Take a second and think of your favorite walk-the-dog-style plug for striped bass. Depending on your preferred approach to striper fishing, I’m going to bet you pictured either the Drifter Tackle Doc or the Rebel Jumpin’ Minnow.
These two topwaters have attained legendary status among striper fishermen. You’d be hard-pressed to find a plug-casting angler from Maryland to Maine without at least one of these in their surf bag or boat box; that is, if they don’t already have one tied on.
The Doc, at 9 inches long and 3 ounces, is a big-fish presentation for boaters working bunker schools while the Jumpin’ Minnow at 4.5 inches and ½ ounce covers the back bays and light tackle for bringing schoolies to the surface all season long.
In between these two fabled striper spooks, however, there’s a chasm in which a good, mid-sized, saltwater-focused walk-the-dog bait is difficult to find. So, there’s been no regular inclusion of a 6- to 7-inch spook-style bait in my striper-fishing lineup since I lost my last Tattoo Sea Pup to a bluefish sometime in the early 2010s.
And then, last May, arriving in Falmouth, Massachusetts, from Connecticut around the time that the first migratory stripers were doing the same, a package introduced the On The Water crew to a new topwater, the Game On! X-Walk.
The Orefice brothers, Dan and Mike, began Game On! out of Enfield, Connecticut, in 2015. Game On! offers a half-dozen lure styles, with their most popular being the albie-targeted EXO jigs and the soft-plastic stickbait Big Occhi.
The X-Walk is their first topwater lure. It has a hard-plastic body in the traditional spook shape, but with a small, cupped mouth under the line tie. There are molded-in gill plates and a large eye. The lure has three internal chambers with weighted BBs and two different sized rattles to provide high-pitch and low-pitch sounds. The compact 6-inch plug weighs two ounces, which makes it easy to cast far on both boat and surf tackle.
It walks easily, with a slow, pumping retrieve, allowing it to slide a few inches to each side. A faster, twitching retrieve creates a tight zigzag action not unlike a pencil popper. On either retrieve, the cupped mouth occasionally catches the water, throwing a spray ahead of the plug and helping to get a fish’s attention from a distance.
For 2023, the Orefices introduced a smaller version of the X-Walk, a 4.5-incher, with the same rattling and cupped-mouth features. While it’s the same length as the largest Jumpin’ Minnow Model, at 1 ounce, it’s twice the weight, making it a viable option for surfcasters as well as light-tackle fishermen.
The 6-inch X-Walk comes in bunker, mullet, and mackerel colors, while the 4.5-inch version comes in those colors as well as red/silver and chartreuse/silver. While the mackerel might come in handy on the Cape Cod Canal and the bunker colors will help match the peanut bunker parade this fall, you could stick with the bone-colored X-Walk all season and never need to change.
Both models are rigged with an inline single hook on the tail and a stout, short-shanked treble on the belly. I crushed the barbs when putting the plug to work on slot-size stripers and bluefish through the season.
The fact that the lure cast well and walked easily, even under the suboptimal conditions often faced in the surf, meant I clipped it on when a head-on or crosswind made the Doc difficult to fish well. In the boat, I used it to cover water and find bass and blues that were cruising sand flats or working rip lines. The X-Walk won’t usurp the topwater thrones long held by the Jumpin’ Minnow and Doc, but it could find its own place between them as the mid-sized walking plug striper fishermen have been seeking.
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