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Tips for Prop Bait Success

Tips for Prop Bait Success

By Tyler Brinks 7/2/2017

Everyone loves topwater fishing and there are many options available to us anglers. Prop baits are a lure category that is often overlooked compared to walking baits, buzzbaits and other topwaters. Bassmaster Elite Series pro Bill Lowen relies on prop baits heavily in the spring and summer and shares some tips on how to catch more bass with them.

Spawn Focus for Prop Baits

Prop baits will work anytime a bass is willing to eat a topwater, but Lowen prefers likes to fish them around some type of spawn.

“It could be when bass are in the pre-spawn, post-spawn or even spawning. I also like it when the bass are keying on bedding bluegill or if there is a shad spawn going on,” he says.

Locations for the Technique

There is not just one type of location that is best for fishing a prop bait, but Lowen says that isolated cover is always a good bet.

“Many times with these baits you are fishing for individual fish and not schooling fish. I look for single trees, isolated grass and pockets in the vegetation,” he begins. “It is also a type of bait that you can just tie on and go down the bank fishing it.”

Read Related: Designing, Rigging and Fishing the Thumper Tail with Butch Brown Prop Bait Retrieves

There are a multitude or retrieve options when it comes to fishing a prop bait, but like anything else, it is often best to experiment until you find what the fish want that particular day.

“With topwater fishing, there is always a cadence that is going to be better for that day. The fish will let you know how fast they want it and how long you should pause,” he says.

Lowen often fishes with a simple stop and go retrieve.

“I wouldn’t say it is a ‘jerk’, it is more like a ‘pull’ of the rod to get the blades to spin. I pull it then pause then pull again and will slow it down when I am around cover,” he says.

Another way to fish these baits is with a simple cast and retrieve mixed with some pauses.

“You can fish it just like you would a buzzbait with a steady reeling of the line. The cool thing about these baits is you can kill it when you by a target and give it a little twitch,” shares Lowen.

Gear and Color Choices for Throwing Prop Baits

Lowen keeps it very simple when selecting colors, either a bluegill or shad pattern depending on what the bass are keying on. When it comes to gear, he opts for a 6’10”, medium-heavy CastAway rod built for spinnerbaits.

“A good medium heavy rod will work but I like one with a soft tip to work the bait. I also like a 6.8:1 gear ratio Lew’s Magnesium and don’t use a faster reel like some guys do for topwater,” he shares.

He spools his reel up with 30-pound HI-SEAS Grand Slam braid. While some shy away from braid for prop baits due to the possibility of it wrapping around the blades, Lowen still prefers straight braid.

“It does wrap around the prop sometimes, but I just live with it and fix it. I would rather that than have an extra knot and leader. I am fine with that on spinning, but with heavy line, big fish and hard hooksets, my confidence is with straight braid.”

Read Related: Pumping and Dragging the Balisong Longbill Know Your Prop Baits

There are several different types of prop baits on the market. Lowen uses several different versions and it varies on when he reaches for one over the other. Here are four different prop baits are part of his topwater arsenal.

Ima HeliPs

This is available in a standard and a larger size called the HeliPs Grande. It is made of plastic and Lowen likes it over balsa baits in certain situations. “It’s heavier and sits lower in the water. This allows you to cast it farther and also work it faster,” he says.

PH Custom Lures Crazy Ace

This interesting looking topwater bait has a single prop at the back and cupped type mouth. “You can fish it like a prop bait, walk it or pop it. What I like about it though is you can get it to roll and it looks just like a dying shad or bluegill,” says Lowen.

PH Custom Lures Squeaky P

The Squeaky P is a balsa prop bait that Lowen really likes. “It has a nice subtle action and you can fish it slowly right above bluegill beds or near isolated targets.”

PH Custom Lures Wesley's Ploppin' P

This is a brand new bait on the market and it can be fished several ways. “You can fish it like a buzzbait or your standard rip, pause prop bait retrieve and it works great both ways,” adds the Elite Series pro.

