In my early years of fishing for bass I spent a lot of time at the local creek. It was pretty handy since I could see it from my house. A short half-mile bicycle trip would take me to magical waters with a very good population of bass. What they lacked in size was more than made up for in their tenacity and willingness to bite. It was a great place to fish, and I fished it often. This creek is where I learned about jitterbugs, largemouth bass, and topwater fishin.
I don’t know what got me started topwater fishin’. Maybe it was just a necessary step in my evolution as a fisherman. I remember reading articles in the bass fishing magazines making topwater fishing sound romantic, and this style of fishin’ was often referred to as an “art”. My first bass plug was a South Bend “Nip I Diddee”, a prop-style bait I fell in love with immediately, and my love for topwater fishin’ also was born. However, jitterbugs and largemouth bass etched my love for topwater fishin’ into my soul.
Many of the articles I read talked about the Fred Arbogast Jitterbug and Hula Popper. So being young and crazy about my little green bass, I bought both. And I caught many, many bass on both, but the Jitterbug quickly became my favorite and is still a favorite to this day.
I wish I could say I remember the first bass I caught on a Jitterbug, but I can’t. I DO remember the first June evening I spent tossing one around, throwing at the weed beds in my aforementioned favorite creek, and learning to “feather” the cast so the bait dropped into the water with a very slight “plop” instead of a resounding and fish-spooking SPLASH. I also remember those bass just flat tore it up.
I caught maybe a dozen or so bass throughout the evening, with the biggest being just two pounds or so. The excitement of the ka-BOOSH! when a bass tried to destroy my frog-colored plug was one of the most memorable and exciting experiences in my young life, period.
Topwater fishin’ with a Jitterbug is slow fishin’, it just can’t be hurried. The cast is made; “feather” the bait quietly into the water, then per the instructions in the lure package back then, wait until all the ripples disappeared. A hard thing for a thirteen year-old-boy to do! Then commence the retrieve, and the Jitterbug starts its side-to-side wobble, with a gentle plop, plop sound kind of like the old Lunker Lure, but not quite.
I firmly believe the sound of a Jitterbug being retrieved after a perfect cast is the sound of bass fishing at its purest.
There’s nothing quite like topwater fishin’ on a quiet late-spring or early summer evening in a creek or a pond with a weed bed or a lily pad field, and a frog-colored or a red head/white bodied Jitterbug (the two most “classic” colors). It’s a kind of fishin’ many folks have never experienced or have forgotten in today’s “hurry up and catch ’em so we can hurry up and get to the next spot”. This lure catches ’em all, from six-inch dinks to “donkeys”. It’s a bait, while limited as far as versatility goes, makes up for it in the huge spectrum of the enjoyment it provides. If topwater fishin’ is indeed an art form, then fishin’ a Jitterbug is the Rembrandt of the game.
Topwater fishin’ and the first ka-BOOSH on a Jitterbug will get the heart pumping. I promise. Jitterbugs and largemouth bass from a local pond, creek, or lake will help you fall in love just like I did.