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.
While Major League Fishing Pro Fred Roumbanis may be best known for his swimbait and frog fishing skills, his waters run deep. Equally at home with a flippin’ stick or a spinning rod, Roumbanis is among the most versatile anglers in the professional ranks. True to his Western roots, one of his favorite under the radar baits is the Ima Finesse Popper. “The cool thing about the Finesse Popper is that there are so many ways to work it,” said Roumbanis. “It pops, spits, and walks. It weighs 3/8 oz and measures a little over 2 ½ inches. It’s a small bait, don’t let that fool you. It gets bit when the bite is tough and it catches big fish.”
The Basic Retrieve
“My basic retrieve with the Finesse Popper is a pop, pop, spit,” explained Roumbanis. “Little twitches and a long drag with the rod, that’s how you make it spit. After the spit, I’ll let it sit there for a second or so. A lot of times they’ll hit it when you move it again. But sometimes they’ll just crush it when its sitting still. With this retrieve, you can really mix it up by changing up cadence. Add a pop or a spit. Let it sit or not, but ultimately the fish will always tell you the right way to work it. I’ll throw it on a baitcaster, a Dobyns 705CB which has a nice soft tip with a lot of back bone and I’ll use 12lb copolymer line with a 6.3:1 Sixgill Wraith Reel. I’ll tie directly to the Finesse Popper with a Perfection Loop Knot.”
Speed It Up
During the Summer and Fall, schooling fish will move offshore and suspend around baitfish. Roumbanis will fish the Finesse Popper at a fast pace to mimic schooling activity. “On those slick calm days you can see the fish busting and you’ve got to chase them around and find them visually,” offered Roumbanis. “I’ll put the Finesse Popper on a spinning rod so I can bomb it as far as I can without ever having to worry about a birds nest or anything like that. It works really good. When I’m popping the bait, I’m reeling at the same time. What this does, it actually pulls the bait and causes it to spit water forward. I’m covering a lot of water and the bait is constantly moving and creating a commotion. This technique can really triggers some good bites.
The Arkansas Pro relies on a Dobyns Champion 733 Spinning Rod paired with a 7.1:1 Banshee Sixgill Reel. He’ll spool up with 10 lb Cortland Braided Line to which he ties a short 8lb mono leader.
Walkin’ In Place
By contrast, there are times when Roumbanis will use the Finesse Popper to draw bass out of cover. “On natural lakes or rivers, where you get a lot of lay downs, especially post spawn when you get the fry guarders, a popper is probably the best bait to throw,” he said. “I’ll walk it real slow. I’m not really pulling the bait towards me as much as I am working it in place. I just want to keep the bait in the strike zone as long as possible.”
The Finesse Popper is available in eleven great fish catching colors including three new choices: Baby Bass, OG Ghost Minnow and Blue Head Black Back Ghost. “All the colors work well,” said Roumbanis. “My three go to colors are Real Ghost Shad, Bone, and Chrome. If the water is super clear water, I like Real Ghost Shad. Bone is a great all around color. Even though the Finesse Popper is a small bait, I believe Bone makes the bait look bigger and more enticing. On sunny calm days I love Chrome, it just reflects crazy in the sun. In the Fall when the bait is shallow, it’s just awesome. When the fish are guarding fry, I’ll mix in the Bluegill or Baby Bass. Like I said, all the colors are great.”
So the next time you are searching for a topwater bite, remember these great tips and tie on the Finesse Popper. You’ll be glad you did.
The buzzbait is seen as one of the best ways to catch giant bass. There is something about the action it creates on the surface that is like a magnet to bass. They work around a variety of cover and excel during the warmer months, but Fred Roumbanis has learned that they can be just as effective early and late in the year.
Not Just Summertime
Many anglers pick up the buzzbait in the middle of the summer, and it works great then, but Roumbanis says not to forget spring and fall.
“The ima US Buzz is my go-to when the water hits that 54-degree mark in the spring. The bite turns on as the bass start to move shallow before they spawn,” he said. “It seems to work best in the afternoons after the sun warms the water, and it is a great way to catch a big one.”