There are many different prop baits on the market and nearly as many ways to fish them. These specialty topwater baits shine anytime bass are around the spawn or if they are feeding on spawning baitfish.

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A Weedless Approach to Prop Fishing()

A Weedless Approach to Prop Fishing(

As read on

By Walker Smith

With all of the topwater lures in today’s bass fishing world, it’s easy to overlook the effectiveness of prop baits. As boiling water temperatures continue to wreak havoc on bass fishing opportunities throughout the country, these oft forgotten lures can elicit violent strikes when others fall short. According to fisheries biologist and BASS Opens pro …

With all of the topwater lures in today’s bass fishing world, it’s easy to overlook the effectiveness of prop baits. As boiling water temperatures continue to wreak havoc on bass fishing opportunities throughout the country, these oft forgotten lures can elicit violent strikes when others fall short.According to fisheries biologist and BASS Opens pro Michael Murphy, many bass anglers are severely limiting the potential of their prop baits. Just a few simple tweaks can create an all-terrain topwater lure that can quickly cure your case of the summertime bass blues.

Bid farewell to treble hooks

Let’s be real for a minute—the fishing is downright tough for almost everyone right now. With the lower oxygen levels and lethargic nature of the bass, it’s tough to imagine a hot topwater bite. Prop baits, however, have a few characteristics that make them especially effective in tough conditions.

“I consider the prop bait to be an agitator bait,” Murphy said. “You can keep it in the strike zone for a long time and it creates a lot of commotion, forcing bass to attack it even when they’re not looking to feed. Whenever you’re target casting to specific cover, it’s incredibly tough to beat.”

That sounds fine and dandy, but how in the world do you avoid getting the treble hooks snagged in thick cover? Murphy has found the answer and I must admit—it’s pretty cool.

“When many people find bass in heavy cover, they tend to reach for a topwater frog,” Murphy said. “It can certainly work sometimes, but it’s often too subtle for these lazy fish. This is why I’ve started to modify my prop baits. It allows me to dissect the thick stuff with a noisy topwater presentation and avoid constant hang-ups.”

There are two modifications he makes to his Ima Helips Prop Bait. Interestingly enough, it involves a drop shot weight and a spinnerbait trailer hook.

    • Drop shot weight—“I like to remove the front hook and replace it with a 1/32 or 1/16-ounce lead drop shot weight,” Murphy said. “The prop bait needs to be completely level so both props can catch water, which makes it important to add a small drop shot weight. Using lead enables me to precisely trim the weight to ensure a perfect balance in every situation.”
    • Trailer hook—“If you’re fishing around thick cover, the back treble hook of any prop bait is bound to get snagged,” Murphy said. “To avoid this, I replace the back treble hook with a 3/0 or 4/0 spinnerbait trailer hook. It drastically expands your heavy cover options and the longer shank helps turn short strikes into well-hooked fish. I’ve actually enjoyed a very high hookup ratio with this setup, too. Once you hook ‘em, they’re coming in the boat.”

While Murphy tends to rely on buzzbaits and topwater poppers when quickly searching for a shallow topwater pattern, he uses a prop bait to more thoroughly saturate high-percentage areas.

“If I go through a 20-yard stretch of bank and have a few bass miss my buzzbait, I’m going to turn around and dissect the area with a prop bait,” Murphy said. “It moves much slower and when those props are spinning right on top of the bass, they have a very difficult time not eating it. In other words, when I’m in ‘search and destroy’ mode, the modified prop bait is definitely my ‘destroy’ bait. I can throw it into some of the nastiest stuff on the lake without any problems.”

Because these late-summer bass aren’t known for swimming great distances to attack lures, it’s important to target very specific areas with your modified prop bait.

