Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Classic TopWater Lures

I'm going to write about 2 different Classic Topwater Lures that are still around and producing some nice bass. I'm going to start with the first lure manufacturer in America.

Heddon Spooks

Dating back to the late 1890's, Heddon's company was the first lure manufacturer in America. Heddon was responsible for some of the most enduring topwater plugs still available on the market today. The original "Zaragossa", now called the Zara Spook, dates back to 1922. The "Lucky 13' also dates back to the early 20's. The "Torpedo" was offered in 1925, all have remained among the most popular topwater plugs on the market.
Of all of Heddon's lures, the Zara Spook has one of the most interesting histories, James Heddon was in Florida fishing with one of his friends. After seeing the odd looking cigar-shaped bait dance across the water surface, his friend said "It wiggles like one of those girls on Zaragossa Street" which was a red-light district in Orlando.
That nickname stuck until Heddon started making a plastic version of the lure. The clear plastic version of the bait was transparent like a ghost and so it was named "The Spook". All the clear-plastic versions of Heddon's baits had Spook added to their name, The Zaragossa became the "Zara Spook", and the Chugger became the Chugger Spook. Just like the Zaragossa, Heddon's "Lucky 13" was another pivotal lure in the history of lure designs. The Lucky 13, a combination Chugger, walker and slider was one of the very first freshwater lures to cross over to the salt water market. Today not many freshwater anglers use it but popularity with saltwater anglers remain strong.

Spittin Sticks

Four classic lures for finessing a shallow top-water strike, especially around grass beds are Smithwicks "Devil Horse" (mid-1960's), Heddon's "Torpedo" (1925), Luhr-Jensen's "Nip-I-Diddee" (1932) and the "Dalton Special" (1928). The water spittin props and swagger of these lures create an unbeatable attraction for bass. And still as effective as propbaits are at imitating baitfish few anglers know where and when to fish these type lures. Prop baits are more effective when they are fished over calmer, quieter water, I fish my prop baits when the water surface is calm. I have found over the years that these lures are worked around and over aquatic grasses like milfoil and hydrilla. With these type lures the length of pause is equally important. Normally a bass will strike the bait when it's just lying there.
I think the biggest difference in the various propbaits is the noise they make, the older plastic versions like the Crazy Shad and Boy Howdy, make a louder noise than the older wooden propbaits.. I like to use the Devil's Horse and the Nip-I-Diddee when the water is real quiet because the plastic baits do better when the baitfish are really flicking on the top.

River Plugs

Heddon's Lucky 13 and Luhr-Jensen's Bass Oreno (1905) are considered to be two-way lures. The lower lips act like the lip on a crankbait, causing the lure to slide under the waters surface. These two baits were considered to be the best lures for smallmouth. The Lucky 13 is best for faster or off colored water, but in summer when water level drops and water clarity is very good I switch to the smaller lure "Bass Oreno".
Like the Bass Oreno the unique action and design of the old topwater plugs are what have made them so enduring. Although generations of Bass anglers come and go , the one constant thing is popularity of the old designs. I hope to see my grandson take a bass with a Crazy Crawler.


  1. Love this article on top freshwater lures, I havn't heard of any of these maybe cos I'm a bit too young but I will do a bit of research and have a look to see what they look like and how they compare with modern lures.

  2. I grew up fishing nothing but Dalton Specials. I still have on eleft in the tackle box and pray it hangs around. Is there anywhere I can still get a Dalton at??? If not what is the new best thing??