The recent cool snap has us hoping there is some prolonged relief to all this heat, we’ve been enduring all summer. It also has me hoping, however, for that proven topwater bite for bass fishing we all love so much. In fact, I might go on record as saying that a topwater is one of the best ways to catch a big fish when they are feeding up. Just going out and casting blindly, however, doesn’t usually lead to big catches. Being smart with how you approach topwater fishing and not just casting it around because you’re tired of throwing something else will make catching bigger bass an efficient process.
Like is the case with any lure, there are opportunities to make it a little more attractive to the bass in different situations. So I compiled a list of some of things I think about when choosing and fishing with a topwater for big bass.
1. Shake your Tail Feather – many topwaters today come out of the package with tail feathers on them. We wrote a tutorial a few weeks ago on making your own dressed hooks. Either way the effect of a tail feather on a topwater is well documented. In fact, some tournaments have been won because the importance of a tail feather was made public during the event. The draw is that while your bait is sitting motionless on the surface, the feather or dressing is moving ever so slightly from the current in the water from wind and waves. It lets the fish know it’s alive.
2. Walk or Hop – The two most common topwater baits would have to been walking topwaters like the Heddon Zara Spook and poppers like the Megabass Pop Max. But we have definitely seen days where a walking bait caught more fish than a popping bait. Poppers have advanced a lot in recent years and now you can get poppers that walk well while spitting and chugging. But read the fish and see if they need to bead in on a topwater moving in a line across the surface or if they prefer it to sit in one place for a while. This can help you choose the right bait for the bass.
3. Get in Step – Just like your local high school marching band, staying in step can be critical to their success. Getting a cadence with your topwater lure and staying with it can be a key to catching more bass. The old staple is twitch-twitch-pause. But it can also mean the speed at which the bait moves or how long the bait sits motionless on the pause. To be good at fishing any technique you need to believe a bass is watching your lure all the time. He’s getting agitated with every movement. Just letting the bait sit makes his blood boil. Then when it moves again he triggers and the fight is on. Figure out the cadence that angers the bass and you’ll land more fish.
4. Hit the Splash – When the fish school, especially in clear water, the timing of your cast is as critical if not more critical than how you work the bait. I’ve caught bass just straight reeling a Zara Spook on the surface without walking it. The key that day was as soon as a fish splashed I had to put my bait in the splash before the ripple rings subsided. Then I’d just reel the bait out of there and the fish would drill it. The key is to get your bait in there and switch places with the shad or baitfish the bass was chasing. Bait and switch if you will.
5. Go Big – This is a much overused theme in bass fishing. But the truth of the matter is, it works. Last year we know of some huge bass caught on oversized topwaters. Pencil Poppers, often used for stripers, and Chug'n Spooks and Whopper Ploppers have caught giant bass on fisheries all over the country. The fact is, a big meal moving across the surface can be enough to put a big bass on the prowl.
6. Take A Breath – Topwater fishing excites the bass, but it probably excites us as anglers more. It seems like the longer you go without a bite, the more apt you are to jerk too soon on a big strike just because of the abrupt change. I’ve found that taking a deep breath in like I’m about to dive into the water helps me wait and calm down before setting the hook. You can usually tell when I see a big fish strike, because you’ll hear me gulp a bunch of air like a kid about to dive into the pool. But I also hook a lot of these fish.
7. Pull the Rip Cord – I'm a big fan of braid for topwaters. You can launch the baits a little further, and at the end of a very long cast, we can get a good hookset. But we also find that if you set the hook too hard you can tear a big hole in the fish and they can throw a bait loose. We’ve found that pulling into the fish with braid and keeping a steady pull through the fight lands a lot more fish on braid. Obviously you need to have good strong hooks. We often used a medium action rod with a good fast tip and just lean into the fish. Even on a long cast you can pull a bunch of hooks into a fish.
Hopefully these tips will work for you and your topwater bass fishing. It’s not only a fun way to fish for bass but it’s a very effective way to boat some big bass as the lake cools off and the fish really start chasing baitfish. As it cools into fall you’ll again be able to run the banks and a topwater can be a great way to find them again.