On the opposite end of the calendar, he finds success each fall with buzzbaits. “I’ve had some of my best days ever with a buzzbait late into the fall. It works for me until the water dips to about 52-degrees. When the shad are running the bank, there is nothing more exciting than a good buzzbait bite,” added Roumbanis.
These are just two situations where Roumbanis likes a buzzbait, but he has some general rules of thumb for when he uses them.
“Fishing a buzzbait can be good most of the year, but it can be more of a time and condition oriented lure. Lowlight conditions early in the mornings and late in the evening, or the shade are always good, and so are cloudy days. Also, a little bit of breeze always helps to make the bite better and if it is windy, it is my first choice over a frog when fishing around lily pads,” said Roumbanis.
Start Throwing It and Go
One of the ways Roumbanis approaches buzzbait fishing is to cover water as quickly as possible.
“One of the best things about fishing a buzzbait is that they are pretty versatile when it comes to where you can fish them. It could be shallow grass, windy points, and just about any other cover. I always do by best just putting the trolling motor down and covering water quickly,” he said.
He also likes to mix it into a “junk fishing” approach, where he utilizes a variety of baits based on what is in front of him.
“I’ll burn the buzzbait down the bank, then skip it under docks if I come up to one. Then, I might see a bush pile on my graph and drop something else on them,” said Roumbanis.
A Secret of the Pros
According to Roumbanis, the ima US Buzz is well-known among professional anglers, but many keep it quiet for two reasons: another brand sponsors them, or they do not want word to get out.
“I gave one of them to a fellow competitor, and he went out and caught a six-pounder the next day of the tournament with it. There are quite a few guys on tour who are using it.
“It is the best buzzbait I have found; it is really squeaky. The guys who know about it, don’t like to talk about how good it works,” he said. “It has a flat head and skips well, plus you don’t have to mess with it to get it run right. They are dialed in right out of the package.”
There are certain instances when Roumbanis likes a smaller buzzbait, and that is when he reaches for the Lil’ Voice. This compact buzzbait weighs a ¼ ounce, and Roumbanis uses it for two specific situations.
“It is a great buzzbait for fishing the shad-spawn because it is so compact. I’ll also use it when the bass are schooling, and I notice that the baitfish are tiny,” he shared.
Don’t let the small size fool you, though. It has a loud noise thanks to the high-frequency clacker built into the bait and will still catch its’ fair share of big bass.
Mods, Gear, and Color Selection
For the most part, Roumbanis opts for a solid black buzzbait for most conditions. But, he will also mix in a white skirt when they are chasing shad and the Bluegill color when bass are feeding on bluegill.
“The Bluegill color is a great sunfish or perch imitator, and I like that it has a gold blade. It excels when fishing around bream beds,” he shared.
One of the keys to fishing a buzzbait is to have the right gear. Roumbanis prefers a 7’ medium heavy Dobyns Rod “Utility Stick” and 50-pound Cortland braided line. “I always fish it on braid just because it floats and it makes it easier to rip it out of cover if it hangs up and it also helps me land more fish.”
When it comes to modifications, Roumbanis shared two things that he likes to do: trim the skirt and add a trailer hook.
“I will cut the skirt just a little bit to make them flare out a little better. I also like to add a 3/O Zappu Tinsel Trailer Hook at times to get more flash,” he said
One of the best things about fishing a buzzbait is the excitement of a topwater strike, but they have proven themselves over the years as a great way to catch big bass. Roumbanis utilizes them most of the year and feels that they are a universal lure that works in many different situations.
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.
3 Ways for Cold-Water Lipless
The lipless crankbait is one of the most popular lures in all of bass fishing, and they work all year long. During cold water periods, they often outperform many other hardbaits thanks to the sound, vibration, and flash they produce. There are plenty of ways to fish them, but we asked three ima pro anglers to share their favorite cold-water lipless crankbait approaches and the result was three different ways to look at these proven lures.
