Three On Top
Dramatic new lures add to the top-water thrill
Topwater-lure fishing is the most sensory-intense of all the shallow-water angling techniques on the Chesapeake. You see and hear the fierce explosion of the strike, feel the immediate surge of the fish’s power when you hook up and marvel when a big striper throws a shallow-water tantrum.
Still more intense is the extreme anxiety you’ll feel at a blow-up, when the fish misses the lure. If you’re able to immediately re-entice a strike, the nerve-rending return attack will push your impulse control past your limits.
Over the years, top-water lures have been freshwater, largemouth bass lures modified with heavy-duty stainless steel hardware and corrosion-resistant hooks. They work very well in the Bay.
Newer are lures designed for Bay stripers. Three of the most popular series are the Stillwater Smack-It series, the Lonely Angler Mega Eye series and the Sebilé Splasher lures.
Smack-Its were developed six years ago for catching stripers in the Rhode Island surf. Lori Hoke, a young angler from Lancaster, Pennsylvania, was dissatisfied with the large, heavyweight plugs intended for stout surf rods.
She designed a lighter lure she could cast all day without tiring; it proved not only easy to work but also effective. She then discovered it was ideal for light-tackle striped-bass fishing on the Chesapeake.
An entrepreneur at heart, she formed Stillwater Lures (www.stillwater-lures.com) to sell the deadly plugs to tackle shops along the Tidewater as well in New England.
The subsequent development of a junior-sized version that imitated the smaller baitfish of the Bay made the series a killer. Today you’ll find Smack-Its and Smack-It Juniors in most tackle stores not to mention in many angler’s tackle boxes. The well-made, long-casting and unusually effective surface series should be in your box as well.
The Lonely Angler (www.Lonelyangler.com) is also a custom lure manufacturer recent to the Tidewater. John Wilson and his son Ben made their own wooden lures for plug-casting for striped bass from Cape Cod to the Monomoy Flats in Massachusetts.
When Ben moved to Maryland, he brought his angling passion and continued to fashion custom lures. Three years ago, when his father retired from teaching, they created the Lonely Angler series. Initially these were custom-made wood lures; John turned the bodies at his home in Boston, and Ben applied the custom paints in his basement workshop in Silver Spring.
When they expanded their sales base, they designed a resin molded, holographic-surface lure for the Chesapeake. Thus was born the Mega Eye Popper and then the three-quarter-ounce Mini-mega Eye. Both turned out to be extremely effective and popular with Bay rockfish and rock-anglers. Today both models are the line’s best sellers in Maryland, especially in the bunker color.
Within the last season, Patrick Sebilé (www.SebiléUSA.com) from Nice, France, has gained attention on the Chesapeake. An enthusiastic angler and lure designer, Patrick holds more than 30 IGFA world records and has created probably the most distinctive series of lures in the last 20 years.
Basing his creations on hydrodynamic principals and using an oil-based weighting and glitter suspension system, Patrick’s surface lures look and perform like no others. His Splasher series features a serpentine, flared, prey-fish-hued, translucent body and internal glitter suspended in oil. The flared shape of the keeled lure creates a noticeable water disturbance and a unique action. The suspended glitter suggests constant motion and cascading baitfish scales: all predator strike triggers.
The weight of the oil makes the lure effortless to cast long distances and also induces a low-frequency vibration in the retrieve. This rockfish plug has achieved almost instant acceptance among discerning top-water Bay anglers.
Having successfully fished all three, I always carry a few in each series. The stripers seem to like all equally well, though they now and again favor one over the other.