We are having our 10th Annual TogTober, a 4-day tournament that will commence on October 19th, and run until October 22nd at 3 PM. The heaviest blackfish will win a cash prize, and the second heaviest blackfish wins a rod...
Getting Spooky: 5 Topwater Spooks and Their Specs
It’s finally June, and the big stripers have arrived in force in waters from the Long Island Sound all the way through Cape Cod and into some herring-fueled bites on the Maine coast. Here in Connecticut, June is the start of our explosive, memory-making topwater season. While many anglers find selective luck on topwater earlier than June, this month really marks the arrival of the migratory biomass of stripers and the turning on of our local bite. If we are lucky, we get incredible striped bass action from now all the way through October, and one of the most popular topwater baits to throw during that time in the spook bait.
Also called walk-the-dog baits, spooks are versatile, cast like a rocket, and elicit some incredible surface bites. A wide variety of these baits are available, and while they all essentially mimic the side-to-side walk-the-dog action of their genre, there are minor differences in their versatility and action which make certain baits preferable to certain anglers in certain conditions. In this article, we are going to do a quick and dirty breakdown of five topwater spooks available at our shop, Black Hall Outfitters in Westbrook, Connecticut. By no means are these all of the spook style baits available, but they are five of our most popular and worthy of throwing.
Length: 9 inches
Weight: 3.5 ounces
Favored Colors: Bone, Blurple, Pogie
Notes: The Doc has been synonymous with topwater striped bass fishing for a decade. It’s a giant plug at 9 inches and over 3 ounces and it catches giant fish. Anglers for years have even been purchasing “Doc rods” so that they have a rod and reel combo specifically for chucking this plug. It’s that good. The only downfall of the Doc, if there is one, is that the distance between the hooks can sometimes allow large bass to leverage and twist out of one set of trebles. That said, the advantages far outweigh any flaws in this plug, and beefed up terminal tackle eliminates any issues. If you are fishing for big stripers, it is an absolute must-have in your bag.
The movement of the Doc in the water is a rattle-enhanced walk the dog (WTD) motion. It can be sped up or slowed down, and still runs well. By lifting the rod tip, anglers can cause the nose of the Doc to come slightly off the surface of the water on the side-to-side motion, creating a bit of a splash that looks even more like a wounded and fleeing baitfish. On the other end of the spectrum, it can be slowed down with a tick-tock-pause type of motion, allowing the plug to glide out to the side briefly and giving stripers a chance to strike. It may take new anglers a bit of time to get used to such a big plug, but the key is to fish it with your rod tip, not with the reel, and to take your time, letting the plug do its work. Before long, you’ll be tied into a big one. If you want to chase trophy striped bass in New England, it is nearly a law that you have to have a Doc or two in your arsenal.
Length: 6.56 inches
Weight: 1.7 ounces
Favored Colors: Boneyard, Butter, Oliver Eelz
Notes: Madd Mantis Tackle Works has been rising in the ranks and showing up more frequently in anglers’ plug bags. The Plank 159 and Plank 205 are their representative topwater spook, and they have quite a few noteworthy features. The 205, coming in at 8 inches and 3 ounces, is its largest offering, while the 159, the focus of our testing, is 6.56 inches and 1.7 ounces. Both sizes fall in line with other large-profile spook baits, and the Plank has the same innate ability to call large predatory fish from a long distance and to elicit explosive hits.
The Plank sits perfectly horizontal in the water at rest and can be brought to life with a quick flick of the rod tip. When allowed to carry out its WTD action with the tick-tock-pause cadence, the Plank doesn’t continue to glide outwards like some of its fellow spooks. Instead, it comes to an almost complete stop within inches, creating a stationary target that ensure big fish strike and don’t miss. Because of its width, the Plank can be worked quite well even in rough seas, whose conditions often lead to anglers switching over to needlefish or popper-style baits. The Plank also casts quite well, and its line tie oriented on the bottom of the bait makes it very reactive to any angler action. It has noticeable but subtle differences from other big spook baits, and it’s becoming more popular every week for a simple reason- it catches big fish.
Length: 6.5 inches
Weight: 2 ounces
Favored Colors: Bone, Pearl White, Tequila Sunrise
Notes: The Mully has grown tremendously in popularity in recent years, especially locally in Connecticut. It seems to fit the bill as a happy medium in terms of size and weight, and it casts like a rocket. One aspect that anglers enjoy is that when at rest in the water its back end tends to sink down, giving angry striped bass and blue fish an easy target and anglers a good hookup ratio. The Mully is also capable of being splashed around like a pencil popper, creating some enticing splashes as a change up to the normal tick-tock of walking the dog motion. The Mully seems to cover all bases in terms of variability of movement. It can be easily given a WTD motion, if sped up its front end can splash a bit, and in rough seas it can be worked more like a pencil. This motion helps make up for the lack of a rattle, and anglers who fish a Mully rarely if ever mention the lack of noise…it seems to do just fine.
At our shop in Westbrook, the “bone” Mully has become a must-have and is a plug we always recommend to topwater enthusiasts. It’s one of those baits that, when fished side-by-side with other spooks, often makes a believer of everyone nearby. It doesn’t take long before anglers realize that this plug is a beast. It threads the needle in terms of size, weight, shape, and action, and can pull strikes when other plugs can’t. It has become to go-to spook for many of us in the shop, and is absolutely worth inclusion in your bag.
Length: 7.25 inches
Weight: 3 and 3/8 ounces
Favored Colors: Bone, Blue Sardine, Bunker
Notes: The Splashwalk is a big bait, but it looks absolutely fantastic in the water when given action. It gets its name from the cupped mouth near the line tie, which is small enough to not interrupt the WTD motion it has, but big enough to catch a bit of water and splash it forward, a dramatic, multi-sensory imitation of a dying or fleeing baitfish. Like the Mully, the Splashwalk also sits more vertically when at rest, providing an enticing and easy target for predatory fish in pursuit. If you’ve ever used spooks, you know that stripers sometimes swipe and miss or follow the bait for a long distance before hooking up. The stationary, vertical presentation offered by the Splashwalk gives that extra visual that could be the difference between a 45-inch fish eating and simply following. Of the baits we wrote up in this article, the Splashwalk was the one least familiar to the BHO crew in terms of owning them ourselves, but after the in the water test, more than a few were purchased by the shop team. This bait looks great in the water and has a motion that is subtly different from most other spook style baits out there, particularly due to the cupped mouth. It has Doc size, but with the additional splashing it is different enough to warrant grabbing and adding to your arsenal.
Length: 6 inches
Weight: 2 ounces
Favored Colors: Bunker, White Mullet, White
Notes: At 6-inches and 2 ounces, the X-Walk, Game On’s debut topwater bait, is compact and feature-rich. Visually, it’s easy to see the internals knocking around in there, and this bait calls them in! Multiple rattle chambers and rattles varying in size mean that this thing pumps out some frequency, and combined with its buttery-smooth WTD motion, the X-Walk is very angler friendly. At rest, it sits parallel to the water’s surface, and can begin the WTD motion again at the lightest flick of the rod tip. It’s very easy to use, and is a good spook for those wanting to learn the cadence.
This bait excels in both calm and wavy conditions. The smooth WTD motion creates a really nice silhouette during flat calm days, and its shorter length helps fish strike when they may be a bit wary in calmer or sunnier conditions. Once waves kick up, the rattling chambers can call in fish despite the slop, and the large, single tail hook means more hookups and easier de-hooking once you boat your fish. Overall, the X-Walk has been thoughtfully designed by Connecticut-based Game On Lures and is a worth addition to your bag.
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