    • Isolated shade—“Bass are in the same proverbial boat with us right now,” Murphy said. “They’re hot and looking for shade, which makes isolated shade an excellent target for prop bait fishing. These small patches concentrate nearby bass and make their likely locations very easy to pinpoint. Instead of fishing a whole stretch of sunny bank, you can quickly cover water this way while increasing your odds of getting bit.”
    • Bluegill beds—“It’s hard to find a better bluegill imitator than a prop bait,” Murphy said. “But it can be difficult to fish these super-shallow areas with treble hooks. This modified version, however, will allow you to fish in the middle of grass beds, behind grass beds and around very shallow laydowns—everywhere bluegill beds are likely to be.”
    • Mayfly hatches—“If your area has had some rainfall in the past few days, take some time to look for mayfly hatches on your favorite fishery,” Murphy said. “Look for black, overhanging bushes, crows very near the water or of course, swarms of mayflies. Fire this modified prop bait into these areas and hang on.”
    • Flats near steep banks—“You’ll be able to catch a lot of big migrant bass by looking for flats near steep banks this time of year,” Murphy said. “Work the prop bait around any isolated cover on these flats because when the bass are on these flats, they’re there for one reason—to feed. So the can be very easy to catch.”

Subtle and aggressive retrieve methods

Effectively presenting your modified prop bait can take a bit of patience, but the bites will make the wait totally worth it. More often than not, your goal should be to make as much noise as possible while minimizing the distance the bait moves.

Throughout his experience, Murphy has had his most consistent success using two primary retrieves.

    • Pop-and-stop—“I’m going to fish my modified prop bait like a topwater popper most of the time,” Murphy said. “If it’s balanced correctly, short, downward twitches of the rod tip can make a modified Ima Helips walk on the surface while making a ton of noise. You will, however, have to experiment with the length of your pauses and your cadence. The bass’ preference can change daily right now, so always keep an open mind.”
    • Rip it—“If you’re fishing bluegill beds, ripping the prop bait can be deadly,” Murphy said. “The bass are looking for the one bream that makes the sudden move. They don’t really mess with the inactive bream, so try to rip your modified prop bait so it leaves a 12 to 18-inch bubble trail. It’s a great way to get some of those bigger bites.”

Simplify your color selection

If you spend some time browsing Tackle Warehouse, you’re going to see enough prop bait colors to make your head hurt. Before you get overwhelmed, however, consider Murphy’s simple two-step color selection process.

    • What are you fishing?—“If I’m fishing main lake cover and structure such as points, seawalls and boat docks, I’ll usually choose some sort of shad-colored prop bait,” Murphy said. “When I start making my way back into creeks, however, I’ll start using more bluegill patterns because the further back you go right now, the more bluegill you’ll find.”
    • What’s the sky look like?—“Translucent, foil-based finishes are extremely effective in sunny conditions,” Murphy said. “They look much more natural to the bass and they put off a lot of flash when as you work the prop bait. If it’s cloudy, try to stick with matte color schemes. These colors create a more distinguished profile in lowlight conditions which makes them much easier for bass to locate.”

If the bass fishing is tough in your area, don’t overlook the effectiveness of prop baits. These simple modifications will help you confidently target high-percentage areas, draw strikes from otherwise lethargic fish and show the bass a unique lure that very few anglers use anymore.

Topwater Fishing Lure review - Basstar Proprunner propbait

prop bet fish

What happens when a Swimbait and a prop bait get together, meet the Basstar Proprunner (continued)

Durability: The Basstar Proprunner is constructed out of durable transparent ABS plastic that is similar to standard ABS but is best used for products requiring impact resistance. The lure has a rather large diameter body but we didn’t experience any cracking problems with this hollow bait. Another reason that Basstar chose this particular material is that it is easy to work with when stamping, printing, and painting. We were initially concerned that the swivel hook design might not offer the durability of traditional wire and split rings and if were one to break it would be difficult to service, but throughout all our tests we never had a single one break.

A close look at the finish on the Silent Runner

Price & Applications: Each Basstar Proprunner retails for $34.99, and if you’re a big bait fan that price probably won’t even phase you, but if you are just a casual angler the price is certainly a major investment. The Proprunner is easy enough to fish and anglers need not be proficient in big baits to have success with this lure, in fact anglers that are used to topwater baits like spooks and prop baits will adjust quickest to this particular lure.

