John Crews On Top With Braided Line

Virginia Bassmaster Elite Series pro John Crews has gone almost exclusively to braided line for his topwater fishing. Most BassFans already use braid for topwater frogs, especially when fished over matted grass, because they know nothing else works as well for hauling big bass from heavy weeds. But Crews throws braid in open water.

Here he tells BassFan why maybe you should try it, too.

Skimming the Surface

“I use braided line now for all my topwater fishing except prop baits,” he said. “It’s good for poppers, walking baits, buzzbaits, you name it, all kinds of topwaters. If you use 20-pound braid for a small topwater you can really make it do an awesome walk.

“And you can launch them a mile,” he added. “I think that Spiderwire Ultracast is the ultimate braid. It has a slick coating to make it real smooth and it just slides through the guides. That really helps with long distance casts. The smaller diameter of braid helps with distance, too. The 20-pound braid is the diameter of 6-pound mono, so you still have the strength but you can throw it farther.”

Getting a long cast is critical to reach schooling fish, or to put a lure in front of skittish bass without putting them on their guard. But if they hit way out at the end of a bombed cast, you still have to get the hooks in them. Braid solves that riddle as well.

“A lot of topwater bites (occur) on the first couple of chugs (after it touches down),” he noted. “With SpiderWire Ultracast, the hookups are outstanding. If the fish just slaps at it and you pull back, and you hook them.”

You never want to use fluorocarbon line for topwaters because it sinks and will kill the action of the lure. But guess what? Braid floats.

“Braid never pulls your lure under, and it’s super limp so it doesn’t drag on the lure and mess up the action,” he said.

Since it lays limp on the water in front of the lure each time you give it slack, sometimes the bait will run over the line. “That happens even with mono unless you use heavy mono,” he noted. “It’s mostly with walking baits, but it has more to do with hook size and other conditions. You can’t avoid it happening sometimes, especially with some chop on the water or if you let the bait glide too long (between twitches).

“But I think for the better action and better hookups and longer casts, the tradeoffs are well worth it to use braid instead of mono.”

Gearing Up for Alien Abduction

Many anglers use a softer rod and ease back on the drag when fishing with braid. Not Crews.

“I mostly use the same rod as with mono,” he said. “I like something with a little give to it, like a 6’6” to7′ medium-action Fenwick HMG. Once I hookup with braid I start cranking and I never slow down. When they get near the boat, if they’re hooked well, I just heave them in. I do that with fish up to maybe 4 pounds.

“You can wench on them and they don’t have a chance. The 2-pounders or less sometimes just waterski in. It really helps to get them away from the school fast so they don’t pull the school away from the bait or split the school, and then you have to wait for them to regroup and start feeding again. Or the school will get close enough to see the boat and spook.

“With this technique – just cranking as fast as you can to snatch them from the school before the others can follow – it’s like an alien abducted it and the others never know what happened.

“You have to keep them moving fast, and the Abu Garcia Revo with the oversize gears works for me,” he noted. “I use a 6.4:1 ratio, and back off a little bit on the drag as compared to mono, but not a lot.”

Mono for Prop Baits

While he dotes on braid for his other topwaters, Crews still favors traditional monofilament line for his prop baits.

“For prop baits I stick with Berkley Trilene Big Game mono, like 20- to 25-pound line,” he said. “Otherwise, the front prop will tangle in the limp superline on almost every cast. Even with mono you need a heavy line to prevent that.”

All his prop baits have both a front and rear propeller. “I don’t like prop baits with just a rear prop,” he added. “Those kind mostly just dart, and I’d rather use a popper for that.”


“You have to be careful with heavy line or you’ll bend out the hooks,” Crews noted. “To avoid that I upsize my trebles to 2X strong hooks.”

Spro Bass Cat Gamakatsu Sunline Mercury Sriker Cashion Rods Lithium Pro Power Pole
TH Marine