Surface Lures for the Kayak: To Pop or to Walk?

Poppers for Kayak Surface Luring

Catching a good fish from a kayak is always a special experience because there are just so many variables to consider and deal with. The variables may include tide, current, water levels, crowded, open rivers, snag-infested creeks or the open ocean and its myriad of dangers and opportunities.
On top of these initial variables you have your different fishing techniques i.e.: surface lures, plastics rigged weedless or traditional, crankbaits and jerk baits, spinnerbaits or vibes and blades and all the creature baits such as frogs and cicadas.

In October 2015 I wrote an article on the best lures for chasing Bass. Check it out here. But today I’m going to focus on surface lures!

To me surface luring is the absolute ultimate! There’s nothing quite like the explosive hit from a Bass, Cod, Toga, Jack, Trevally or Barra smashing your lure as it walks or pops its way across the top! The resulting adrenaline rush that comes as your lure disappears into the hole left by an angry fish, as water flies in all directions, can leave you with quite a rush!

The BEAST Fishing Kayak

So when it comes to surface luring the first question is… to Pop? Or to walk? I’ll cover that right now. The second question is what kind of retrieve suits the target species? Do they like a fast retrieve? A Slow retrieve? A continuous retrieve? Or a mixed retrieve with lots of pauses? Will they like subtle or loud with lots of water movement to draw their attention? These questions can often give you a good starting point to your lure choice. But throw on top of this all the other variables, such as time of year, barometric pressure, water temps, predominate baitfish and endless other things, and it’s easy to see why people struggle and get confused.

My Suggestion? Experiment! Cover all your bases with a good selection of poppers, walkers and fizzers in a variety of sizes, colours and shapes. Include walking and popping styles as well as loud and quiet lures and throw everything to discover what works in your local water way.

Surface Lures on the Kayak

Let’s now have a look at one of the most commonly targeted fish from a kayak. The Australian Bass.
The Australian bass is such a godsend for lure anglers and even more so for the yak angler. For their size they truly pack a mean punch and are particularly good for targeting on surface, often leaving the fisherman stunned by the explosion of water and screaming first run. I think every yak angler should target this great species because they are one of the easiest fish to catch and also one of the most frustrating to catch.

Below I’ll give you a rundown on some of the best lures in each category.

Poppers

The great thing about a popper is everyone can fish them. Throw them close to structure and bloop them out slowly with a few pauses and there’s a good chance you will get smacked. Some poppers will even walk! A real positive is they can create action and motion on the spot without leaving the strike zone, often an initial bloop on the spot can attract attention and the second, more subtle twitch will draw the strike. This is a real consideration and advantage for kayak fishos fishing creeks with any sort of flow as it allows the lure to remain in the zone longer as you drift past. Even when fishing the dams with their lilly and weed edges a popper blooped and left in the zone will often draw a strike where a walker that is moved through the zone will be untouched.

Surface Lures - Poppers

When choosing a popper look at its profile and more importantly its face design. A deep symmetrical cup face with a central tow point will produce a nice blooping action when fished at a slow to moderate speed, a cupped face with a high tow point can often be blooped slowly and walked at a similar speed, and a slanted face will walk and splash, again, at a slow to moderate speed.

Key Point: Think maximum time in the strike zone
Advantages: Easy to use, multiple retrieve styles, max time in strike zone
Disadvantages: Can spook fish when blooped
My Favourites: Jackall Grande, River2sea Bubblepop & Baby Bell, Ecogear PP60, Livetarget Frog Mimix Grasshopper & Chugbux

Walkers

Once you can coordinate your winding hand with the subtle shaking of the rod you will love walkers.
A “walk the dog” lure produces varying degrees of side-to-side action that leaves a beautiful wake in its trail that a lot of fish including Bass find irresistible. This will often elicit a strike where a popper would spook them. A walker has a few great advantages in that it can be fished very slowly, producing a wide “tic-tic” style walk or a little quicker will produce a narrower, faster “tic-tic-tic” action that skitters across the surface. The Subtle action of a walker is its greatest asset. Often it resembles a fleeing prawn or baitfish and at rest will sit tail down in the water which is a great help with hook-ups.

Surface Lures - Walkers

The main disadvantage for the kayak fisho would be in flowing water where you need to move it to get its action working and you are drifting past the snag as well. This situation will find you out of the strike zone very quickly which will make your efforts doubly hard.

When choosing a walker, again, we need to look at profile, tow point location and the face of the lure. Some great walkers often walk with a nose-up attitude and are great for both slow and moderate retrieves. Flatter profiles with blunt or slightly cupped noses often have a flatter retrieve but may also have the advantage of spitting water as they go and then there is the rounder-profile with a pointed nose that offers great versatility in presentation speeds giving both options of subtlety and speed.

Whatever the lure, it has to land in the strike zone to start with, and then you must maximise its time there. At times Bass will hit your lure as soon as it lands, at other times it’s all about your patience and leaving the lure there for a period.

Hot Tip: Don’t look at your lure. Watch the water behind it for tell-tale signs a fish is inspecting your offerings. Swirling water will often indicate a fish just a few inches from your lure.
Key point: Subtle retrieves don’t spook fish
Advantages: Subtle, fished at various speeds
Disadvantages: Have to learn to use. They move out of the strike zone quicker
Favourites: Megabass Dog-x & Dog-x jnr, Bassday Sugapen, Atomic K-9, Berkley Scumdog, Ecogear PX55, Lucky Craft Sammy 65, Taylormade Basscada & Fatbanger.

Surface Lures on the Kayak 2

Tackle

I currently fish two outfits on my kayak. The first is a 2-4kg soft tapered rod perfect for throwing and twitching smaller poppers and walkers and the second a medium taper 3-5kg for mid-size lures. If you throw walkers predominantly I suggest a softer light tipped rod to get that walking action going. I fish a mainline of 9lb and a quality fluorocarbon leader for abrasion resistance of 10-12lb. Tackle is such a personal choice but go for the best you can afford and get out there and enjoy.
So stock the box and throw them deep and hang on! for the Australian Bass is one of our greatest sportfish and an amazing target for the kayak angler. Tight lines!

by Ken Rowling

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