Monday, September 2, 2013

Smallmouth Scarred Zell Pops

A few of my Zell Pops have seen their better days, having been annihilated by countless smallmouths and a few pike and admittedly having been bounced off a rock or two. They keep popping, same as they always have, though, and the smallies don't seem to mind their tattered appearance. As long as that's the case, I'll keep throwing 'em.

In truth, the warrior pictured above or one that looks a lot like it probably will be the first lure I'll tie on for next week's West Virginia smallmouth float. I have others that are shiny and new and are even the same color as those used to be. I suspect they'd work fine, but there's something about those proven performers that make we want to tie them on trip after trip.

I like the 2-inch Zell Pop, which I fish on 6- or 8-pound test for stream smallmouths. My traditional favorite color is Gold Bream, which dark on the back and gold on the sides with a bit of orange on the belly. That color is out of production, but when I look at my battle-worn baits next to what they once looked like, I'm not convinced the color is a huge factor. I sort of think that when I need to replace a few Zell Pops, my new color of choice will be Z-Shad.

I typically fish a Zell Pop slowly, pausing it far more of the time than I'm popping it. I'll cast tight to a bank, well up into an eddy or next to rock, let it dead drift or sit still initially, give it a pop or two and then let it sit some more. Pops are executed with short but sharp snaps of a low rod tip. Strikes, which usually are explosive, often occur when the bait is at rest. Once the bait is out from the bank or away from the cover, I usually reel back quickly and cast it back into the primary zone.

Really the only time I fish a Zell Pop quickly or work it all the way to the boat is when I'm fishing shallow shoal water where the river is swift all the way across and the fish are holding in scattered ambush positions behind rocks. Given that condition I start popping right away and work it in quick little series of three or four pops with short pauses between them, staying ready all the time.

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