The Silentrunner has a skirt instead of the prop and does not put out a big wake but is much easier to walk the dog with

Throughout our tests we found the Basstar effective for both largemouth and striped bass and would love to try the lure on larger species including Muskie and even Peacock bass which would likely take interest in the lure’s distinctive surface noise and action. Basstar is looking to expand their line and will be bringing the bait out in the same rainbow trout and white patterns without the prop and a skirt instead, much like the existing limited edition chartreuse shad.

We fished the lure under bridges and by rocky structure. Working the lure on calm water had the best results, the prop brings a lot of attention to the lure on the surface

Basstar will also be offering a downsized 4 inch version for when the fish want something smaller, and the new bait will be available in May starting with three patterns including chartreuse shad, blue gill, and frog. The smaller baits will be available with the prop and without, the ones without the prop will have a rotating feathered hook on the tail. The only minor change in the profile of the bait is the inclusion of stabilizer wings near the tail which will help the bait walk easier.

A largemouth released under the bridge

In addition to a smaller Proprunner bait Basstar has also been hard at work on a two different crankbaits that will be shortly released, one that has been creating a buzz among anglers who have only seen the prototype is a new crankbait design can run down to any desired depth, the company claims up even up to 100 feet if needed. Joe Uribe Sr has been catching fish at 30-40 feet of water with the prototype.

A sneak peek at the upcoming 4" Proprunner

The DR20 is the floating version of this crankbait that will dive to around 20 feet and also comes with rotating hooks front and back, the lead lipped version is called the Dredger and will dive nose straight down to any depth desired and will stand straight up once it hits bottom.

Notice the stabilizer wings on the back of the new bait which will make it easier to walk the dog with

The Dredger crankbait has balanced weights in the belly and the lip so that it dives straight down without any spirals or turning. It also has the weight transfer in the belly to improve casting distance. The surface of the bait has dimples much like a golf ball. The company plans to make the DR20 and Dredger available in mid May to early June starting with 3 colors which include chartreuse shad, red craw, and firetiger.

The Dredger is designed to get down. way down

Basstar Proprunner Ratings (?/10)

(For a detailed explanation of the ratings go here)

Pluses and Minuses:

Conclusion: Basstar is a new brand on the big bait scene and their first introduction is an interesting one. How do you classify this first bait from Basstar? The best description is a giant prop bait designed for swimbait anglers. We found the Proprunner to be well built and able to catch fish on the surface, especially when the water’s surface was calm. I found the Proprunner entertaining to fish as it can be worked in a number of different ways though I found popping and walking the bait to be the most effective for enticing both Largemouth Bass and Stripers to strike. The surface strikes on the bait are intense and the 360 degree hook design helps keep fish pinned. If you’re a fan of big baits, propbaits, and topwater action the Basstar Proprunner offers all three in one fun to fish package.

Looking for the Basstar Proprunner, Tackle Warehouse has the Proprunner for a special price of $29.99

In Quest fro the right Prop bait

Brianscrankbaits, BriansBees Home of the Designer and the First Flat side Prop Bait, The inventer of the Buzzing Bee the first buzzing crankbaits In Quest fro the right Prop bait

Well here we go,

The prop bee # 1: has been made for open water points, windy areas when you want top water baits instead of the use of spinner baits. Although I have been able to catch calm water bass in the back of pockets or around pears, 57 Deg surface temperatures is the magic number. This bait has a lot of flashes, and usually you don’t have to measure the fish.

The prop bee #2: 1st things first!! This bait was not built for anyone or designed for anyone. This bait was designed after the very first top water bait I made the “Buzzing Bee”, since the buzzing bee was a great fish catcher. I knew the shape was right, so after I built the #1; I then strongly believed the smaller bait would be better to catch fish around bream beds or in slightly pressured conditions. To paint one like a bream would have to be deadly, and guess what, I was right!! It doesn’t stop there; this bait can produce fish in any condition, over the grass and in the holes out side edge. Bream beads and shell cracker beads on the rocks, any time the water temp gets above 57deg can be bee on any time you strongly believe you want to throw popping baits through the prop bait. An early season when the bass are on the beds your color selection just needs to be adapted.

