UPCOMING EVENT: TOYOTA SERIES - 2020 - Lake Cumberland

Make the Most of Whopper Ploppers

Make the Most of Whopper Ploppers
Nick LeBrun

Like the Yamamoto Senko, the River2Sea Whopper Plopper has become synonymous with every competing bait in its class. Whether it’s a Berkley Choppo or any number of other newcomers to the Plopper-style bait market, “Whopper Plopper” is to fishing what “Kleenex” is to tissues.

That’s not to say other Plopper-style prop baits aren’t good. In fact, some FLW Tour pros will swear by the Choppo just as others will swear by the original Whopper Plopper. But for the purposes of this article, we’re going to break down how Tour pro Nick LeBrun employs the bait that changed the game and took the bass fishing world by storm in earnest less than half a decade ago – the River2Sea Whopper Plopper.

 

Nick LeBrun

LeBrun’s history with the Whopper Plopper

As any tournament professional will tell you, it’s nearly impossible to master any one bait or technique. LeBrun is no exception; he’s still figuring it out as he goes. But the Whopper Plopper is one of the handful of baits he has a lot of confidence in, especially in the Mid-South on Ozark-style lakes.

“For me, I’m slowly but surely starting to get faith [in the Whopper Plopper] in other parts of the country, but from Hot Springs up to the Ozarks, that’s kind of my go-to,” he says. “When I’m up there in those Ozark-style lakes, it’s one of the first things that pops into my head.”

The Louisiana pro doesn’t typically throw Ploppers in the southernmost lakes he fishes – particularly Toledo Bend and Sam Rayburn – but he admits that’s mostly because he hasn’t had that one big day on those lakes with a Plopper in hand to convince him to throw it more often.

It’s about confidence, which is also the reason LeBrun typically favors a Plopper over the bait many pros might choose to use in its place – a buzzbait.

“The buzzbait is just a confidence thing,” LeBrun explains. “I know some guys that throw a buzzbait religiously and not so much a Plopper. I own a few buzzbaits, but that’s just not something I have a lot of faith in. I’ve caught some big fish on it, but probably the reason I don’t have faith in it is because I don’t ever throw it.”

So, while a good portion of the 2019 FLW Cup field was throwing buzzbaits around docks on Lake Hamilton, LeBrun was opting for a 110-size Whopper Plopper in just a couple basic colors. It’s what worked for him during practice, and while he ultimately went down swinging with a Plopper in hand (finishing in 24th place), the Plopper has generally been good to him in Arkansas. He boated 15 pounds on day one of the 2019 FLW Cup, and his fourth-place finish on Lake Ouachita in the 2018 Cup was bolstered in a big way by a 6-pounder he caught on a white Whopper Plopper.

 

Nick LeBrun

Selecting the right model

For LeBrun, throwing a Whopper Plopper is a pretty simple affair.

“I throw black and white, which, to be detailed, it’s the loon color or white pearl,” he explains. “A lot of people throw the bone color, and that’s why I don’t throw the bone. I like throwing the white, especially after catching a 6-pounder on it in the Cup last year. That was a confidence-builder for me.

“I keep it simple. I throw the white or the black, and, really, I find myself throwing the black most of the time. I don’t have some special formula of ‘well, when the pond straw is light brown and the squirrels are running on the left side of the tree, that’s when you throw the black.’”

LeBrun chooses his Ploppers based on the basic principles of topwater fishing: black for low-light conditions and white for sunny days. Of course, that’s not a hard-and-fast rule, and oftentimes LeBrun simply chooses a trial-and-error approach.

“I just kind of rig one up and throw it, and if I’m not getting bit, I might throw the other one for a couple hours,” he says. “I think colors catch more fishermen than they catch fish.”

That’s why LeBrun keeps his color selection simple. He finds that size and setup are much more important, especially in certain situations.

As a general rule, the rookie Tour pro will usually opt for the 130-size Plopper (a 130mm bait) to maximize his chances of catching quality fish, as opposed to fishing for a lot of smaller fish. To him, the Plopper is an all-or-nothing lure.

“It’s a zero-or-hero type deal,” he says. “I don’t think I’ve ever weighed in 12 pounds on a Plopper. If I did, it was two or three fish. I think that’s why some people don’t throw it. They hear about it and watch the videos and see the tournament results, and they go and tie one on and they fish it for 10 minutes without a bite and put it down and try something else.”

Still, there are times LeBrun really prefers the 110 size, like at Lake Hamilton during the 2019 Cup.

“For bass fishermen, you have the 90, the 110 and the 130,” LeBrun adds. “I say my go-to is the 130, even though the past two Cups I fished the 110, but that’s because I felt like the size of the fish were just smaller. You can catch a 12-inch fish on the 130.

