- Strip Pit Largemouth Bass LOVE ‘EM
- Choppo Plopper Action is NEW and DEADLY
- Designed by Bassmaster Elite angler Justin Lucas
The Berkley® Choppo, one of 10 lures introduced with Berkley’s new topwater line at ICAST 2018, played to smashing reviews from Illinois strip mine bass…and a prominent Peoria angler/chef.
By Mike Pehanich
The “Plopper” lure concept took the fishing world by storm a few years ago when River2Sea’s 2008 introduction, the Whopper Plopper, suddenly factored into big tournament and TV-host catches. The excitement it generated hasn’t dimmed yet.
Ploppers feature a thick single-arm propeller that produces a plopping gurgle that drives fish nuts and, better yet, draws them from a distance.
If there’s a downside to ploppers, it is price. Original River2Sea Whopper Ploppers generally cost from $12 to $22. That’s why tackle junkies with an ear to the rail got itchy with rumors that Berkley would enter the plopper category with their own iteration.
Berkley’s hardbait strategy has been relatively cautious, but quite successful to date. The simple formula is this: take a proven concept, let pro anglers modify and tweak it to proven performance, and then finally produce and market it at an angler-friendly price.
That marketing formula is in evidence again with the Choppo 90 and 120 – the two sizes of topwater lures filling the “plopper” niche in Berkley’s new 10-item topwater line that made its debut at ICAST 2018 (Orlando July 11-13). The Choppo will retail for $9.99 in both sizes.
Choppo Works the Pits
A coveted Choppo bait arrived at my door under cardboard cover in advance of ICAST 2018. Would it prove to be the real deal? I headed to central Illinois to test it on strip pit bass.
I consulted with Chef Todd Kent, multi-species angler and head chef at Jim’s Downtown Steakhouse in Peoria. For Choppo’s Illinois debut, he suggested Lake X, an unmanaged private lake accessible only with purloined map, secret handshake and promise of first-born grandchild, or in this case, agreement to let him fish the Choppo that day.
I opted for the latter.
“I’ll catch a bass on the Choppo within the first 15 minutes on the water,” Chef Todd predicted.
A weak cold front had pushed through the night before, but I took the bubble trail in the wake of Chef Todd’s first cast with the Choppo to be a good omen.
“I like it,” said the chef, a few casts into the day. “The propeller produces a little deeper ‘plop’ than R2Sea. It’s a little different.”
The strip pit featured a long, steep-sided, main lake with two narrow arms running perpendicular to the main lake. Deadfall and sunken timber provided cover shallow and deep. Algae mats sat in protected pockets between wood.
It seemed a prime topwater setting, so good, in fact, that we were surprised when our first 10 or so casts drew no response.
A washtub explosion ended the drought. Todd leaned back on the bite and his fish went airborne.
“Ten minutes,” he said as he hefted his fish, just a tad under three pounds. “I said I’d have a bass on the Choppo within 15 minutes. Amen.”
The chef let the thought simmer for a few casts. Then the prospect of fame – however fleeting, took hold.
“I’ll bet that was the first bass taken on a Choppo in Illinois,” he said. “Yeah. I’ll stake my claim to that,” I responded.
The worm bite we expected to flourish that morning never developed, but finesse jigs and flippin’ jigs with craw-style and beaver-style plastic trailers drew a flurry of action. A swim jig with swimbait produced nice fish as well.
But we missed the topwater bite and despite the bad omen of high cloudless skies, we pulled out the high-riders again at 11:00 A.M.
The Choppo went down in an angry spray within minutes. Another well-muscled bass hit it a few casts after that. The unexpected mid-day topwater bite was on. Choppo would prove to be the day’s MVP.
“I’m really impressed with this Choppo 120,” said Chef Todd, high praise from an angler with a healthy stockpile of the lure that pioneered the category. “It has a more defined plopper tail sound. The head design is a little narrower, and it has a nice side-to-side roll. The tail rides a little higher, too. And it has great hooks.”
Designed by Bassmaster Elite angler Justin Lucas, the Choppo 120 is just under 5-inches (120 mm) long. Weighing a full ounce, it casts a mile, allowing the angler to cover water quickly. Six weights in two belly chambers and a tapered nose deliver the tantalizing roll that helps convert tail-plopping fish attraction into hard strikes.
And, yes, it has extremely sharp Fusion 19 hooks.
The Choppo 90 is the 120’s little brother. Its smaller dimensions of 3-1/2 inches (90 mm) and ½ ounce weight, add to its versatility. It makes for an easier meal for a wider range of predators. Justin Lucas testifies to its effectiveness on smallmouth bass in particular.
Current colors are Sexy Back, Perfect Ghost, MF Shad, MF Frog, MF Bluegill, Maverick, Ghost White, Ghost Bluegill, Bone and Black Chrome.
Unlike many topwater lures, the Choppo does most of the work for you. Just cast and wind with rod tip raised to maintain a high-riding, waking movement. Vary your speed until you dial in the fish’s preference for the day.
You’ll likely be mesmerized by that plopping sound and tantalizing spray until the inevitable explosion awakens you from the spell!