The prop bee #3: was made like the #2 but smaller, I needed a bait to produce fish, in the fall when the bite gets tough, fish are schooling nosed up on the bank chasing bait, here’s your guy size to meet this year hatch. Although it has been proven that it may as well produce fish in the heat over the bream, when high pressure occurs, to boat traffic. This bait is not made for the wind.

The prop bee #4: This guy is coming real soon he is bigger than the #2 with the same shape. We are testing this bait now and many of the pros are real excited about it. If you see I or my pro staff out just asks to see one. I will explain the purpose of the bait at a later time.

I can’t go into the design due to the copy cats out there, but the sound each bait makes, is different and of the highest importance to the condition the sound of the bait makes. With the prop bait, I make, your fish catching ratio will double.” That’s a promise”

Prop Baits - Best Bass Fishing Lures

Prop Baits

Bass are major predators and are perfectly designed for their environment. One thing a predator requires to be successful is the ability to detect prey before it detects them. Bass have pretty good eyesight, but prey animals have developed camouflage and other mechanisms to defeat this sense. Smell is much harder to defeat, and bass have a nose that would make a bloodhound proud, however, unlike on land, scents in water get diluted quickly, and diffuse over great distances. It can attract predators, but scents only give a general bearing, and no information about the targets speed, range, and course. Sound, on the other hand, provides complete information on the targets speed, size, course, and even internal anatomic details.

There are two ways to use sound. Active sound means the hunter puts out it’s own sound waves that bounce off the target and return to the source, providing all kinds of important information. Whales and dolphins use active sound. The drawback to active sound is that the target can also hear the hunters sounds, and it gives them the same information about their attacker. This is why most fish, especially ambush predators like bass, only use passive sound, meaning they just listen. But they can listen very well, and because of their lateral lines, can pick up faint vibrations in the water as far away as 3 football fields. Their ears can pick up sounds as far as ½ mile away, because their swim bladders also act as a sound amplifier. Prop baits take advantage of these factors in a big way.

Knowing this, it didn’t take lure makers long to figure out that the more noise a lure makes, especially rhythmic sounds that imitate swimming fish, the more fish they will attract. One of the first was a business machine sales rep named Jack Smithwick. In 1947, he whittled some lures from old broom handles, and attached metal props to the front and back of the lures. They caught so many fish that he quickly had to buy a lathe, and start the Smithwick Lure Company in 1949, to keep up with the demand. The classic Devils Horse was born, still one of the best topwater bass lures on the planet after 60 years. Another early type was the single prop bait. The first one, the Torpedo, was offered by the Heddon Lure company in the early 1950s, and it is still a top producing prop bait, especially for schooling white and striped bass. Still manufactured after over 50 years, and still one of the best. You can’t go wrong with classics.

Fishing Prop Baits

Single, or double prop baits, they all work the same. The prop bait floats on top of the water. When retrieved, or twitched, the props spin and create a huge cacophony of rhythmic sound waves and vibrations in the water. No one is sure whether bass bite these out of a predatory instinct, or just to shut them up. Either way, they work, and work well.

There are three basic ways to fish prop baits. Just cast out and retrieve, use a stop-and-go retrieve, or just twitch them every so often. All three methods work, and which one you use is mostly a matter of personal preference, and prevailing conditions.

If you are going to be a bass angler, you should have a few prop baits in your tackle box. They can turn a fish-less day into a great trip. Prop baits have a full arsenal of treble hooks, from stem-to-stern. If a bass even sniffs one, chances are he/she will get hooked, so you might not want to cast them directly into cover but the closer the better. Thats if they get the lure when they strike. Like all top water lures they can be often missed when they are on the move. If they hit when the lure is at rest theres a greater chance of hooking up.

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