Michael Murphy’s Tips for Fishing Topwater

There’s a proper way to fish a topwater lure, baits that have grown really popular on Lake Murray and other blue back herring lakes.

Set Up


My set up is a Lew’s Custom Pro Speed Stick Magnum Hammer. I like this rod; it’s more parabolic and has better distribution than a rod that has more backbone. I use it more for spinnerbaits and buzzbaits. But when I’m throwing big topwater baits, I have confidence that I won’t pull the treble hooks out of the fish’s mouth when I’m using this rod. I also know I’ll be able to keep up with the fish, and that the rod will load up well with big baits.


I use 18lb fluorocarbon when I’m fishing a big pencil popper. It does sink and has low stretch, but I can keep it from sinking. 


I use the Team Lew’s Pro Magnesium, 7.5:1 gear ratio (note: discontinued, now available as the HyperMag). I like high speed reels in case I see the fish come schooling, I can get in really quickly and get the bait to them. It’s a smooth reel that can cast a long way. In these types of lakes, you need a good long cast so you can keep your distance.


You want to work this bait as effortlessly as possible. It is a big bait and it can wear you out over time. You may be fishing it all day if it’s working, which can get tiring. What I see people do is use their whole body or their whole arm, then they get tired and their form collapses because they’re exhausted. Don’t do that.

If you focus on just using your finger and your thumb, you can use only those ligaments to move the rod around rather than a more tiring, full-body approach. You can apply pressure with your thumb pad to push the rod down, or your pointer finger to flick the rock back and forth. That way you won’t be using your muscles to affect the rod leverage, you’re just using those two parts of your hand to create the action you want.

As your bait gets farther out there, you should watch the bait and how much line is in the water. I only want about 10 feet of line laying on top of the water. As it gets closer, I lower my rod and twitch it with my finger. I don’t run circles with the rod, I just do left-to-right twitches in a sideways motion. With each jerk, I only turn the handle a half turn so I don’t pull the bait in too quickly.

You don’t want to pull the bait because that straightens it out and then it needs to be twitched all over again. Once you start it, you want to maintain the steady momentum and movement back and forth. The fish needs to feel like it’s chasing something.

Bottom line: make it effortless, only keep 10 feet of line on the water, and use a good parabolic rod paired with a high speed reel. 




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