Mueller’s Ice Cold Rock-N-Vibe
It is hard to find colder water than the water temperatures while ice fishing, but the lipless crankbait still works here. Bassmaster Elite Series champion Paul Mueller spends much of the winter on the hard water and chases a wide-range of species through the ice. He says the ima Rock-n-Vibe is one of the best ways to catch big walleye and lake trout when the water is frozen.
When ice fishing, he will fish the 5/8 ounce Rock-n-Vibe for lake trout and most often selects the ½ ounce size for walleye. They have a different action depending on the weight, according to Mueller. “The ½ ounce has a tighter shimmy, and it seems to appeal to walleye and what makes them bite.”
“For lake trout, I am most often fishing very deep water, and the heavier weight allows it to get down faster. When I am doing this I am constantly moving the bait upwards and pulling in the slack because this triggers lake trout to get aggressive. They like something moving away from them,” he says.
When targeting walleye, he slows down and shakes the bait in place. “Walleye are nomadic and tend to roam. By shaking the bait I use the Rock-n-Vibe as a bait to draw them in, almost like a glide bait for bass in open water,” he adds. “Sometimes you don’t even catch them on the Rock-n-Vibe, but bringing them closer to you is all it takes to get them to bite other lures.”
Right before the ice freezes, he also slays stripers and bass with a unique way to fish a lipless. Mueller says he fishes the Rock-N-Vibe by vertically jigging it in a way that is similar to how you use a blade bait. Rip it up, feel the vibration, and let it fall back down. “It is deadly on winter stripers and both largemouth and smallmouth,” he says.
Fred’s Lipless Like a Jerkbait
When ima released the Suspending Vibration 70, Fred Roumbanis immediately saw an opening for using the bait. Since it suspends just 3-4 feet below the surface, it is similar to a jerkbait, and this is how Roumbanis thinks of it when he is using it.
“It is awesome in cold water,” Roumbanis begins. “You can sweep your rod and kill it, and then pull in the slack just like you do with a jerkbait. I find myself pulling the rod more to get it to move instead of jerking”
If he fishes it like a jerkbait, why not just use a jerkbait? Fred had an answer to that question and said there are a few reasons why he chooses one over the other.
“The lipless crankbait has always been a great cold-water, winter, and pre-spawn bait but you could never slow it down if you wanted to. You have to keep it moving at all times with a standard lipless, and that is what makes the Suspending Vibration different,” he said. “The other thing that makes them so great is the noise and rattles, and that is something you don’t get from a jerkbait. Plus, the profile is so much more compact.” Roumbanis still uses jerkbaits often, but switching to a suspending lipless gives him more options this time of year.
Lowen’s Straightforward Lipless Fishing
Bill Lowen keeps it simple with most of his approaches; it is a big part of his fishing style and that includes lipless crankbaits. For him, it is either a standard retrieve or a “yo-yo” technique when the water is cold.
“I am always going to start with a ‘chunk and wind’ because that is always a good way to use a lipless and it is also the easiest way to cover water. If that isn’t working, I will ‘yo-yo’ the bait up and down,” he adds. “I don’t move it up and down very aggressively, and it is really more of a flutter. I’ll lift the rod to feel it vibrate six or seven times and let it back down because I want to keep that bait in the strike zone longer when the water is cold.”
He uses this approach no matter what type of water he is fishing, whether it is a grass-dominated lake or a rocky reservoir and has found that one thing holds everywhere he goes. “One of those retrieves is going to be the deal. You just have to experiment and see what the fish want that day,” adds Lowen.
For early season lipless fishing, he is going to be using the ima Rock-n-Vibe, and he said the majority of the time it will be in a crawfish pattern. “I’d say 90% of the time it is the Red Craw color. If it is a shad focused bite and I know that is what they are eating I’ll switch to chrome or something imitating a shad,” he says.
After talking with three professional anglers on the subject, it appears that there is no wrong way to fish a lipless when the water is cold. By tapping into the versatility of these lures, you can use them all season long and in a wide variety of situations.
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.