Apparently startled, certainly rattled, a small, injured bream swam to the surface, zigged and zagged in the scattered grass, jumped a little and landed sideways before continuing to move erratically until it settled back into the water to meet its fate.
A sizeable bass boiled where the 3-inch bluegill started fleeing to safety after it was knocked almost senseless. Another meal was in the grass, and the bass realized that. The water in the Tennessee lake was on the fall and the exposed grass was dying.
Meanwhile, the resident grass shrimp, a delicacy for bream, were being gobbled up. And the proliferation of bream naturally attracted another swimming predator, the species that is the target of bass anglers across the country.
Bassmaster Elite pro David Walker of Sevierville, Tenn., has seen it happen countless times in the lakes he fishes throughout the South.
And the LiveTarget pro staff angler knows people use plastic frogs to go after those bass chasing bream. But he kept thinking for quite a while, “Heck, those bass are eating bream. Feed ’em a bream!”
So the 50-year-old Walker, Arkansas pro Stephen Browning and Canadian-born Bassmaster emcee Dave Mercer decided to design a topwater soft-plastic, weedless hollow-bodied bream that looked like the real thing.
“We didn’t want to take a frog and make it look like a bluegill, like some do,” Walker explained. “We wanted to make it look anatomically correct.
“It’s very unique. It’s just a fine bait. It just looks so real. It’s a confidence-booster for you to have something that looks that good. Be sure to get one and go try it. You’ll be amazed at some of the stuff it does.”
If you want to see how crazy good it is on the retrieve, especially at walking the dog, watch the video at www.livetargetlures.com/freshwater/sunfish-hollow-body.
The lure was the ICAST Best of Show Soft Lure last July and has since won several “voting” awards at distributor shows as best new lure for the current season.
It does look real and it’s deadly in scattered vegetation and, even, open water.
The LiveTarget Sunfish hit the shelves in November, but Walker has been throwing prototypes and the finished version since he first took on the design project about 1½ years ago.
As the project evolved, he said, the body design took a crescent shape, with a weight at its highest point toward the rear of the bream, er, artificial lure, on the right side. The left side is concave.
The combination makes for sometimes subtle, sometimes wild action as it is pulled across the water’s surface.
“We had to move the weight around quite a bit” to get it at the sweet spot, Walker said.
“When you get to open water, because of the arch around the back of the tail, it’s very easy to pivot,” he said. “You want it to pivot where the weight is. Sometimes as you work it along it might leap out of the water — you know, any time the lure changes direction.”
Its action and lifelike looks still amaze him.
Three features that appeal to him are 1) the thrill of the topwater bite, 2) action that is controlled by the angler, which makes it very versatile and 3) the extra sharp Eagle Claw Trokar hook, because it’s built for the shape of the lure and provides solid hookups on every bite.
Walker noted that 30- to 50-pound-test braid is recommended because anything heavier than that makes it difficult to cast.
The lure is effective in scattered vegetation — grass and lily pads, skipped under and around boat docks and along the open shoreline, he said.
The key to setting the hook on bass that hit the Sunfish is to wait until you feel the fish, which can be hard to do because so many times the bass explode on the artificial lure, Walker said.
Many times, the bass hit it to stun it and come back for more, so letting it stay in place after a vicious bite can result in a follow-up bite, he said.
Walker, who has been a pro bass fisherman 17 years, said the soft plastics come in two sizes and “beau coup colors.