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Rapala on Top

By Dustin Smith - December 1, 2001
The Original Floating Rapala, a forgotten lure. A lure first made in 1936 by Laurie Rapala. The Rapala is a thin minnow type bait made of balsa wood.The original Rapala comes in many sizes targeting everything from Panfish to Northern Pike and Musky. For Bass, I use sizes 7 to 11. For most situations I use the 9, it is 3 ½ inches long and weighs 3/16 oz. In spring a smaller bait such as the 7 might be better because of the smaller baitfish in the spring. In the fall when baitfish are rather large going up to size 11 sometimes is best.

I use three basic colors. My first color would be Silver with black back. Silver always represents some kind of baitfish in any lake. On cloudy or overcast days, I use Gold sides with Black back. When it is sunny out I use a new color Rapala came out with called Vampire. It has chrome plating with a black back and it reflects the sun. Stay away from the Clown color and also the Firetiger because the paint on these baits are a lot heavier and almost suspend which defeats the purpose of twitching them as topwater.

Equipment for this bait has to be spinning when using the smaller sizes. A 6'0 Daiwa Spinmatic-X Ultra Lite action is optimum. I like the 6'0 rod with these light baits since they give me further casting distance. If you used a short rod, it would shorten your casting distance and spook more fish. I use a Shimano Sedona 2000 series reel, it's a smooth casting reel with instant anti-reverse. The light action rod is a must for working the bait on the surface, with a heavier action rod it imparts to much action. I use 6 lb. P-Line Premium Line for this bait. Its very smooth casting line, and is tough enough so your line doesn't snap often if you are careful.

The best part of this bait is using it because it is so easy but yet effective. This bait can just about do it all. It can be twitched, popped, or spit. Twitching it is usually the most effective topwater presentation. It is a very subtle topwater when twitched. Twitch your rod softly with your rod tip pointing up. The bait will dive under the water slightly. It barely makes any noise, using it on flat water is a must when twitching since otherwise fish will have a hard time seeing it. If the fish won't respond to twitching. Trying a more aggressive presentation. Twitching the rod fast and repeatedly will make the bait pop and spit. Point the rod tip up and twitch it over and over. It takes a while to get the rhythm but it is incredible how big of a bubble the bait will make or how high the water will spit. Sometimes the bass will just nip at the Rapala and not take it. When they do this twitch it under water and give it a few reels. Many times when it becomes submerged a bass will take it. If all else fails just let it sit there from anywhere from 15 seconds to 60 seconds. Sometimes the bass just won't take a fast moving lure and need something to sit right in front of them. This is especially effective on spawning fish. Not many people fish topwater for spawning bass, and they should. A bass finds it hard to resist a injured minnow bait right by his face even when he's not feeding.

Where and when to fish it? I fish it around about all kinds of cover, ranging from weeds to rock. The first thing is, you don't fish it in the cover but instead around it. With such light line and light rod fishing in cover is nearly impossible. Fish it anywhere you would fish topwater bait. It is basically a finesse topwater. You can expect more bass, sometimes not as big but definitely more. I fish this bait when water temps climb higher than 55 degrees in the spring and down to about 60 degrees in the fall. Anytime temps lower than that you will have better luck with a subsurface bait. This of course is a standard so fluke things can happen and bass might be schooling and eating shad or some other kind of baitfish on the surface. Just like any other topwater, fishing it at dawn and at dusk will usually produce the best action. unless it is an overcast day and topwater can last all day. Once again fluke things do happen and sometimes you might be able to get bass on top in the middle of a bright sunny day. Just experiment and pay attention to what is going on. If you see some shad flickering on the surface, it won't hurt to throw a few times with a Rapala.

For fishing it on top I make a few modifications. First of all I put one size larger treble hook on the back. I prefer Mustad Triple Grip. The back end of the bait will sit lower in the water, and it is easier to work as a natural appearing topwater lure. I also color the bottom of the bait with a marker called Color-Rite by Lake Hawk. I either use red or orange, this is especially effective on smallmouth bass. Some Gold Rapalas have Gold that runs to the bottom of it instead of having a plain white bottom, they are rare but if you can get your hands on them grab a few.

Good luck fishing the Rapala!

Author Dustin Smith
Dustin Smith
Dustin Smith lives in southern Wisconsin. He is 16 years old and fishes for Largemouth bass and Smallmouth bass with a little occasional muskie and northern fishing. If you ever have any questions for him,you can contact him at [email protected].
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