“You can’t discount the 130. It will catch smaller fish. But, a tournament like Hamilton where a 12-incher really matters, I just wanted to have a smaller-profile bait to get that fish in my hands.”

 

Nick LeBrun

The setup

LeBrun keeps things simple with his setup, too, at least to a degree. He always makes one specific tweak to his Plopper out of the package, though.

“I take the factory hooks off, and I replace them with size 2 Hayabusa treble hooks,” he explains. “Two reasons I do that: It’s a little bit lighter-wire hook compared to what comes on it. I just think the hooks that they put on there are a little bit overkill. Also, the Hayabusa trebles come with an NRB coating that makes the hook kind of slick, and in my mind, it helps me get a few more fish in the boat.”

Apart from that, it’s basically straight from the package and onto his line. LeBrun likes 30- and 50-pound-test Sunline Xplasma Asegai (with no leader) for his Ploppers, and he’ll bounce around between the two line sizes based on what he’s targeting.

“I throw 50 the most, except for when the fish are smaller and I’m having to really get creative with my casts,” LeBrun says. “Like at Hamilton, I was having to pitch that bait and get it up under the walkways, and the fish were smaller – under 3 pounds, most of them. The lighter [30-pound] braid helps you manage that bait a little better, and also gets you some more distance.”

Distance can be important when fishing a bare bank or open water, when a long cast is more efficient, but when LeBrun is on a lake like Lake of the Ozarks, when “those 4- and 6-pounders are chomping,” it’s always 50-pound test.

“If all I’m having to do is throw it over the cables and reel it at that 45-degree angle, I’m going to go with 50, just for peace of mind and more control when messing with those cables,” he adds.

LeBrun has sometimes toyed around with the idea of using monofilament line instead of braid – most recently at the Cup on Hamilton, where the fish were smaller and he worried about “overpowering” them with heavy braid – but he ultimately chose not to for fear of losing a giant.

He’s able to get away with the limited-stretch braid choice because of the rod he employs for his Plopper setup – a 7-foot, 2-inch, medium-heavy Fitzgerald Bryan Thrift frog rod.

“That’s really the only rod I’ve tried on the Plopper,” he explains. “It’s done me a good job. I like it because it has enough tip to play the fish and not overpower it, but it has enough backbone to where, if you get a 6-pounder on, you’re going to be in control and you can boat-flip it if you want to.”

He pairs his Fitzgerald rod with a Fitzgerald Stunner reel in a 7:1 gear ratio to minimize the fatigue associated with winding a Plopper all day, and also to maximize his efficiency when covering a lot of water.

 

Nick LeBrun

It’s all about the situation

Like all baits, there’s a proper time and place to throw a Plopper-style bait. During warmer months when big fish feeding up in the shallows are ultra-aggressive, a Plopper can put a ton of quality fish in the box. But LeBrun only reaches for a Plopper in the right conditions, even during the summer, and almost always on one particular type of lake.

“It goes back to the Ozark lakes,” he says. “My confidence is Grand, Hamilton, Ouachita, [Lake of the] Ozarks. Aside from Ouachita, all those lakes are filled with docks.”

It’s not necessarily that LeBrun only targets docks with Ploppers, or that any lake with a lot of docks is going to be prime fodder for a Plopper. It’s just that the lakes on which he’s had the most success with a Plopper happen to be Ozark lakes, which inherently have a lot of docks on them.

LeBrun also points out that, even on those lakes with docks, he’s caught a lot of good fish on bare banks with nothing but rock or pea gravel. This, he says, might have more to do with the types of baitfish and how they act on those fisheries.

“With walking baits, I throw it around bream beds and shad spawn situations,” says LeBrun. “Those are two scenarios where I’ve seen a stationary-type bait does better.”

However, when big gizzard shad are cruising around up on the bank, LeBrun figures the bass are doing the same thing. Throwing the Plopper is about matching the hatch – not necessarily from a size and profile perspective, but based on the idea that if shallow baitfish are moving around, so are the bass that are chasing them, and the bass will key on a lure that’s moving around, too. It doesn’t hurt that in those scenarios, a Plopper allows anglers to cover a lot of water.

“A lot of times, if I have the bass target-oriented, I like catching them on a stationary topwater like the Bill Lewis StutterStep, but sometimes a Plopper-style bait helps you cover more water,” LeBrun admits.

 

Nick LeBrun

Picking apart docks

LeBrun is a master of putting treble-hooked baits where a lot of other anglers can’t. That includes the Plopper, and he’s not shy about pitching, casting and flipping one around any dock that might hold fish.

“When you’re approaching new water, you kind of have to fish it all,” he says. “Down the face of the dock first, then the sides and then behind. It takes some covering water to get dialed in.”

In other words, use trial and error until you’re able to establish a pattern. LeBrun says he’s caught fish on a Plopper around pretty much every kind of dock (whether stationary or floating) and every part of those docks (from pilings to cables to walkways).

