Top Raider & Tail Prop Surface Baits

Written on 08/13/2019
Joe Bucher

I like topwater musky fishing so much, I spend the vast majority of my time casting for summer muskies and seeking out waters that provide me with the best opportunity to take advantage of this style of fishing. Here are some of “down and dirty” tips that you need to know specifically about fishing The TopRaider that are sure to make your outings more productive.

Evening summer muskies are usually cranked up “chasers”; meaning you can go after ‘em with a fast topwater bait that features a prop style tail rotator like the TopRaider. Unless the lake, river or flowage you fish is heavily worked with topwater prop baits, you rarely need to fish slow at this time of day. In fact, the only time I slow down for muskies on top is after a particular fish has followed and not struck a speedy surface bait.

Quite often, the best comeback bait on a fish that follows prop style bait, is to recast the spot with a slow Creeper style bait or a much quieter zig-zag action lure. This doesn’t always work, but once in awhile, it does. Otherwise, I’ve got the “pedal to the metal”. I’m crankin’ pretty fast with a prop style bait in order to cover water and find a hot angry fish.



Tackle matchups for TopRaider muskies is a simple one. I’d suggest fishing a high speed baitcaster like Abu Garcia’s Revo Toro 60HS. A large capacity, big game series baitcaster with its extra large capacity spool size will really buzz a TopRaider thru the water easily. The big advantage of a high speed version for this style of fishing comes after the strike. Topwater muskies get ignited like a runaway missile after the strike occurs. The high speed reel enables you to keep the line taut no matter what the fish does.

For line, you can’t beat Stren’s 80 lb. test Beast Braid  A heavy gauge, no stretch braid is always the best choice for topwater lures. You always want to keep that line on the surface so the lure works well, and your hookset response is instantaneous.

My favorite TopRaider rod is a St. Croix Legend Tournament Musky Split Grip 8’ MH. The advantages of the extra long rod are many, and there are few disadvantages. Most of all, the 8 foot rod is far superior at the boat.  Anyone who has done any amount of musky fishing knows that the figure 8 is a huge part of the technique. So many muskies follow to boatside. Getting even a small fraction of them to hit at boatside is a big plus. Long 8 footers simply do superior figure 8 patterns with your lures at boatside. The figure 8 can be made bigger, and deeper if necessary. Plus, after the fish is hooked, the additional rod length and rod bend is more apt to keep the fish hooked and not tear out the hooks.


As far as the actual retrieve cadence goes, I do like a fairly steady pace for muskies, but I’ve seen the fish respond better at times to a lure that occasionally rips or spurts forward. Always crank a prop style topwater lure extra fast initially in order to get the prop spinning good and to pick the line off the water. Then back off to a medium fast retrieve once the bait’s prop is churning with a strong plopping sound. With lures like the TopRaider, you’ll often notice a perfect speed that creates a loud deep gurgle. This deep gurgle, for some reason, is highly desirable to muskies.
Finish each retrieve with an underwater figure eight, since many muskies follow to boatside. A few may even take the lure on the figure 8; particularly in rough wavy conditions. If you spot a follow, don’t panic. Just keep crankin’ steady. Try to maintain a constant even cadence with the lure at all times. Some expert topwater anglers like to keep the lure on the surface and never submerge it on the figure 8. They make extra large, wide turns on their figure 8’s, but always keep it on top. I can’t argue with this tactic if it works. But, I’ve taken some of my biggest trophies with submerged figure 8’s on a topwater lure. Try both and see what works best for you.


Be careful not to set the hook until the fish actually grabs the lure solidly. One of the biggest mistakes often made while topwater musky fishing is to set the hook as soon as the fish strikes the lure. This rarely works well with muskies and usually results in a missed fish. This is where nerves of steel win the game. Concentrate on maintaining a steady retrieve until you actually feel the rod bend and the weight of the fish on the end of the line. A delayed reaction on the hookset nearly always results in more hookups. Also, try to make all your topwater hooksets with one single sideways sweep. Once your rod is bent, never drop off the pressure and never set twice. Keep hard solid pressure on the fish. This is usually the key to keeping them hooked. If they are running at you on the strike, sweep hard sideways and simultaneously step back a few steps. This is also where the high speed reel comes in handy.


Finally, always keep the hooks on all your topwater lures extra sharp. Before you even make that first cast, check those hooks for sharpness. Test each hook point on your thumb nail by lightly dragging it downward. It should catch or bite in slightly. If it simply slides off your thumb nail, it is not sharp enough. A few quick strokes with a good quality file is all it takes.

Joe Bucher