By Hiro Naito

Pencil bait, stick bait, walking bait ... whatever you may call them this is a very effective topwater lure you can always depend on catching bass. But if you think all pencil baits are used same way, you may be missing fish.

Development of pencil baits goes back to around 1910. Heddon then introduced Zaragossa Minnow in 1922. The uniqueness of this type of lure is its side to side movement. It is imitating a dying fish's erratic movement on the surface of the water. The famous Zara Spook followed this path with a plastic body in 1939.

Modification on predecessor models created new type in pencil bait. Today, you can categorize pencil baits in two types by floating posture - horizontal or vertical. The ones with horizontal posture have the widest side to side movement on the water. It is called walking the dog or a skating action. The ones with vertical floating posture have a unique action as well. It will slide into the water with wider steady rod stroke. This type is very useful creating reaction strikes where fishing pressure is extremely high. I usually cast near the cover and wait for a few seconds. Then I will make it slide into the water and let it pop up back to the surface with slack line. Wait a few seconds before making another move. This has been very effective.

This vertical floating posture pencil bait started showing up around mid-1950’s when Smithwick Lures introduced the Devil’s Horse with no prop and balls on the tail and the Toothpick. Later, Cotton Cordell introduced one using Boy Howdy body without a prop and added weight at the tail. These lures are still used as a secret weapon by anglers when fishing gets very tough. Unfortunately, these lures were discontinued many years ago. But there is Rebel’s Jumping Minnow still available with the same vertical floating posture. If you are bass fisherman who loves pencil bait lures, then you need to make sure you have at least one vertical floating posture lure. It will let you catch bass when fishing get tougher.