He has a particular penchant for fishing behind them, which, by extension, means fishing under a lot of walkways.

“Different tournaments and different lakes I would throw back behind the dock and around the walkway and then kick it on high and go around the face of the dock,” he explains. “The fish were only behind the docks.

“I have a lot of confidence fishing behind the dock. It’s hard to throw a Plopper under a walkway out the other side. It would be so much easier to do that with a frog or even a buzzbait or a spook. You take that Plopper and put some heat on it, and if you are a few inches off, you might tear it up if your cast isn’t right on. I like it, though. It’s uncoventional. People don’t think of a treble-hooked bait to pitch into tight places, but it will pay off.”

There’s certainly less mystery to the where and when of catching fish on a Plopper when you have a lot of experience using one.

“Anybody who throws the Plopper a lot, especially around these docks, you kind of know where you’re going to get bit,” LeBrun says.

Part of it is experience, and part of it is choosing the right bait at the right time. LeBrun has proved time and again that he’s awfully good at that part.

And if LeBrun is throwing a Whopper Plopper, it’s because he knows it’s a bait that will catch a lot of quality fish.

“I’ve got eight or 10 baits I throw all over the country, and that’s about it,” he says. “I’ve always had to commit time to it.

“The biggest message I have to the user is that you have to commit to it; it’s kind of like flipping grass. It’s a deal where you can’t just go do it for an hour. You have to really put in some time and some hours with it.”

Coming from someone who has certainly put the time in to figure out the Whopper Plopper’s secrets, that’s advice you can take to the bank.

Tags: whopper-plopper  -nick-lebrun  -lake-ouachita  -lake-of-the-ozarks  -grand-lake  justin-onslow  tips-and-techniques 

Culbertson Wins Wild Card

Culbertson Wins Wild Card

Boater Austin Culbertson of Columbia, Missouri, brought a two-day total of eight bass to the scale weighing 25 pounds, 9 ounces to win the no-entry fee Phoenix Bass Fishing League presented by T-H Marine Wild Card Championship on Lake of the Ozarks presented by Fish-Intel.com. For his victory, Culbertson earned one of the final berths into the 2021 Phoenix Bass Fishing League All-American Championship. READ MORE »

Columbia’s Culbertson Wins Phoenix Bass Fishing League Wild Card Championship on Lake of the Ozarks presented by Fish-Intel.com

Columbia’s Culbertson Wins Phoenix Bass Fishing League Wild Card Championship on Lake of the Ozarks presented by Fish-Intel.com

OSAGE BEACH, Mo. - Boater Austin Culbertson of Columbia, Missouri, brought a two-day total of eight bass to the scale weighing 25 pounds, 9 ounces to win the no-entry fee Phoenix Bass Fishing League presented by T-H Marine Wild Card Championship on Lake of the Ozarks presented by Fish-Intel.com. For his victory, Culbertson... READ MORE »

Top 10 Patterns from Dale Hollow

Top 10 Patterns from Dale Hollow

There’s no way around it. Dale Hollow was fishing tough during the Toyota Series Central Division finale. Ultimately, it was Adam Wagner and a mega-school he found in 50 feet of water that got the job done. For the rest of the top 10, it was a little bit of everything. READ MORE »

Top 10 Baits from Dale Hollow

Top 10 Baits from Dale Hollow

While Dale Hollow really featured a hodgepodge of different baits in the Toyota Series Central Division finale, the anglers who performed the best did so by targeting deeper fish that were either chasing bait or sitting on isolated cover. For the job, much of the field had a spoon and a drop-shot on deck. READ MORE »

Wagner Wins on Dale Hollow

Wagner Wins on Dale Hollow

Adam Wagner is approaching legend status in central Tennessee. Storming to the win from fifth place on the final day, Wagner put a limit for 16 pounds, 1 ounce on the scale for a 34-6 total and the win in the Toyota Series Central Division event on Dale Hollow. READ MORE »

Russell, 71, Earns First FLW Win

Russell, 71, Earns First FLW Win

Robert Russell has been fishing a long time, and he’s been fishing FLW tournaments for a long time, too. At Dale Hollow, from the back of the boat, he finally got his first FLW win. READ MORE »

Dale Hollow Midday Update – Day 3

Dale Hollow Midday Update – Day 3

You’re not going to find a better day to be out on the lake in the fall. Unfortunately, the warming trend paired with bluebird skies, plenty of sun and very little wind hasn’t produced very good conditions for catching fish. READ MORE »

Dale Hollow Top 5 Patterns – Day 2

Dale Hollow Top 5 Patterns – Day 2

Dale Hollow is fishing tough. That’s about the only constant across the field in the Toyota Series Central Division finale. Everyone in the top 10 has made it to this point by finding a way to battle the difficult conditions and tricky timing, and many have done that extremely well. READ MORE »

