If you have been watching the Bass Pro Tour all season long, you will have noticed many anglers trying to catch as many fish as they can as quickly as they can. That may be a recipe for success to win an MLF event, but when it comes to the weekend angler, MLF pro Jeff Sprague says to not do everything the pros do.
“I think people are so focused on using what the pros use to cover a lot of water,” Sprague admitted. “When we as pros use a spinnerbait, vibrating jig or a buzzbait, we’re catching the most active fish that are there. But what people need to realize is if you slow down and use a bait like a popper, you’ll cover less water, but you will get equal or more bites.”
Sprague says the summer months are the perfect time to tie on your favorite popper—he prefers a Strike King HC KVD Splash Popper—because you can work it different ways, depending on how the fish are reacting.
“A popper is so universal on the water,” Sprague explained. “You can walk it, twitch it or let it sit still until the rings it makes in the water disappear. It actually calls fish from a distance to come and get it, even when they may not be in an aggressive mood.”
The Texas pro also points out that a slow retrieve is crucial when working to get bites on a popper because of how and where the fish like to group up.
“In the summer, fish run in wolf packs, groups of about three to seven swimming together,” Sprague said. “The fish are traveling down the bank just like you are, and if you’re going the same direction they are, you might not catch them if you’re moving too fast. Fish aren’t always stationary and hugging to cover like you may think. They can also be looking for food, and the easier to find and eat the better.”
Sprague points out that there are a lot of great times to throw a popper, but the absolute best time might be in the heat of the summer.
“I really like slick conditions with some good sunshine,” Sprague detailed. “Those conditions allow fish to feed up without getting a great look at the bait.”
Sprague also advises that a popper is useful in both shallow and deep water, depending on water clarity.
“The clearer the water, the deeper those fish will come up and eat it,” Sprague said. “I’ve thrown a popper so shallow that it will snag the bottom in an inch of water. I’ve also used it in super clear water and fish have come up from the depths just to get it. Since it is so slow moving, bass will come from wherever to eat it because it doesn’t take that much energy to track down.”