The Rebel Pop "R" is truly a legend in its own time. A tremendously productive topwater bait that was once removed from production only to brought back by bass angler demand. Once a closely guarded, cult bait used by a few dedicated pros on the B.A.S.S. tour, the Pop "R" has turned into one of those "must have" baits in any serious bass fisherman's tackle box. Something about that slurp or spit or chug just seems to continue to be irresistible to generation after generation of hungry black bass.
Any time after the bass leave their spawning beds until the winter slow down is an excellent time to be fishing a Pop "R". I have a good friend who caught two ten pounders on the same day in October on a Pop "R". Many people consider this bait to only be a schooling bass bait and only throw it when they can see surface activity. These people are missing out on one of the truly amazing attributes of this bait and that is its ability to draw semi-active bass from fairly long distances and entice them into striking. The strikes can vary from a gentle slurp to a heart-stopping crash, but every single fish caught is just a little more fun because it was caught on a topwater.
To maximize your productivity, concentrate your Pop "R" fishing around dawn and dusk and anytime there is cloud cover. Just go to your favorite moss bed, put your trolling motor down and start fishing around the outside edge. As usual, the bigger bass should be concentrated on the points, indentations and anywhere that deeper water comes close to that outside moss edge. Don't be afraid to throw this bait in the middle of the day, under a bright sun, with no surface activity in sight. Apparently, the chugging, spitting, popping action of the Pop "R" fools the bass into thinking that one of his buddies has found an easy meal up on top and he just can't resist trying to help out.
With this in mind, we can talk a little about fishing technique. I could probably write two articles on Pop "R" techniques that have worked for me, but probably the easiest and quickest to master and probably the one that I use the most is a fast popping, jerking retrieve. I am just trying to imitate a shad trying to escape being eaten by a hungry bass.
Another retrieve that seems to work real well, especially in the fall, is three chugs and a pause, repeated over and over. Don't be afraid to experiment and try to let the bass tell you what they want. If a great old big 'un eats your bait while you're picking out a backlash, then slow down or if one tries to commit suicide while you're reeling in fast to make another cast, then speed up.
Which reminds me, don't forget to fish the bait all the way to the boat. A lot of strikes will occur just before you pick your bait up to make another cast. One last thing about technique, don't set the hook until you feel the fish on the end of your line. If you set the hook when you hear the strike, you'll miss probably 75% of your fish. I know that this is difficult advice to follow, but it is a "must do."
I could probably write three articles on lure modifications. I rarely fish a Pop "R" right out of the box.
The easiest change involves changing the front hook from the stock #6 to a Vanadium VMC Round Bend #4. These hooks are incredibly sharp right out of the box and seem to increase my strike to catch ratio. Usually for the back hook, I will use feather type white bucktail also in size #4. My favorite is manufactured by Don Lovino in California.
The next modification involves shaving the inside bottom of the front lip of the bait in order to make the bait "spit" more than "chug". You can use a pocketknife to accomplish this but I find a Dremel tool to be much easier and quicker. Many of these modifications have been incorporated into a Zell Rowland signature series of Pop "R"'s.
As far as size goes, the only one that I carry in my box is the 1/4 ounce model. As for color, I usually start out with a bone or white/blue back first thing in the morning and switch to a chrome/blue back when the sun gets up.
Let's briefly touch on equipment. For line, I prefer fresh, premium quality green 14-pound test monofilament. I use a 6'6" medium-light action All Star rod (model TWS) designed by Zell Rowland specifically for fishing small topwater baits (TWS stands for Top Water Special). Also, I use like to use a quality, high-speed baitcasting reel with a thumb bar release like an Abu Garcia 4600C3 or UC4600C.
I sincerely hope that at least some of the information that I have provided was enlightening or maybe entertaining but most of all helpful and educational. If you would like some first hand instruction on black bass fishing on Lake Livingston or Sam Rayburn, I guide full time on both of these lakes and can be reached at (409) 327-1932.
Between now and next month, try to find the time to take a child bass fishing. It can be one of your own children or grandchildren or if one of yours ain't handy when you get ready to go then borrow one. Remember that someone, somewhere took the time and made the effort to take you fishing and those kids really are the future of our sport. So until next time, catch all you can and release all that you catch. Good luck, be safe out there and may God bless.
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