Lakecaster Online

Of Spook's, Ghost Minnows, and Things that go Splash in the Grass
By Ed Snyder

An Adventure into the "Awesome-Autumn" Top-Water Phenomenon "Somewhere" within the foggy mist of Lake Sam Rayburn, TX.

On this day of "trick or treat" when ghosts and goblins were running amuck, three anxious bass anglers managed to weave their way through those "things that go bump in the fog" for some "Awesome-Autumn" top-water bass adventures that most of us only dream of, "or read about"................As the Spook slowly "wobbled" past the grassy-staub, the obvious strongly hinted for me to put down the fishing rod and pick up my camera, but when the obvious suddenly "EXPLODED" out of the water..............."Too late!!"

Carl Wright, Owner of Rayburn Tackle, and Pro/fishing guide, John Walker, met up with me during the "pre-yawn" hour of 5:15 am, "Where, according to both, the weather conditions were right for attempting to do a top-water bass story. The morning of October 31, -(Halloween)- found us launching by 5:45 am to spend a couple of hours on Rayburn to "hopefully" get some top-water action images. "But, little did we know at the time that our two hour "mini-trip" would quickly turn into an "all-day-long" adventure which involved "Spook's, "Ghosts Minnows, and things that go "Splash" in the grass.

"The Zara Spook has been around "forever", advised Rayburn Tackle Pro/Guide, John "Spook" Walker, "Explaining that it probably produces more lunker bass than any other known top-water bait, John has a personal tally of over -100- eight pound -plus- several 9 lb bass caught on the Zara Spook during his 31 years of guiding, On this day of "trick or treat", John "Spook" Walker would prove his worth to his "in-famous" nick-name, as he provided an unforgettable "treat" during this day of Fall fishing on Lake Sam Rayburn, TX.

The pre-dawn fog was thick and clinging as we de-ramped the Ranger and motored out into its grayish, white cloud that quickly swallowed us up. Slowly feeling our way through the "white-out" conditions, we kept our eyes locked on the GPS unit that would "hopefully" guide us to our fishing destination, which was some ten miles away. Straining to sight any navigational markers which could help orient us to our location, we finally spotted what we' were looking for and turned into it. After slowly weaving our way through those "things that go bump in the fog", we managed to ease into the back of a slough area, where John, already armed with a shore-line minnow colored Zara Spook, un-leashed our first cast of the morning and slowly began "wobbling" it past a grassy- staub. The obvious strongly hinted for me to put down my fishing rod and pick up a camera instead, "But, as the obvious suddenly "EXPLODED"......."It was Too Late!!

"In the Fall, John Walker, explained to me the day before, "Whenever you can get a cloudy day or some foggy/hazy mornings, it becomes prime-time for top-water action where I'll start working the bank-structure with "Red/Shore-Line Minnow" Zara Spooks. Top water gear should be 5 & 1/2 foot medium action light tapered rods rigged with a slow ratio, 3.8 to one, level wind reel spooled with 15 lb test mono line with a stainless steel snap tied on for attaching the Spook, which allows the Spook to "walk" back and forth at a more normal pattern. "We like to work our way to the back of the creeks and sloughs this time of year, Carl Wright informed, "Where we look for schooling activity on baitfish, such as shad or ghost minnows -(glassy clear minnows)- which may be holding halfway back, or all the way into the pockets. "We'll then start fishing these areas with Spooks, Chug-Bugs, Yellow Magic's, Pop-R's, Spittin' Images, or any top-water baits which resembles an injured baitfish floundering on the surface.

While John "fiddles" with unhooking our first bass of the day, a solid three pounder, Carl starts working the grass-point edges with a Tennessee Shad Spittin' Image top-water, while I opt for a Yellow Magic, a Japanese top-water which has been a hot item for Rayburn Lunkers.

"The best way to work a Spook, John advised, "Is to work it in a back and forth motion what we refer to as "walking the dog" by keeping our rod-tips down and just slowly working the plug, stopping it every now and then for a pause before re-walking it back towards the boat, "A lot of times the bass will have a tendency to follow the bait and will often hit on the "pause" between retrieves." THIS" is when it really becomes exciting, John informs, "When the bass suddenly "EXPLODES" on the bait. "This also when the "un-experienced" anglers will usually miss their hit, Carl advised, "Explaining that bass will often "slap" at the bait with its tail to stun it before feeding on it. So you'll need to allow the bass to take the bait under feeling its pull "before" setting the hooks, or you could end up with a plug full of razor sharp treble hooks "rocketing" back at your, or your fishing partners head.

As the morning's heavy fog slowly began to dissipate, we kept working the timbered grass-point for more top-water activity. Carl's Spittin' Image retrieves of short hops and pauses quickly provides some excitement with several bass "blowing-up" on it before one finally connects enough for a solid hook-set. "There's several bass following this one, Carl alerts to us as John rockets his Spook to the left with me casting to the right. "Phlup, phlup, "KaPlush, and John's Spook is cutting water to the left, "Phitt, phitt, phitt, "Sploosh" and my Magic is cutting to the right. All three of us are suddenly hooked-up into fighting bass with Carl landing a "heavy" two, John lip-landing a "chunky" three, and mine de-hooking at the boat, "sling-shooting" my bait into the boat which cause Carl and John to duck & dodge flailing hooks. "Unh, probably a four, I mumbled to hide my embarrassment. No time for glares and stares though as the action began heating up into one of the most incredible top-water trips that I have ever experienced.

