Six Great Topwater Lures

There’s nothing better than watching a fish slam a plug as it rips across the water’s surface. 
Shimano Pop-Orca
Poppers like the Shimano Pop-Orca are traditional-style topwater lures. But there are a variety of effective plugs that elicit exciting surface strikes. Jon Whittle

In terms of pure excitement, it’s hard to beat a topwater. I find there’s nothing more thrilling than watching a fish rocket up from the depths and smash a lure dragged along the surface. Fortunately, you can find a surface lure designed to catch just about any species these days, from inshore favorites like snook to offshore bruisers like bluefins. And depending on their action, these plugs can be fished at a near standstill up to speeds that only a wahoo could handle.

Shimano’s Pop-Orca has the stereotypical look we’ve come to expect from a modern popper. But the open-mouth design, which Shimano calls a bubble chamber, shoots water out the top of the lure to create a surface commotion that poppers of the past never produced. The giant concave face also makes this popper easy to work, great for those new to the popping scene. Slow or fast, this one excels. Through-wire construction and beefy hooks make this suitable for offshore species.

MirrOlure Popa Dog
The hybrid design of the MirrOlure Popa Dog can coax strikes from finicky fish. Jon Whittle

Plugs like MirrOlure’s Popa Dog combine the attractive side-to-side action of a walk-the-dog-style lure with a cupped face, providing the best of both worlds. This plug is best worked at a medium pace, with the intermediate speed allowing the lure to swing wide in an alluring manner. The concave face throws plenty of water, giving the Popa Dog the power to pull fish from the depths. I’ve found that if a fish won’t commit, allowing the lure to pause and then giving it a hard, rapid tug is just the ticket. The action causes the lure to throw water wildly, which many fish can’t resist. The rattling chamber also creates a vibration that helps fish home in on it, even in stained water.

Yo-Zuri Mag Dive
Yo-Zuri’s Mag Dive has a unique floundering action, diving headfirst into the water to trigger strikes from inshore and offshore predators. Jon Whittle

Back in my ­surf-fishing days, I would sometimes reverse the hooks and line-tie sides of a pencil popper. The result was a plug that dived violently headfirst, offering a perfect imitation of the squid that would chase sand eels into the surf. Yo-Zuri improved upon this action with the Mag Dive, a floating/diving pencil that does a great job of imitating squid as well as a dying or injured baitfish floundering on the surface. Fish this one with long sweeps of the rod at ripping speeds, or slow it down and let it bob along the surface. Built with 4X-strong hardware and through-wire construction to handle yellowfin tuna, yellowtails or other offshore species, it’s also great for inshore favorites like striped bass.

Berkley Choppo Saltwater
While a popper’s cupped face does a good job of getting fish to strike, it doesn’t do the trick every time. Prop baits, like Berkley’s Choppo Saltwater, can be sensed from a great distance away. Jon Whittle

Prop baits have been around the freshwater bass scene for a while now, but you don’t often see them in the salt. That’s why Berkley’s Choppo Saltwater has entered the scene with such fanfare. This topwater features a large propeller that spins around the back of the plug, creating an unbelievable amount of surface turbulence. Because it floats at rest, you can work it at any speed you’d like. I’ve found alternating long and short strips of the rod tip force even fussy stripers to attack.

Rapala X-Rap Magnum Stick 17
Rapala’s X-Rap Magnum Stick 17 has a wide swimming action that can rip in quickly. Jon Whittle

Rapala’s X-Rap Magnum Stick 17 features a variety of bright, lifelike finishes that provide plenty of flash. The lure sinks on the pause, so it can be worked aggressively without ripping it from the water’s surface. The internal weighting allows the X-Rap Magnum Stick 17 to cast a country mile and makes it swim in wide S-curves on the retrieve. Because of the fast retrieves this lure is capable of, Rapala built it to survive savage strikes from bluewater predators like tuna. If you do pause it during the retrieve, the Magnum Stick dives head-first with an alluring flutter. Single hooks are tuna-strong and make unhooking easy on anglers and fish alike.

Read Next: Catching Redfish On Topwater Lures

AFTCO Blue Fever
Jerkbaits are often overlooked, but it’s not because they don’t work. AFTCO’s Blue Fever is a good choice when fish seem to get a bit fussy. Jon Whittle

Though they dive, I feel comfortable including jerkbaits in our topwater roundup because anglers can keep them near the surface if worked properly. AFTCO made its Blue Fever jerkbait slightly heavier than its competitors, allowing it to cast farther with help from a ­magnetic weight-transfer system that gives it the proper balance once it hits the water. But it will slowly sink, so give it a rather spirited retrieve to keep it near the surface.

Spinning rods are typically used to throw topwater lures, but I like utilizing baitcasters. I find it easy to introduce slack into your line when working topwaters, and that can lead to wind knots on a spinning reel’s spool. The revolving spool of a casting reel seems to do a better job of controlling the slack and preventing tangles. Try a saltwater-specific model such as the Abu Garcia Revo, Shimano Tranx or Penn Fathom 400 Low Profile on your next inshore popping ­adventure.