By Jeff Samsel

I had heard others rave about Hiro Naito’s Pop-R/Spook rig but I had never seen it in person, so I was excited when I realized he was starting to rig one.

Naito, a highly innovative and accomplished angler, doesn’t believe in waiting for fish to bite. The backbone of his fishing philosophy is to create strikes with highly intentional presentations, using a lure’s built-in design features to his advantage. His tandem rig definitely fits that philosophy.

We were fishing Lake Kissimmee, casting to weed edges and gaps in the vegetation along the big lake’s north shore. A surprisingly slow bite suggested the bass weren’t feeding actively, so Naito decided to appeal to their competitive instincts.

“It imitates a big fish chasing a smaller fish, and that makes them want to attack,” he said about the two-lure rig.

Naito’s rig includes a Pop-R and a Zara Spook, with the Pop-R rigged about a foot and a half in front of the Spook. He removes the rear treble from the Pop-R and then rigs it backward, connecting the front eyes of both lures with a section of line and then tying the rig to the terminal end of his main line by the Pop-R’s rear hook holder, where the removed treble hook had been.

Rigged with the narrow end forward, the Pop-R doesn’t pop. It divides the water and spits a little, like a baitfish being chased right at the surface. Because of the tug of the Spook walking side-to side behind it, the Pop-R moves in an erratic patch, again suggesting that it is fleeing an attacker.

I quickly saw the effectiveness of Naito’s rig at Kissimmee. Within five minutes of him tying it on, he connected with a short but stout bass on the Pop-R, and soon after a fish that seemed much larger based on the splash attacked the Spook, but missed.

Because Naito leaves the Pop-R’s belly treble in place, both lures are viable fish catchers. Some days, he’ll catch every fish on the Pop-R. Other days he’ll catch them all on the Spook. More often than not, the catch is divided.

“When they are hitting both, I usually catch my bigger fish on the bigger lure,” he said. “Not always, though!”

Naito ties his rig on 20- or 25-pound-test Silver Thread AN40, favoring fairly heavy line for maximized control over the action of his lures. Walking the Spook is similar to doing so without another lure in front of it. It calls for a slightly longer and more pronounced rod movements, but finding the right motion really is intuitive to anyone who has done much walking the dog.

Naito varies the speed of his presentations and mixes in strategic pauses and sharp snaps that make the whole rig move differently. Of course, he does that with any lure he fishes. As already noted, he doesn’t like to wait on the fish, and those planned disruptions to a lure’s steady movement often are the key to making fish bite.