"Most of the top-water type baits come with sharp hooks, Carl enlightens, "But most of us guides and tournament anglers will modify their baits with sharper and stronger hooks. "Like I'll usually replace mine with the longer shank treble hooks, John explains, "Which will reach further down the bait, such as the Mustad long-shank type hooks. "And even though the packaged hooks you buy from the tackle shops are already sharp, John informed, "You still need to hone them to a sharper, keener edge.

With the fog cover threatening to lift, John decides to leave the productive grass-point which has produced at least 8 fish in about as many minutes to head for the back of the creek where he feels that some schooling activity should be active. "The wind is blowing directly into the pocket, John advised, "Pushing the baitfish back into it which will attract the bass. As we slowly work our way back towards the pocket, a Bald Eagle soars over our heads, "What a site we all agree as the beautiful emblem of our nations strength wings off towards a distant tree line. "The eagles are common sites for us during the Fall, Carl informs, "As we'll see quite a few of them winter here. "We also will spot a few Ospreys in this same area, John adds, "As they'll usually nest in the thicker, timbered areas of the lake.

But, waiting around a bend of the creek for us is an unexpected site as a throwback to the Dinosaur age lies out on the bank. "Gator" John points!! A common site for most Texas lakes and rivers, it's still an awesome site to be able to see these Alligators up close as they stretch out in hopes of catching some warmth. This one, however, has other reasons for banking itself as we watch it "inflate" its bull-sized neck and "bellow" the guttural sound of its Dinosauric heritage. The Gator, a male, is bellowing for a mate as well as to challenge any other male Gator, which may be in its territory. The sound is low and vibratory, making our skin tingle with alarm, much as what may have been experienced by the stone-age men of our heritage with their Gator confrontations. Keeping our distance, I manage to take several photos before the 10' long critter slithers into the pocket of water that we wished to fish. "NOT" wanting to tangle with this prehistoric image of our past, which is now nosing out to challenge our right to be there, we wisely decide to leave it to its territorial claim and move on to another fishing spot.

"There's more to fishing Sam Rayburn than just catching fish, Carl notes to me as we zip & strap ourselves for a run up-lake, "But further words are muffled by the rumble of the outboard as he throttles out from the creek into the main-lake area, passing several Snowy Egrets, Blue Herons, and good numbers of White Pelicans that would've fit well within his phrase of praise.

A short "hop" up-lake has us entering a long, wide-mouth creek that tapers off in the back with a series of smaller creeks feeding into it. As we ease towards the back, Carl turns into a point, which is formed by two feeder creeks intersecting into the main-creek channel. "The grass here is only 2" below the surface, Walker advised, "And the bass should be on top for as long as the fog cover holds. But this option may change quickly, Carl announced, as we watched the pale image of the sun trying to burn its way through the dissipating cover of fog.

Acting quickly, several casts were made to the inside grass pockets, But again, John's "walked" his Spook into the first top-water connection, his 8 th of the morning as he lands another nice bass of about three pounds. Before John could release his bass, the sun finally breaks through the fog, "Whelp, Carl responds, our top-water is about to come to an end, explaining that when the suns glare hits the surface the bass will usually head for deeper cover. It is now 11:30 am, well past the normal top-water action period, but the extended fog cover gave us an extended period of top-water feeding action.

Carl and I decided to change to wacky worms and Carolina rigs to fish the deeper cover, but John, keeping loyal to his Spook, tried to "squeeze" the last top-water bite from the morning's sunrise. This delay by John to change baits would prove to be the key for the action that we were about to experience on this day.

As Carl backed off to fish the outside grass-edges, John kept "rocketing" his Spook back over the grass-flat to "walk-it" back across the previously productive waters. "Ka-Splash"- John suddenly bows up on another "chunk" with his Spook, which gets me thinking about returning to my top-water rig. His next cast puts only two dimples on the water before "Ka-Splushing" into our largest bass of the morning. Returning to top-water rigs quickly became a "no-brainer" for Carl and I after John landed a "heavy" four. Choosing a bone/black Chug-Bug, I fiddle-fumble my tie on while Carl quickly turns the boat, "I guess the top-water bite isn't quite over yet, John chuckles, as we return to fishing the grass-bed. It's now "high-noon", but the bass don't seem to be bothered by the suns reflective glare, if anything, they seem to be picking up on the top-water bite "more so" than during the early morning hours. "With the help of some drifting cloud cover, John informs, "We should be able to stay with our top-water plugs. "Sometimes, Carl includes, "The bass just don't want to quit, and this may become one of those days that we only just dream, or read about. -(Quote of the day)-

