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Hopper Fishing with Spinning Tackle for Multiple Species

Imitating displaced grasshoppers and crickets is an exciting and highly effective way to catch bluegills, bass, trout and more from late spring through well mid-autumn. Here’s what you need to know about this fun topwater fishing technique.

Crickhopper bluegillCrickhopper bluegill

Fly fishermen know – and for those truly in the know, few occurrences create more excitement than when banks of streams and ponds start hopping with terrestrial insects. Whether for spring creek brown trout, pond bluegills or something in between, hopper fishing generates some of the most electrifying fishing of the year, with the fish demolishing baits that are drifting or dancing on the surface.

Armed with Rebel Crickhoppers and Bighoppers, spin-fishermen can get in on this awesome opportunity, which is too often associated only with fly fishing. In truth, a good argument can be made that these insect-imitation lures are even better for this approach than hopper pattern flies because they not only match the profile and colors of real crickets and hoppers, but they can be made to act like actual insects. They are also very easy to fish effectively.

Imitating hopper-type terrestrial insects has multi-species appeal. It’s highly effective for trout, bluegills, rock bass and all black bass species, and works well in moving water and in still water. If a fish species spends time near the bank and ever feeds on insects, it probably can be targeted with this approach.

Times & Places

Rebel Crickhopped in hopper habitatRebel Crickhopped in hopper habitat

Hopper fishing opportunities begin late in the spring and continue through the summer and into fall. You need only to walk through tall grassy vegetation near the water’s edge to know if there are crickets or grasshoppers nearby. If there are, you can bet that some are going to hop in the wrong direction or catch a crosswind and land afloat, which means fish will be tuned in to telltale surface landings.

During spring, afternoons tend to be better than the mornings because the insects warm with the day and become extra active. Through summer, it can be an all-day opportunity, but is probably a bit better early and late simply because fish feed more actively and look up more at those times.

For reasons already noted, windy days tend to be extra good – which points to another spin-fishing advantage. It’s far easier to make accurate casts in the wind with light spinning gear and a lure than with a fly rod and a bushy fly. A sudden rain or tailwater release that floods banks and sweep insects into the water also can prompt a good hopper bite.

Because crickets and grasshoppers are land based, the primary zone for matching them is near the bank or along the edge of an island. For obvious reasons, waters near grassy bank or near other high vegetation tend to be extra productive. That said, don’t overlook waters with overhanging trees and current lines downstream of the same, where the fish might be keying on other terrestrial insects like beetles or – this year, especially – cicadas.

Matching a Displaced Hopper

warmouth on Crickhopperwarmouth on Crickhopper

The Rebel Crickhopper and the Bighopper, which is 1/4-inch longer than the original Crickhopper and about twice the weight, both are shaped like a grasshopper or cricket and float in an upright, natural posture when they are not being worked. They have diving lips and swim like shallow crankbaits when cranked at a moderate pace. That’s not the primary presentation for matching hoppers through the warm months, though. For this approach, Crickhoppers and Bighoppers are fished as topwater lures.

The two primary ways to bring life to these lures to imitate a displaced terrestrial insect are with quick, repeated twitches of the rod tip that make the bait dance erratically on the surface and through slow reeling, with the rod tip held high, to make the lure “wake” the surface. Pauses are also critical to natural presentations, and in stream settings, sometimes the best approach is a dead drift the lure, where you simply retrieve line to keep slack out and to keep other currents from dragging the bait faster or slower than the current it is drifting in.

The key is to match natural behavior. When a terrestrial insect errantly lands on the water, it normally pauses, trying to gain orientation. Then, it will either paddle steadily to try to find dry land or dart about frantically. Waking imitates the former. Twitching, the latter. In either case, spurts of movement are best broken by pauses to imitate rest or for another attempt at gaining orientation.

Experiment with presentation types and with lengths of pauses to find the right action, which varies from day to day and sometimes changes during a day. Also, experiment with colors and with the Bighopper and Crickhopper. The grasshoppers or crickets you spot provide the best clues for your specific starting bait, but sometimes the fish strongly favor a certain color or size for no obvious reason.

All else equal, the Bighopper is a bit easier to cast accurately and sometimes will attract larger fish. That said, even larger fish sometimes key on smaller offerings, making the original Crickhopper or even the MicroCrickhopper a better choice.

Hopper & Dropper

Crickhopper and dropper flyCrickhopper and dropper fly

Related to the MicroCrickhopper, which has a single upturned hook instead of dangling trebles, a fun way to increase catches when fish aren’t quite committing to feeding on top, is to fish a fly on dropper line a couple of feet beneath a MicroCrickhopper. Simply tie a short section of light line to the shank of the hook and a fly to the other end of the dropper. Good fly options include small generalist nymphs, San Juan Worms and sinking ant patterns.

Work this rig with twitches, broken by pauses, or by drifting in swift water. The hopper on top will get the fish’s attention – and some will attack it. Others will be drawn by the hopper but find the fly dangling there and looking like a very easy meal. When a fish bites, the MicroCrickhopper performs double duty as a bobber. When it darts out of sight, set the hook!

If you want extra size or buoyancy for this approach, instead of using the MicroCrickhopper, use the regular Crickhopper or Bighopper, but exchange the trebles for a single hook on the back split ring to avoid extra tangles.

4 Crickhopper Alternatives

Crickhopper Popper bassCrickhopper Popper bass
  • Crickhopper Popper – Same size and profile as a Bighopper, but with cupped popping face for when you want extra sound to attract fish.
  • Bumble Bug – Crickhopper-like action but shaped like bee or fly to match different insects.
  • Bomber BO4SL Square A – This tiny squarebill crankbait can be twitched on top or waked like a Crickhopper, and its round body makes it look like a beetle struggling on the surface.
  • Heddon Teeny Torpedo – This teeny-sized prop bait adds a little extra splash and suggests an insect struggling on top.