Yellow Magic

Proven bait pulling in lunkers

Sixty-year-old Texan Butch Ray can relate to the buzz heard for months this year around Toledo Bend and on Southwest Louisiana waters about a high-end topwater bait with a beautiful body and a seductive sound.

Ray, who competed on the BASS tour years ago, knows first-hand what the Yellow Magic popper can do in the hands of bass fishermen from the East Coast to West Coast, Michigan to the Sportsman’s Paradise. He has more experience than anyone else with the popper for a good reason.

The man who owns Mustang Resort on the shoreline of Lake Fork in East Texas was also a bass fishing guide on the premier trophy bass lake in the early 1990s. A Japanese angler, who was in the fishing tackle business in Japan, was a client and shared the same interest as him in improving on poppers that were available at the time.

Ray collaborated with the artificial lure manufacturer and started making prototypes on a small scale in 1992.

“He ran some ideas past me. I ran some ideas past him. We felt like we could produce something that could outdo” other popular poppers on the market at the time, he said.

Based on results for nearly two decades, Yellow Magic has more than lived up to his expectations and many people consider it the top popper in the world.

“This bait here I’m really proud of. I’ve always told everybody this is the best topwater bait ever made. Our sales have picked up every year since we came out with it. It’s a great bait,” Ray said.

Yellow Magic was a tough sell from the outset, he said.

“Then there weren’t many expensive baits, and then it was $13.95,” the entrepreneur said. “It was a hard sell. People weren’t used to upper-end baits, so we just sold them on the lake. It worked well. From there it went all over the United States and then the world.”

Ray was quick to point out its reputation has kept up with it year to year and word of mouth, mostly, has contributed to its success on the market and the water. It isn’t one of those “flash-in-the-pan” artificial lures that shake up the bass fishing world early and then fade and, more importantly, he said, “it’s proven itself over the years.”

Yellow Magic proved itself to me in mid-October on a bass fishing trip with my younger brothers at Truman Lake in Missouri. On a day with a high blue sky, I picked out shady spots, had six strikes and caught five bass from 1 1/2 to 2 1/2 pounds. I really can’t wait to tie one on and use it next spring and early summer and any other times that warrant it, such as overcast days. It has a nice sound to it, it’s easy to work and it seems to glide throughout the strike zone.

I left a Yellow Magic in the care of my oldest little brother Bill, who isn’t an avid topwater angler, and a week or two later he tried it out and caught bass on it up to 3 1/2 pounds. The Kansas City man was thrilled by the action.

We were throwing a 1/4-ounce model, baby bass in color, which is hand-painted. Yellow Magic also has a 1/2-ounce model. The manufacturer churns them out in 12 colors in the lighter model and seven colors for the 1/2-ounce Yellow Magic.

They are immaculately and painstakingly painted colors. But one of the lowest-selling colors happens to be Ray’s favorite — rainbow trout. Japanese shad and alewife also work well in the Sportsman’s Paradise.

“We try to match colors to the baitfish in different areas,” he said.

The key feature is its balance. It seems to mimic a baitfish, which is the intention.

“I wouldn’t say I always throw it,” he confided. “(But) I throw it any time fish will bite on topwater.”

The fall season has been great for bites on the Yellow Magic, he said.

“You can have days this time of year that are unbelievable,” he said.

Ray has heard about its success at Toledo Bend and on the Calcasieu River, among other waterways in the region.

“It’s been real good down there. It’s been good there and south in the (Atchafalaya) Basin,” he said.

The Yellow Magic creator said it should be ripe for triggering strikes as early as mid-February in South Louisiana. Elsewhere, such as in his neck of the woods, the topwater bite might start in March, Ray said from experience.

Yellow Magics also handle their own against double-digit bass. A Yellow Magic reportedly accounted for the second-place bass, 10 pounds plus change, in the McDonald’s Big Bass contest this year on Lake Fork.

“There’s been bigger fish than that caught on it. We’ve had more than a handful of fishermen just here on Lake Fork catch 10- or 11-pounders,” Ray said.

Despite the chance of a hawg pounding a sputtering Yellow Magic, some of the top tactics include downsizing line test. Ray does that and dials down the drag, just using his thumbs, because he often relies on his topwater as a “finesse bait any time fishing gets tough.”

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About Don Shoopman 566 Articles
Don Shoopman fishes for freshwater and saltwater species mostly in and around the Atchafalaya Basin and Vermilion Bay. He moved to the Sportsman’s Paradise in 1976, and he and his wife June live in New Iberia. They have two grown sons.