Years ago, a friend and I developed the Blockhead Popper, and it is still (in my opinion) the best popper ever created. However, the trusty Blockhead certainly isn’t the only topwater I use.
When the water is clear or when summer river levels become low, I love the Sneaky Pete. I use a foam version– the Foamy Pete– which is lighter and much more durable than traditional cork Petes.
Although you can never be 100% sure what type of topwater the smallies will prefer on a given day, the Foamy Pete is often the best for mid-summer to early fall conditions. During these times, when rivers often run low and clear, a flat- or concave-faced topwater can be too loud and obtrusive for smallmouth. This is where the quiet (sneaky) Pete really shines and often produces many more strikes than a popper.
How to Fish the Foam Sneaky Pete
Here is how I fish the Sneaky Pete: After casting out the fly, I let the Pete lay motionless for several seconds, then I make it dart forward with a short, sharp rod-tip twitch of about 8 to 15 inches. This creates a tiny noise and a small bubble stream. And this often drives smallies wild!
I’ve seen many summer evenings (and days) when this relatively quiet retrieve produced strike after strike, including some of the biggest fish of the season.
If you’re not proficient at animating your flies with your rod tip I’d encourage you to learn to do so. However, if that seems too difficult to learn, then short, sharp line strips will also do a so-so job of producing those appealing bubble streams. And no matter how you animate the fly, be sure to allow it to sit motionless several seconds between twitches.
Unfortunately, as good as the Pete can be, a lot of smallmouth fans rarely or never use them because the anglers think the fish won’t notice this quiet fly. But the clear water of a river or lake creates a glass ceiling and fish are keenly aware of everything above them. So when flows become low and clear, don’t hesitate to give the Pete an honest try. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised.