I‘m a liberal leaning outdoorsman attempting to open the minds of right wingers to the idea that libs fish too. Anglers come from all walks of life, left, right, and center. Not everyone who fishes for bass is a redneck fond of Nascar, country music, and religiosity. Expect posts about largemouth bass fishing, techniques, reviews of lures and other products, but not any condemnable conservative rants. I hope to inspire the online angler community to dial down rhetoric which will do more harm than good to our sport.

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Friday, October 29, 2010

• Lake Fork Tackle Top Dog Lizard

Since starting this blog in 2007, I have written a few posts about lures made by Lake Fork Tackle. With this being my 400th post, I’d like to mention one more bait in the LFT family. That bait is the Top Dog lizard. In the process of writing this post, I discovered that the majority of the soft plastics in my tackle bag were from LFT Lures, closely rivaled by Zoom and Wave Fishing. I may not use all of my Lake Fork Tackle baits with any regularity, but I have found their products to be reliable for specific applications, and although not readily available at local outlets, well worth the aggravating search. For the longest time, my favorite LFT lures were limited to the 4” Craw and 2 1/2” Pig Claw jig trailer. My go-to lizard was a Zoom product. On a whim, I decided to buy the Lake Fork Top Dog lizard. Even though that purchase was made on a whim, over time, I grew more fond of it. I must admit getting accustomed to this bait was not easy, but that had more to do with my inclinations towards tactics centered around the Zoom lizard. Let me introduce you to the Top Dog lizard and discuss how it has changed my time on the water.

LFT products are not easy to find in stores locally, but I can usually pick up a few packs of Top Dog lizards at Academy Sports. I do worry that much like the Big Bite Baits Biobait products, LFT lures will disappear from Academy shelves soon after publishing this post. The Top Dog comes in packs of eight and costs around $3 to $4. In many respects, it is very similar to the Zoom lizard I was using beforehand. The Top Dog lizard is a 6” lure with a curl tail and four side appendages. The Zoom lizard is a 6” lure with a curl tail and four side appendages. Of course, the Top Dog, being a Lake Fork Tackle product, has one very big difference. Upon opening the package, the first thing everyone should notice is the pungent aroma of garlic. After recovering from the overpowering blast of scent, the next thing you might notice is that the tail curves to the left. The Zoom lizard's tail curves to the right. Whether or not that has any sort of profound effect on action and attraction is a matter which exceeds my level of understanding. Any thoughts? Another important point to make is that the bait is rather light. The ramifications became apparent when I tried to cast the bait for the first time. The bait was not noticeably lighter than a Zoom lizard when held side by side, but the casting experience was a completely different story. I stopped using the bait because I could not cast it with any confidence. The experience was comparable throwing a Zoom Baby Brush Hog. I had to buy a weight appropriate rod to handle these light plastics, but adding weight to fish the Top Dog effectively was an absolute necessity in the long run.

I cannot recall when the Top Dog made its re-entry into my regular fishing repertoire, but somewhere along the way, I acquired a sense of confidence in the bait again. Perhaps it was when I learned how to secure the heads of soft plastics using a barrel swivel, a tip which prevents inflicting significant damage to the head and neck of a bait like this. In May of 2009, the Top Dog earned some long overdue respect. I caught two fish that only differed by an ounce, both in the 3lb range. A third fish bit that day, but got away. The bite and the speed with which that missed fish reacted implied it had some weight behind its determination.

When I first got the hang of fishing a Zoom lizard, I found that adding a split shot made a huge improvement in terms of presentation. My technique changed from cast, sit, and retrieve to slowly hopping the lure back to the boat with pauses in between. With the Top Dog, I rely more on the Texas rig with a pegged 3/16oz bullet weight, but I’ve been known to fish these lizards on a Gamakatsu Jobee Pro hook or a shaky head jig. The Top Dog has a slow fall rate by itself, but when rigged on a shaky head, it has no trouble sitting upright on the hook. I still fish the Top Dog weightless from time to time, but on any given day, if I’m fishing this lizard, chances are, I’ve got a bullet sinker pegged at the nose.

Most of the time, I am fishing right up against cypress trees and other shallow water cover and structure using a variety of lures and techniques. Unlike many anglers, I throw lizards whenever the mood strikes me, although I do tend to go through more during the pre-spawn to early post-spawn rush. Lures with appendages have always been my choice alternative to stickbaits, so if I’m fishing a Senko or a Tiki Stick, I am very likely to turn to a lizard next. For whatever reason, bass like hitting the Top Dog early and the Zoom lizard late, so when it is time to fish close to trees, I go with the Top Dog. When I’m fishing more open areas or vegetation like pads and hydrilla, the Zoom lizard is my choice. Sure, that hasn’t always been the case, but the trend exists in my own little world. There is nothing profoundly unique about the overall design of either lizard, in my opinion, so if you like fishing a lizard, either lure will definitely get you bites. It is up to you to get that fish in the boat. Can't expect the bait to do all the work, now can we?

Structurally, there was one difference that bothered me. The neck on the Top Dog was thinner than the Zoom lizard. Because the neck was on the thin side, two problems arose. The first had to do with rigging. The diameter of the neck was much narrower than that of a Zoom lizard, so threading a hook point through the plastic required more attention and care. The neck area also had a lot of side to side give once rigged, so threading the hook even slightly off kilter made the neck bend one way or the other too much, causing the bait to turn during a retrieve, creating line twist. Durability became an issue as well. I was not left with any room for error, so trauma to the lure left enough damage to render the bait torn and useless. Luckily, my barrel swivel trick made that problem go away.

I generally prefer smaller hooks when fishing lizards, regardless of brand. I hold the opinion that a 5/0 hook is too big for such a light slender bait, so I frequently thread these lizards onto light wire 3/0 and 4/0 EWG hooks. A 2/0 offset hooks is nice for a more streamlined option, but I can’t remember the last time I used a plain 2/0 offset hook for anything longer than four inches. EWG hooks are still at the top of my list. I have also fished lizards with great success using 4/0 Jobee Pro hooks. The weighted heads paired with that wide gap made covering water easy. With shaky head jigs, I try to go as light as I can. While lizards are popular in Carolina rigging, the C-rig is not one of my confidence techniques. Some anglers use lizards as jig trailers, but I don't recall ever having any luck with that approach. Any of these options catch fish. You just have to pick the right one and hang on.

If you’re in the market for a lizard and you’re tired of fishing the same old thing, give Lake Fork Tackle a look. If you don’t like the Top Dog, there are many other products in their lineup that you might appreciate. If you don’t own any soft plastics with appendages, you are definitely missing out on a great opportunity.


Colors: White, Watermelon seed/Chartreuse tail, Black neon/Chartreuse tail, Black/Blue flake/Blue tail, Blueberry, Red shad/Green flake, Watermelon seed/Red flake, Watermelon seed, Chartreuse pepper, & Carolina Pumpkin/Chartreuse tail.


Rich's Bass Blog said...

I am a big fan of LFT stuff in general, actually caught my personal best 8.3lb largie on a White Top Dog Lizard on Amistad off a bed

MDTolic said...

That Lake Fork scent sure is unmistakable. I'm glad you posted pics of both the old & new packaging. That threw me off for about a year. I'll keep am eye out for this lizard now.

While I'm not a fan of the Rage Tail line, their lizard has a pretty different action. lots of movement. Have you seen one of those in the water?

BassFishingDem said...

I wondered what your personal best was. I know you like LFT. Loved watching the ring fry catches on YouTube. Maybe one day I'll try some.

I don't recall seeing the Rage Tail lizard. I'll watch for it next time I'm in Academy. I even stopped and glanced at the Rage Tail section last time I was there. I'm sure there is a video out there of one in the water. I think what makes these LFT lizards so good is that they aren't too imposing. They have just enough action to draw attention to themselves.

The Average Joe Fisherman said...

Thanks for the heads up. I will look out for them.

Just wanted to say that this is my first time on your blog. Very nice. I will hit the follow button right now. =)

The Average Joe Fisherman