Dale Hollow Midday Update – Day 2

Dale Hollow Midday Update – Day 2

Despite some hopeful optimism that the cold front that moved in overnight might turn on the bite, day two of the Toyota Series Central Division finale on Dale Hollow has been as slow as – or slower than – day one, and that’s saying something. READ MORE »

Smith Stays Consistent on Dale Hollow

Smith Stays Consistent on Dale Hollow

Dale Hollow has been tough as nails this week for the competitors in the Toyota Series Central Division event. Only three of the top 10 have managed limits both days, and one of those limits was shy of 7 pounds. So, Blake Smith’s back to back limits of 11 pounds, 9 ounces, and 11-13 qualify as extremely impressive. Leading with a total of 23-6, Smith has more than a 3-pound edge on second-place Chris Malone and seems to be in prime position to bring home a win on Saturday. READ MORE »

Dale Hollow Top 5 Patterns – Day 1

Dale Hollow Top 5 Patterns – Day 1

Day one of the Toyota Series Central Division event on Dale Hollow was predictably tough, with few scratching above the 10-pound mark and limits hard to come by. Still, Jonathan Bowling waylaid over 13 pounds for the lead, and the pros behind him have put some actual patterns together. All that is threatened by much colder weather that’s on the way, but it’s nothing the pros in the top 10 haven’t seen before. READ MORE »

Bowling Leads on Dale Hollow

Bowling Leads on Dale Hollow

As tough as Dale Hollow has been fishing lately, it’s not really a surprise that only nine anglers managed to crack double digits after day one of the Toyota Series Central Division finale. What was surprising, though, was to see one angler – Harriman, Tennessee’s Jonathan Bowling – grab a lead of more than 1 1/2 pounds. Given the conditions, that’s a huge lead. READ MORE »

Dale Hollow Midday Update – Day 1

Dale Hollow Midday Update – Day 1

The rain that soaked the region all Wednesday hung around to start the morning of day one of the Toyota Series Central Division finale on Dale Hollow. By midday, though, the spotty rain started to move out and give way to a little sunshine ahead of sharply falling temperatures this evening and into Friday morning. READ MORE »

Challenges Ahead on Dale Hollow

Challenges Ahead on Dale Hollow

It’s been an odd “fall” at Dale Hollow, mostly because there hasn’t really been one. Water temperatures are still hovering in the high-60s, which puts the typical fall transition well behind its usual schedule in terms of bass movement. READ MORE »

Previewing Dale Hollow

Previewing Dale Hollow

When the Toyota Series Central Division wraps up its season on Dale Hollow Lake next week – a lake known for its smallmouth fishing, thanks in big part for producing the world record smallmouth back in 1955 – its anglers probably won’t be weighing in masses of brown fish. READ MORE »

FLW Announces Lake of the Ozarks as Venue for 2020 Phoenix Bass Fishing League Wild Card Tournament

FLW Announces Lake of the Ozarks as Venue for 2020 Phoenix Bass Fishing League Wild Card Tournament

TULSA, Okla. – FLW announced Sunday that the 2020 Phoenix Bass Fishing League presented by T-H Marine Wild Card tournament will take place on Lake of the Ozarks in Osage Beach, Missouri, Nov. 20-21. The two-day event, hosted by Fish-Intel, will launch from Public Beach No. 2 in Osage Beach. READ MORE »

Cook Wins Toyota Series Event on Lake of the Ozarks

Cook Wins Toyota Series Event on Lake of the Ozarks

OSAGE BEACH, Mo. – Toyota Series angler Corey Cook of Lebanon, Missouri, brought a five-bass limit to the scale Saturday weighing 11 pounds even to win the three-day Toyota Series at Lake of the Ozarks tournament in Osage Beach, Missouri. Cook’s three-day total of 15 bass weighing 49-13 earned him the win by a 2-pound, 14 ounce margin over second-place pro... READ MORE »

Top 10 Baits from Lake of the Ozarks

Top 10 Baits from Lake of the Ozarks

Jigs and topwaters – that’s pretty much all you need when it comes to fall in the Ozarks. READ MORE »

Top 10 Patterns from Lake of the Ozarks

Top 10 Patterns from Lake of the Ozarks

Five straight years of Lake of the Ozarks hosting a Toyota Series Plains Division event in October usually takes the guesswork out of what to expect. Anglers pretty much did what they’ve come to know as tried-and-true patterns on the historic fishery. READ MORE »

Cook Goes Wire-To-Wire

Cook Goes Wire-To-Wire

He put his name on the map as one to watch on day one. Today, Corey Cook put his name on the hardware as one of the best on Lake of the Ozarks right now. READ MORE »