By Capt. Chuck Uzzle – For The Record

More than once it has happened, you and your best fishing buddy are standing side by side using the same lure but only one of you is really catching fish. The next time this happens you need to examine you partners lure a little more closely, especially when it comes to topwater plugs. There are plenty of serious fishermen out there who just take a plug out of the package and start using it without any thought of checking several key components. Hooks are the main thing, inferior hooks cost fishermen more fish than anything. Check to see how sharp the treble hooks are before you chunk that plug, sometimes they are not nearly as sharp as one might think. Split rings that hold the hooks are another culprit, stainless steel split are a must when hustling fish in saltwater. Also the size of the split can cause you grief as well, some plugs like the Super spook for instance have really big rings that allow for excess travel of the treble hooks which in turn results in the hooks getting tangled on one another. The simple solution to this problem is to just down size the rings.

Tournament anglers for years have been tinkering with all sorts of lures, bass guys are the worst. Show me any big bass tournament fisherman and I will show you a guy who is into an outdoors version of arts and crafts. Dips, dyes, rattles, skirts, and swivels that spin if you just think about them wrong are all variables that can be changed or altered to give a fisherman an edge. Well the tweaking has made a major crossover into the saltwater arena, especially when it comes to the topwater plugs. On a recent trip to Calcasieu Lake in Louisiana I saw first hand how slight variations in lures can make a huge difference. I was throwing Mirrolure’s black Top Dog Jr. as were some of the other fishermen in my boat. We all were doing fairly well on some nice speckled trout when I decided to change up my approach somewhat. I picked out a “customized” version of the same plug and began to really catch some fish. The new plug had a chartreuse head and some teasers on the back hook made from aquarium tubing. The two pieces of tubing had been dyed chartreuse and red in order to give the bait a little flash. The new Top Dog Jr. was instantly crushed on consecutive casts by trout over 6 pounds. My fellow fishermen struggled to copy the plug in hopes of getting on the bigger fish, but to no avail they could not match the “custom” plug in either color or production.  The teaser tabs on the plug really helped when the fish got finicky, at times I would let the plug sit completely still for several seconds with nothing but the waves moving it back and forth until a trout would come crashing from beneath the surface to engulf it. I since have put the little tabs on nearly all my topwaters, I know they help catch more fish because I have seen it first hand.

With a little imagination and a few simple things like paint pens and dye you can really trick out a plug and make it into a real fish catching machine. If you don’t want to go through all that trouble at least change your dull hooks out in favor of sharper ones like the VMC or Gamakatsu, they are super sharp and plenty strong. By just changing the hooks out you will be ahead of the game. One other little trick that requires no painting or exotic changes, turn the eye on the lure 90 degrees to where it sits horizontal with the surface of the water rather than perpendicular. By doing this the nose of the plug will stay down and add a little more action to your favorite bait like the Super Spook, Skitterwalk, or Top Dogs. And of course always tie a loop knot when fishing topwaters, I’m a firm believer in the benefits of using this knot because it adds some irresistible action to the plug. The increased action in the presentation is just undeniable, use it next time and it you will see a definite difference.

Don’t be afraid to try some of your own variations on your favorite plugs, you never know what might happen. If you just happen to stumble onto the perfect bait you will have it all to yourself. Just think what that knowledge and edge will do for you next time you and a buddy take to the water, when the fish start coming in on your side of the boat much more frequently it will be well worth the time and effort not mention bragging rights.