"A warm wind is breezing in from the south, pushing the baitfish up on the grass-points and back into the pockets, Carl advises, "Which could mean why the bass are on an extended top-water bite. "With a little luck, Carl ads, "We should be able to enjoy this action for most of the day a long as the scattered cloud cover stays around. "Hey, I've got an idea, Carl suddenly quips as he pulls the troll-motor and prepares to navigate to another spot. With a barrage of mutinous protests about his sanity, Carl throttles out for a short run to another area and into the back of a winding creek where it splits off into two feeder creeks. Choosing the left feeder, Carl alerts us to get ready as has already spotted what he was hoping for. As we slowly move into the mouth of the feeder creek, we can see some bass actively feeding on a school of baitfish, which are skittering across the surface in absolute panic. I can almost feel the whiplash of air displacement as John "rockets" his Spook past my ears and into the melee. I quickly follow suite with my Chug-Bug after Carl tosses a Spittin' Image, but can barley manage to keep out of the way as Carl & John trade gunnel space for landing back-to-back bass. Most of the fish in the school are "chunky" 2 pounders, but several are solid 3's as within 20 minutes about 12 to 14 bass are landed and released from our boat before the feeding spree is over.

"With the south wind pushing the baitfish up into these creek pockets, Carl informs, "The bass will sometimes stack up in the creek channels to take advantage of the situation as it provides a virtual "bait-fish buffet" for their feeding interests. As we move further back into the feeder creek, Carl and John concentrate on the grass-edges as I cast to the open waters of the feeder creek channel. "Whomp" there they are, I alert as my Chug-Bug attracts a savage bass-bite. Both anglers immediately start working the open creek channel as I land a nice three pounder. The bite is much slower however with the Chug-Bug keeping the "schoolies" active while the Spook and Image collect the larger -3 to -4 pound class fish. "But, "What the heck, "I was catching fish, and a lot of them. -(Besides, John wouldn't allow me to use his Spook)-

"It's now 4:35 pm guys, I announce, "And we've been out on the lake "well past" our estimated ETA for land based obligations. "Yeah, sure-nuff past my afternoon appointments, Carl responded, "Yeah, my wife's gonna' kill me too, John warns. "So, with me digging into Carl's aft storage boxes looking for "anything" edible, we slowly make our way out towards the main lake area. "Here's some crackers n'cheese I discover, "Probably been in there for a year though, "Grab, "munch, "munch! "How bout these moldy cinnamon rolls guys, "Grab, "munch, "munch ! "Aha, here's some Halloween candy, "Grab, "munch, munch!!!

"The trick to finding top-water action, Carl advises as we "hungrily" devour the treasured discoveries, "Is to keep moving while your casting until you've found an active feeding area, then saturate that area with your top-water baits. "Much like we did today, Carl continued, "When we found the wind blowing across those grass-points, "Or, when the wind was pushing the baitfish schools to the back of the creeks where the bass were staging along the grass-pockets to feed on them. "In the Fall, John informs, "When the air temperature cools and the water temp drops to between 65 and 78 degrees -(October-November)- the top-water bite becomes very active, then again in the Spring -(March-April-May)- when the water temp rises above 65 degrees which will initiate some prime-time top-water action. "This the type of fishing action that could easily become hazardous to your health, John "Spook" Walker advises, "When the faint of heart needs to go crappie fishing, "But, if you like to get your adrenalin "maxed-out" then give us a call at 1-888-BIG-HAWG.

As we navigate back towards the Twin Dikes boat ramp, we, "all three" suddenly realize that we've just experienced one of the most fantastic top-water bass fishing adventures that any angler could hope to enjoy, Which hooked us up with 40 to 45 "quality" Rayburn bass ranging from 2 to 5 lbs. And, as we eased into the boat-ramp area, Carl spots a grass-pocket on the southern edges of Rattle Snake Island, which has baitfish, stacked up along its grassy-edges. "I wonder, Carl questions, as he grabs for one last cast. "Then, with an Autumn sunset providing the purr-fect cocktail, Carl "wobbled" John's Spook one last time.

Later, as we sat at "The Stump" waiting on our cheese-burgers and fries, all three of us suddenly burst out laughing at the memory of Carl hooking up to our largest bass of the day as it "exploded" on John's Spook as it "wobbled" past that grassy-staub............."What a day, "WHAT A DAY!!"

"The type of fishing action that we experienced today, John "Spook" Walker finalized, "Could easily become hazardous to your health, "Where the faint of heart need to go fishing for crappie, "But, John further enticed, "If you like to get your adrenalin "maxed-out" with some "vigorous" fishing action, then you need to give us a call at 1-888-BIG-HAWG.

(Editors Note) In being that the Zara Spook John used to produce our hottest action for this story-line- had been discontinued by the company, John had to "special-order" the Shore-Line Minnow Spook and will have it on the Rayburn Tackle Shop counter for sale- but it's a first come first serve item to get one of the baits- so be advised to call or come by their shop which is located on Hwy 255 kiddy/cornered across from Twin Dikes Marina.

The Bully on the Block

Purr-fect cocktail after a Purr-fect day
< photos by Ed Snyder >

What a topwater bite lokks like

Carl Wright -L- and John "Spook" Walker display quality catch

John "Spook" Walker hookin' up to our first Halloween Bass

The key baits for our topwater success

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