Imagine being able to launch at your local lake, head out to your favorite spots, check the sonar for a few fish marking and then turn on a machine to draw fish right underneath your boat. Sound too good to be true? Well if your target species is striped bass, hybrid striped bass or white bass, and your machine is a thumper, that is exactly what can happen!
Thumping has been around for years and has a small but dedicated following. What started out as simple as a wooden stick used to bang against the bottom of the boat has evolved into many variations of thumping devices. There are a few companies that sell mechanical thumpers which consist of a hammer attached to a motor and controller to regulate the speed of the hammer. The hammer strikes a block of wood and transmits vibrations through the boats hull or strikes the boat hull directly. Thumpers are normally powered by the boat’s battery using clamps or a 12v plug. Some models are contained in waterproof cases to protect internal components and offer portability to move from boat to boat. Thanks to Social Media channels such as YouTube there are plans out there for the do it yourselfer to build their own. But why does the thumper create all that noise and how does it work?
Eric Dulin, the owner of Thump’em up Thumpers explains… “If you think about a school of striper attacking a school of shad there is a tremendous amount of commotion. Striper are both pushing fish to the top of and attacking fish below the surface. I use a device called a splasher, essentially a flat bladed propeller to mimic the splashing sound of fish feeding on the surface. The thumper creates the vibrations associated with fish feeding under water, either device alone is effective but when combined they have an amazing ability to bring fish to your boat”.
Splashers and thumpers are used by many striper and hybrid guides on Texas lakes such as Lewisville, Tawakoni and Texoma. Fishing with a thumper requires the same technique as normal fishing, scan for fish on points, humps and offshore structure that normally hold fish. Once the sonar or side scan shows a few fish, spot lock and drop baits, then turn on the thumper and the splasher. Set a timer for fifteen minutes and if no bites or fish in that time, double check the graph to determine if you should stay of move to a different spot. Normally fish begin gathering in the first ten to fifteen minutes, so if no fish are showing, move to the next spot!
Texoma Striper caught while thumping in 46’ of water
Fish will normally build up quickly with fish nearby often responding instantly to investigate which is why it’s important to drop baits and then turn on the thumper. As schools pass nearby, they are also drawn in. Sometimes, schools of fish, especially catfish and white bass will simply gather beneath the boat in bigger and bigger schools and remain there, other times the schools will drift in and out. Garmin Livescope (Panoptix) is a fantastic tool to see how fish are behaving and provides on the spot intelligence about how many fish are passing through or staying, what depth they are at and how they are responding to the bait or lure.
Popular techniques to catching striper include Carolina rigging shad, slabs or dead sticking with soft plastic baits in the winter. Use your sonar to determine what dept the fish are congregating at then count down your bait to that depth. When using shad, ensure that shad is treated with salt and ice to remain healthy and frisky, especially during the summer months. Sometimes, striper will hit dead shad but more often, striper prefer a frisky shad requiring frequent bait changes when the fish are finicky. Another key to trick finicky striper is to use a small split shot and a circle hook that allows the bait to swim freely.
Slabbing at the depth you are seeing fish or burning up slabs from the bottom are effective ways to catch fish while thumping. White bass can create a “Christmas tree” effect on Livescope when dozens of fish rise from the bottom of the lake to chase after a slab.
Dead sticking while thumping is an extremely effective technique during the winter months. Use one or two 5-7” soft plastic flukes on jig heads and simply hold the rod like a dead stick without moving it, let the motion of the boat move the bait ever so slightly to trigger the bite. Another option is to tandem rig a heavy and lighter jig head such as the Stipaholic jig head which has two eyes to tandem rig a second jig.
When fish have been biting but the bite has slowed, adjusting the thumper tempo either up or down will often trigger an immediate strike from lurking fish. Vary the thumper speed while fishing using the control knob every 5-10 minutes to help trigger reaction strikes. Lastly, use higher tempos in deeper water, often the highest tempo is more effective in depths over 45’. The thumper is extremely effective at attracting striped bass, hybrid striped bass and white bass. Many users also report frequent bycatches of catfish and drum which may also indicate that these species are attracted to the thumper as well.
Monster flathead caught by Wayne Harley on a spoon while using a mechanical thumper in South Carolina