Classic Bass

By Steve Ryan - September 1, 2004
The sounds of classic topwater bass lures are ingrained in anglers' memories like songs from an old LP. The record spins at 33, 45, or 78 revolutions per minute depending upon the anglers' age. For those anglers who have retired these lures, the tune has faded. For those who have kept these lures in their play selection, their tune rings as true today as the first day they were released. These lures play a tune that bass find irresistible.

Some of the original topwater plugs have long since gone out of production. Lure companies have come and gone. Their lures becoming a part of fishing history - now admired in display cases instead of in tackle boxes. Of these classic lures still in production, most have undergone minor facelifts. Plastic has replaced wood construction. Hooks and hook hardware have been improved. Color selections have increased. However, their song remains the same. They continue to call in big bass.

Brands such as Arbogast, Heddon and Creek Chub continue to make legendary lures, which date back more than a hundred years. Success breeds longevity. It is a Creek Chub lure that still holds top honors in the annals of fishing fame for catching the world record largemouth bass at 22 pounds 4 ounces. Lures like the Arbogast Hula Popper and Jitterbug, and Heddon Crazy Crawler and Zara Spook have become fixtures in anglers' memories and tackle boxes for generations.

Arbogast Hula Poppers and Jitterbugs
Hula Poppers and Jitterbugs are two of the most widely recognized and used topwater lures. Jitterbugs ring out the sound of "blurb, blurb, blurb . . . blurb, blurb, blurb" across ponds and lakes throughout the country. Many childhood memories have been created with the aid of a Jitterbug and that first after dark bass experience.

With its built in action, the Jitterbug dances across the water on a steady retrieve. The darkness and the stillness of the night, amplifies the sound of the lure. Unseen bullfrogs bellow from all directions. Bats fly erratically overhead in search of an evening meal - occasionally hitting the line. With each crank of the reel handle, the sound of the lure intensifies. As the lure sings its song across the water, a lunker bass erupts on the lure. The rod bends sharply, and you are hooked up with your first jitterbug bass. No matter if the bass weighted two pounds or eight pounds; it was unforgettable.

The Hula Popper rivals the big bass tunes played by the Jitterbug. The Hula Popper sounds off with a pronounced "ploop . . . ploop . . . ploop" With its bulging eyes, huge popping mouth and hula skirt trailer, many anglers have made the Hula Popper the first lure they ever purchased. For others, it was a lure handed down from a grandfather, father or family friend. A lure admired and cherished from day one.

As a first lure purchased, many an angler has agonized over the decision between getting the flashier coach dog or the classic black on black pattern. Today, this dilemma continues for young anglers. The one decision that remains simple is keeping this lure in the play list. For older anglers, that original Hula Popper, with its cracked paint and tattered skirt, may have been retired and replaced with a dozen bright shiny and new stand-ins. These new lures glisten in the evening sun like a compact disc; whereas, the paint on that vintage Hula Popper more closely resembles the matte finish of an old vinyl record. The finishes may have changed but the lures continue to play the same fish catching tunes.

Hula Poppers call out bass any time of day or night. Casting it near lily pads or under overhanging shoreline limbs, the Hula Popper creates as slight commotion as it hits the surface of the water. As the rings disappear from around the lure, the hula skirt begins to dance. If this does not draw out a dancing partner, a quick jerk of the rod sends water spraying and a popping sound echoing from the Hula Popper's mouth. The swifter the jerk of the rod, the more water and noise the lure produces.

The Hula Popper excels when cast into small pockets and openings near bass holding cover. When bass blow up on the lure, the water explodes. White foam and spray envelop the lure. The key to an angler's success is knowing when to set the hook. Like lyrics from a skipping record, the sage advice of "don't set the hook until you feel the weight of the fish", has been repeated thousands of times when it comes to fishing a Hula Popper.

Heddon Zara Spook and Crazy Crawler
In this age of 'what have you caught for me lately', Heddon can declare that it has provided topwater excitement since 1894. In that year, James Heddon created the first artificial fishing plug in Dowagiac, Michigan. Heddon continues to make classic lures that have defined the sport of fishing. The classic hinged-wing Crazy Crawler has intrigued anglers and bass since its introduction. While other Heddon lures, like the Zara Spook, have introduced a whole new retrieve method - the "walk the dog".

The subtle sounds of a Zara Spook, sliding through and changing directions in the water, are in sharp contrast to the racket belted out by a Crazy Crawler. Then again, the Zara Spook may have been the original finesse lure. In an age of steel or solid fiberglass rods, primitive baitcast reels and thick Dacron line, the Zara Spook was a lure ahead of its time.

The Zara Spook comes alive on the surface of the water when worked by a skilled angler. An action so enticing it draws up lunker bass to hit this surface bait even in broad daylight. Fast or slow - skip, hop, jump - slide, glide, stop - the angler sets the tempo. Like a conductor, an angler with a soft action rod, writes the song the Zara Spook plays on the surface of the water.

If the Zara Spook swings softly like a jazz band, the Crazy Crawler rocks with the thunder of a heavy metal band. If the Zara Spook motto is "Walk the Dog", the Crazy Crawler's anthem is "Black Dog" With its swinging metal wings, the Crazy Crawler clicks and clatters loudly as it wiggles and wobbles across its watery stage. With a quick jerk of the rod, the Crazy Crawler pops and skitters with a spray of water announcing the lure's presence on the stage. While the Crazy Crawler works well during the daylight hours, after midnight, the Crazy Crawler lets it all hang out. Crank it fast and the Crazy Crawler creates a commotion like few other lures of its size.

Make your next fishing outing a musical event filled with classic bass tunes. Get reacquainted with the classics. Even if you have forgotten the words, the music is unforgettable. Tie on a classic lure, and let the music play.

Author Steve Ryan
Steve Ryan
Steve Ryan is an outdoor writer and avid angler who enjoys targeting trophy fish throughout the Midwest and beyond.