The 3:16 Top Dawg is one in an increasingly long line of unique 3:16 lure creations. I don’t have the exact release date, but it was around the 2002/2003 time frame. I also don’t know if you can really call this a swimbait, it’s more like a popper/swimbait hybrid, but I have it in the Swimbait category for now so that we can discuss it. The Top Dawg is available in two sizes, a 7.5” that weighs 2.1oz and an 8.5” version that weighs in at 2.95oz. The 7.5” bait comes stock with a 1/0 VMC treble hook and the 8.5” comes with a 1/0 Owner Stinger.
The Top Dawg does a few things that no other baits do. First and foremost it’s a popper that throws a lot of water when you pop it. Secondly it has size and bulk that is more on par with a swimbait. The result is unique, and a lot of times having a unique bait will get you bites simply because the bass have never seen anything like it before. You can rip the Top Dawg hard and make it spit a 2 foot shot of water or you can twitch twitch twitch it and make it cough and sashay back and forth.
The action and quality of the baits I have used have all been consistent and the baits stand up well to the abuse you put on a rubber bait working it hard on the surface. The Top Dawg has the standard 3:16 block in the head which allows for a ‘pro-rig’ type rigging and I would expect to get 6-15 fish per bait, depending of course on if any of them get overly frisky! You should definitely consider a trailer hook setup with the Top Dawg, bearing in mind that the heavier the hooks are, the less action you will get from the bait. Because the Top Dawg is relatively thin, you can get away with a pretty small trailer hook in back.
Now, when I think about the Top Dawg, and when and where to use it, I think of two things; First of all I think about big fish that are close enough to the surface to sense the presence of the bait and secondly I think about those big fish being aggressive and willing to hit on the surface. Big bass get the most aggressive and likely to bust the top when the water is warm. I have fished with the Top Dawg quite a bit in Northern California and have not had any luck, but I have heard a decent number of good reports from Southern California, and the further South you go the better the reports get. I really believe this has to do with water temperature. When you get water temps up into the 80’s consistently during the summer time, I believe that it just changes the way those bass act year round. So look for warm water and surface oriented big fish when you throw the Top Dawg, and definitely try the Top Dawg during summer or early fall, at night, and any time when you believe the conditions are pushing big bass shallow.
One final thing to mention with the Top Dawg is striper fishing. Stripers can be suckers for big topwaters and often time the noisier they are the better. This would definitely be a bait to try if you were on big surface chewing stripers. Just be prepared to go through a few baits, they are rubber after all.
I don’t have much bad to say about the Top Dawg. They typically retail for around $20 which isn’t too unreasonable for what you get. The Top Dawg is just a niche bait that does a specific thing for some specific conditions. When you see thing shaping up for big aggressive topwater fish, give it a whirl and see what gives!