats, Justin!