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Topwater hits always a big thrill

July 28, 2017
By Capt. GEORGE TUNISON ( , Cape Coral Daily Breeze

Without question one of the greatest thrills in angling is the topwater strike.

Be it a five-pound bass blowing up a floating plug in the morning on a quiet small pond or an angry yellowfin tuna exploding on a surface popper far from shore, the sights and sounds of an aggressive fish feeding is always a thrill.

With snook so willing to bite and ravenous redfish always looking for an easy meal, and both living in shallow waters, a topwater plug is a natural.

Article Photos

Capt. George Tunison

The old time classic Zara Spook and the modern Rapala SkitterWalk are well known, time tested killer topwater plugs for all species of fresh and saltwater gamefish. They typically are fished in the walk-the-dog style back and forth retrieve

Biologists tell us that large numbers of local snook have been caught and released by anglers when they were juveniles. I'm convinced local fish populations get wise to lures. Some would say I'm giving the fish to much credit for smarts, but I would offer, how many snook over 40-inches have you caught?

The interesting thing is that big snook are here, but are pretty darn wise. During the Big Freeze of 2010, the surface waters of some canals joining Matlacha Pass were choked with huge dead female snook as far as the eye could see. That is a first-hand witness, non-exaggerated account. Of course, this was a horrible event, but did show the great number of local, trophy sized, very smart fish that lay low and snicker as lures of all descriptions swim by them daily.

When the instant classic MirrOlure MirrOdine suspending lure first came out snook stood in line to eat it. Now it's my personal experience that I don't catch as many as I used to using this bait. Conditioning? I'm not sure, but anglers buy a ton of them and the fish see them all the time.

Point is, show them something different. Snook are turned on by a skittering, splashing, escaping meal. How many mullet destined for the inside of a snook's mouth do the walk-the-dog style surface swim? Next cast, wake up that surface plug and put it to work. Jerk and splash it. Skitter it along the surface, rest, repeat. Think fish jumping out of the water, panic escape retrieve, which in the real world is more natural and really turns on aggressive and very competitive predators.

Tip: If you see a fish take a swipe at your plug and miss, don't stop the retrieve, keep the plug moving and chances are he will return.

Before you tie on your next walk-the-dog style old favorite topwater, dig down deep and tie on one of those long forgotten popper style topwater plugs. Let them float and pop them occasionally. Or use them to pop, splash and skitter on the surface really making a loud racket and showing educated fish something different.

Look for schools of bait and tarpon in the harbor and approach quietly. Toss a live ladyfish or large pinfish in the mix and put the rod in the holder. Drift with the bait using the trolling motor to correct course. Throw a jig or plastic swimbait like a DOA Baitbuster to pass the time. Drift quietly as it's easy to spook the tarpon.

If you enjoy night fishing hit the Caloosahatchee and Peace River bridges and fish the shadow lines and structure using baits on the bottom or cast plugs and soft plastics like Hogy lures for some scary tarpon strikes.

Early morning beach walkers can score heavily this month by casting the surf zone. Remember, any piece of structure no matter how small will draw beach snook, often a whole school.

Dedicated trophy trout anglers quietly throwing large topwater plugs at night in knee deep water will catch the summer's largest gator trout. Make long distance casts.

Capt. George Tunison is a Cape Coral resident fishing guide. Contact him at 239-440-1621 or



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