Topwater Bass Fishing

June 17, 2010 by  

Top Water Fishing Lures

By Nick Simonson

I still remember the first time I watched a surface lure get inhaled and taken into the depths by a largemouth bass. It was a calm, sunny Saturday morning in late May and my buddy flung his Zara Spook about twenty yards off shore over a shallow flat. The bait hit the surface with a resounding smack. Upon the bait’s impact, a wake formed about fifteen yards away and quickly closed in. Before my buddy could snap the rod three times, the lure was engulfed in a frothy swirl. After that, I was hooked on topwater fishing for bass.

The Zara Spook and its kin, like the Rapala X-walk, are best fished with a baitcasting rod, but it isn’t absolutely necessary. The bait gets its action from the repeated downward snap of the rod tip, while the angler steadily reels in the line, and a baitcaster provides the best means of retrieval. Once the bait has been cast out, it should be left stationary for a few seconds after impact, allowing the splashdown rings to dissipate. This lets fish in the immediate area get a chance to reset and locate the bait before it starts moving.

To start the retrieve, reel in any slack and point the rod tip at about four-o’clock, then snap the tip down to the five o’clock position. The lure should zip off to one side. Raise the rod tip back to four o’clock and snap it down again, while reeling most of the slack out of the line. With each snap of the rod tip, the front end of the bait moves from side to side, making a wide ‘V’ in the water. This tactic, called “walking the dog” can be sped up, slowed down or worked with pauses in the middle of the retrieve to trigger trailing fish. While this method might take a few tries to get down, the real challenge comes in learning how to set the hook when fishing topwater lures.

When a fish explodes on a surface bait, the hit is an instant adrenaline rush which sets off the natural hook-setting instinct in most people. However, fishing these lures requires anglers to temper their reaction to the strike with a sliver of patience. Let the fish take the bait after the hit, feel for it on the other end of the line, then set the hook. It’s tough to overcome the urge to haul back immediately on the hit, but if you can give the fish a “one-one-thousand” count, you will increase the number of positive hook sets you get on a topwater bait.

Pop Culture
Like the snap-snap of a Spook across the tranquil waters of a bass lake in low light hours, another lure calls fish out from cover with a unique surface sound. Popper baits, like the Rebel Pop-R or the Rapala Skitter Pop are synonymous with topwater fishing. With curved lips, these baits displace water with each twitch of the rod tip. A longer and more forceful rod snap will cause the lip to displace more water, calling more attention to the bait.

Just as with the walk-the-dog style baits, it is important to let a popper-style bait sit after splashdown. Let the rings dissipate before popping the lure. Sometimes, that first pop will set nearby fish off and they will strike violently. Other times a mixture of smaller pops and gurgles with an occasional big spray of water will be the ticket. Each lake and outing will dictate the pattern during a topwater bite. As stated before, allow the fish an extra second before setting the hook.

Unlike noisy surface baits, topwater plastics rely on life-like action to induce a fish into striking. Classic slop baits like the Scum Frog or Texas-rigged plastics are great fun to work over the surface of bass waters – particularly in areas of heavy surface vegetation and weed mats that conceal fish lurking below.

One of the best tactics for effectively working surface plastics is to cast them toward shore – even ON shore – and work them back out toward the boat, popping, plopping and slithering them through lily pads, reeds and weed mats. Because they are weedless, these baits won’t hang up on stalks and leaflets, providing realistic behavior and a gentle glide through the gunk. With a little puppeteering, you can hop the bait from pad to pad or through the thick stuff, and then let it hang in an opening where the fish can see it. Be warned though, when a bass comes bursting through the green ceiling to inhale the bait, you will need a stout rod and some superline to get it out of the jungle. Set the hook hard and fast, as there is less need to wait as opposed to the topwaters mentioned previously. Once hooked, keep the fish up and away from the plant stems and crank it out toward open water.

Some surface plastics, like the Zoom Horny Toad, combine the life-like qualities of a soft body with the added commotion made by the bait’s curly legs. When Texas-rigged on a 4/0 wide-gap hook, the lure is virtually weedless. Fling it out toward shore; work it through the weeds and into the little openings for fish relating to the vegetation. If the bait clears the weed bed with no luck, crank it back to the boat. The legs will churn up the water and draw the attention of bass holding just off the edge. It’s the best of both topwater worlds.
Summer is a time of plenty and fish are hungry right now. This means they’ll attack anything that looks edible and surface baits are a fun way to exploit their urge to eat. One topwater explosion will have you hooked on the experience. Give these top notch topwaters a shot on your local bass lake for the most exciting fishing of the year…in our outdoors.


One Comment on "Topwater Bass Fishing"

  1. BassFranky on Tue, 15th Feb 2011 7:18 pm 

    Hi Nick, thanks for the great information, i specially like the part about the Scum Frog or Texas-rigged plastics, i find topwater plastics the best in my experience, i use the trawl technique and find it to be one of the best bass fishing techniques…!!

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