Classic lure for late summer bass


Fishing was much simpler back then. There weren’t nearly as many lure choices and you didn’t need the right rod and reel combination to fish the latest and greatest lures. Does this mean that fishermen in the 50s, 60s and 70s were less skilled? Hell no. Additionally, some of the lures developed 80 years ago still catch more fish today than the hottest bait released last season. This is especially true in late summer when bass become lazy, often looking at the surface and opportunistically feeding on more terrestrial life.

These three classic lures are staples in my toolbox for smallmouth and largemouth angling in August and September. They may no longer win Bass Master Classics, but they’re still in production for a reason.

seduced nervously

There are some great topwater lures on the market these days. Take, for example, the allure of Pokemon, which has burrowed its way into the hearts of YouTubers looking for a video schtick, as well as Comic Con attendees who devour all things Pikachu. There was also the Chautauqua Chipmunk, a giant lure designed for the muskie hunter who wanted to imitate some furry, warm-blooded forage. Just because baits like this have a cool/trendy factor, they get a lot of attention on social media even if they aren’t in a fish’s mouth. The funny part is that they are both derivatives of the classic Jitterbug, which is not at all fashionable.

Legendary lure designer Fred Arbogast discovered the Jitterbug in 1938 and for decades it was hailed as one of the most productive lures ever created. it’s still one of the most productive, but it has also fallen out of popular favor, overshadowed by many new school offerings. This unique bait moves across the surface, enhancing the sound with a strong gurgle and creating a bubble trail bass can follow to the target.

By August, aquatic vegetation such as hydrilla and lily pads are at their thickest. Frogs hatched earlier in the summer have grown large enough to increase local amphibian populations and activity. Likewise, in late summer, warmer water temperatures make fish lazier, and therefore more likely to opportunistically grab a toad or mouse, rather than chasing baitfish sticks across the lake or river. In the right location and circumstances, a Jitterbug is practically irresistible.

One drawback to this lure is that it’s not herb-free, so you can’t throw one right on the tables. But in areas with submerged vegetation, or lots of open lanes in lilies, a Jitterbug is deadly. The classic frog pattern is a daytime bell, but in black this lure shines in low light and after sunset. Whether you’re casting from a lake bank or night cruising a river, largemouths and smallmouths often feed more when the temperature drops a few degrees at night, and the sound of a Jitterbug won’t go unnoticed.

Hula popper

Similar to the Jitterbug, Fred Arbogast’s Hula Popper is probably not the first topwater the modern bass angler will choose. And like losing love to Jitterbug, this is a mistake. What the Hula Popper does better than many poppers is mimic a bug—another staple forage for late-summer bass.

In most of the country, dragonflies buzz around lakes and rivers until August. Beetles are falling into the drink, and unfortunate cicadas are splashing down. Smallmouths and bigmouths don’t miss this influx of bugs—and I’m talking big bass, not just the little guys. I’ve seen 5-pound minnows leap clear out of the water trying to grab a dragonfly on the arm, and I’ve seen craters form on pond surfaces when a heavy bass wipes out a damsel fly. Although the Hula Popper’s body may look more like a frog, its tail is pure insect.

The Hula Popper hit the shelves in 1941, and what made it unique was its thick rubber bottom. At that time, the tire edge was new, and Arbogast made it wide, flat and very flexible. The same bottoms are used in Hula Poppers today, and they probably “breathe” better in the water than modern rubber bottoms. What this means is that you don’t need to do much—a light flick or two is enough, then let the lure sit. That liquid edge will gently wiggle, wiggle, and wiggle, creating the illusion of a large summer bug struggling on the surface. All colors hula produce, but black is a must at this time of year.

silver lure spoon

The Silver Minnow has been around for decades, but you won’t find them in freshwater boxes like you did 30 or 40 years ago. Conversely, you’d be hard-pressed to find a lean Gulf angler It does not work you have one in hand. This simple spoon solidified its reputation as a killer for grass redfish long ago, but the same attributes that make it perform in the marsh make it shine in the pond or lake.

The Silver Minnow is weed free and you can bend its guard to adjust how it lines up with the hook point. In more open areas, you can expose more points; in heavy vegetation, tilt the guard up to trap more debris. This makes it perfect for working through pillows and hydrilla where the summer bass hatch.

A straight drag causes the Silver Minnow to wiggle enticingly, but it also has a slow, lazy downward swing. This is a plus for lazy bass that aren’t out hunting, but will make a shiner, shad or bluefish that wander the pads. Try simply rolling the spoon into holes in the weed pads or mats and watch your line tick down. Cover as much area as you can because it’s often a matter of getting the spoon straight into the fish’s face to attract a reaction strike. Silver Minnows also pair well with pork rinds or tail curls, allowing you to increase the flutter or change the color profile. I like a rusty orange cart or trailer in ponds where there are lots of frogs and crayfish, and white in my local rivers where walleyes and shad are more prevalent.





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