The ability of an artificial lure to excite and attract saltwater game fish relies heavily on several environmental and situational factors. Whether found in fresh or saltwater, aquatic predators feed by sight, scent and feel. Most game fish are outfitted with powerful smell receptors and sensory organs to detect forage from a distance, with lateral lines providing key insight through vibrations detected in the water.
While the newest scent technology is just one factor making waves across all sorts of inshore habitats, water is also an incredible transmitter of sound. For years anglers have been capitalizing on the ability of game fish to detect vibrations and noise from great distances.
With so many artificial lure variations on the market, it is no surprise manufacturers are constantly developing new innovations to further increase a lure’s appeal to foraging predators.
With so many artificial lure variations on the market, it is no surprise manufacturers are constantly developing new innovations to further increase a lure’s appeal to foraging predators. The latest designs certainly help fishermen find consistent success, but there’s one constant that lure makers and game fish can’t ignore—the rattle, pop and clack of plastic topwater baits. With a wide range of lures outfitted with rattling inserts, and popping corks one of the most effective and significant approaches of all time, it’s clear game fish respond to the calling card of noisy lures.
When you pick up a topwater lure and give it a wiggle you’ll hear the chime of the split rings and hooks banging against the artificial. Many lures also have internal cavities that house steel balls that produce a sound of desired intensity and resonance. Some lures feature spherical inserts that are part of more of an internal weight distribution system to keep the lure running at the correct attitude and also help achieve increased casting distance. No matter how it is accomplished, all offerings have a signature sound and associated vibration, so it is no surprise anglers have favorite lures.
When worked along the surface, topwater poppers not only disrupt the surface but also emit a rattling noise that mimics distressed batifish, like a disoriented mullet flopping on the surface. During windy conditions when inshore waters become moderately choppy, baits that emit loud noises really shine and draw in fish from a great distance. On calmer days when glassy conditions put fish on high alert you may want to choose a rattle bait that has a lower frequency and softer pitch. You can also downsize your topwater to a more diminutive offering. If you’ve been throwing a Super Spook and fish only seem to swirl on your bait but neglect to commit, switch to a Spook Jr. and try slowing your retrieve.
Various lures create different pitch and frequency vibrations and pops, so if you find success with a particular brand and lure under certain conditions, make a mental note and remember the action you imparted to initiate the strike. It’s also important you don’t restrict surface presentations to low light hours. Although this is the ideal time to entice a topwater bite, don’t hesitate making some noise when the sun is high in the sky. Sometimes the loud and large profile of a topwater lure can be the difference no matter the time of day.
Remember there’s not a particular approach that works all of the time and rattling topwater lures are simply another addition to your arsenal. When fishing shallow estuarine inshore habitats, baits that rattle and make noise are often referred to as search baits—lures that are used to find pockets of fish. Once you’re in the action it’s okay to keep fishing your clacking and popping topwater plugs, but you can also switch to more precise stealth baits that appeal to leery fish. During clear conditions redfish will be honed in on the quiet and stealthy movement of baitfish trying to cross a flat while avoiding predation, so it makes sense why a noisy topwater might be overkill and look completely out of place, scaring away both game fish and forage.
The bottom line is that fish have different preferences day in and day out and it pays to have a full tackle box with a wide variety of assortments. Consistently successful anglers accurately observe and understand their surroundings and consider how to most effectively present artificial offerings depending on the precise conditions they are faced with.
Working topwater lures correctly takes practice. As with most inshore lure applications, connect your lure with a small loop knot to provide the most lifelike action. Every lure requires you to tweak your retrieve slightly, but after a few casts you will figure out what works best. Whether you prefer to hold the rod tip low or high when walking the dog, the crank-twitch-pause sequence will eventually feel like a normal rhythm and become second nature. If the lure doesn’t react with a wide swing from side to side, you need to slow down your retrieve.