- The Washington Times - Sunday, July 16, 2006

When asked what they do when there are no clients or golf dates, it’s astonishing how many professional fishing guides tell you they’ll be out wetting a line.

Two of my regular sources of useful fishing information, Andy Andrzejewski and Dale Knupp, belong to this group — although now and then Andrzejewski will chase that little white ball over hill and dale.

With so many newcomers to the Washington area’s exemplary tidal water bass fishing, it pays to listen to these bass pros. You could learn something.

For example, when asked what types of lures they prefer to entice a largemouth (also smallmouth) bass to come to the hook, Andrzejewski and Knupp point to entire boxes filled with blunt-nosed or dish-faced topwater poppers. It’s not that they have anything against other surface wonders, such as buzzbaits or propeller-bladed stick baits, but standard, tapered poppers sporting two treble hooks, with the rear hook dressed in feathers, is what they prefer.

“Watching a good-sized bass come up behind a splashing, water-spraying popper and finally seeing it smash into the lure has to be one of the top thrills of fishing,” said the “Fishing Pole,” Andrzejewski.

Knupp agrees, but he’s far more particular about which of the dozens of surface lure manufacturers get his money. For the past several years, a favorite has been a bronze-brown popper no bigger than a man’s index finger, that goes by the name of Rico.

“Its rear section hangs down perfectly when sitting on top of the water; its head is up, barely touching the surface,” says Knupp who’ll sling the lightweight popper lure from a baitcasting rod and a reel loaded with as much as 20- and 30-pound FireLine — which, of course, is no thicker than 8- or 12-pound monofilament line. Andrzejewski doesn’t care for any of the new super lines when it comes to topwater action. He prefers a quality monofilament line, such as Trilene or Stren, and something in the 12-pound range suits him well. As far as name brands are concerned, Andrzejewski will use a Rebel Pop-R, a Frenzy Pop’r, or Knupp’s beloved Rico. I’ve seen him catch bass on all of them.

When it comes to likely times of day and places where bass hang out to provide decent popper action, both guides want a receding tide with still enough water around weedy pockets or spatterdock points (not long straight and shallow shoreline stretches unless some deep water is close by). During the summer heat, they prefer flooded, weedy points that show nearby deep-water channels or holes into which the bass can flee when the shallows turn into mud flats or high-and-dry sand bars. Occasionally, a fallen, partially submerged tree will shelter the bass, and a smartly hopped and popped lure can elicit wicked strikes.

Not long ago I fished with both of them and watched in awe as the two men whacked the bass with their poppers as late as 11 a.m. Whenever the sun disappeared for a while, they’d sling those poppers into spatterdock pockets around tidal creek points and alternately bring the lures back to the boat in slow, deliberate pops — or switch to a more rapid pop-pop-pop retrieve. The fish often did the rest.

Whoosh!” You’d hear the sound of a bass inhaling one of the surface lures, and the fight was on. To be sure, both men will remind you not to pull back on the line too quickly. They often do not set a hook until they can actually feel the weight of a fish hanging onto the lure.

Remember to stand up when fishing a popper. Cast the lure from spinning or baitcasting gear; let the popper rest a few seconds, then with your rod tip fairly low to the water begin an up-and-down whipping motion with the rod as you reel in the line.

Stick with it and practice your casts. Even Tiger Woods practices putting and driving golf balls every day. Good fishermen should practice casting and becoming deadly accurate with their lures. The payoff will be automatic.

Look for Gene Mueller’s Outdoors column Sunday and Wednesday and his Fishing Report on Thursday, only in The Washington Times. E-mail: gmueller@washingtontimes.com.

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