Fishing Tips

A Quick Guide to Topwater Lures

A Quick Guide to Topwater Lures

Topwater lures for bass include a lot of different baits in various shapes to achieve different actions on the water’s surface. You’ve got walkers, poppers, buzzbaits, wakebaits, minnows and prop baits to name a few. You can call frogs topwater baits too but we put them in their own category because of their uniqueness.

Topwaters seem to cater to both the feeding and agitation impulse of a bass almost simultaneously. They are basically meant to mimic a fleeing or helpless injured bait, and they generally involve erratic action imparted by series of rod twitches by the angler. Or their design gives them a steady agitating action on a standard retrieve of the reel by the angler

The following is a brief rundown of the most common topwater lures and what makes each one different from the next.



Walking topwaters offer a back-and-forth or zig-zag action on the surface, produced with a walk-the-dog retrieve. You basically snap your wrist and rod tip at a downward angle sharply and then point the rod tip back to the lure just as quickly so the lure has room to glide on slack line. As you give the bait a series of fast snaps, the bait glides left then right then left then right.  These are great topwaters for covering lots of water in a hurry while keeping the bait in the strike zone for a long time because it doesn’t return to the angler in a straight line. We love these baits in the post spawn all the way to winter in most parts of the country


Popping topwaters have concave mouths with narrow tails. As the angler snaps his rod tip downward, the lure cups water and gurgles and spits, without moving very far forward. These are great topwater bass lures for fishing specific targets like stumps, docks, bushes, rocks, etc. If you think a bass is in a small area or next to a piece of cover, a popper is a good choice to aggravate that bass into biting


Wakebaits are similar to crankbaits in that a sharp angled lip causes the baits to shimmy back and forth on or just bulging under the surface on a steady retrieve. When the water is clear and fish are in cover, a wakebait can be very effective for drawing big fish from great distances that are able to hone in on the V shaped wake left behind as a wakebait is steadily retrieved.

Minnows / twitch baits

Twitch bait minnows are basically floating jerkbaits that anglers can twitch and float back to the surface to entice strikes. These excel on clear lakes with a lot of pressure or in small areas where you know bass are around but might spook to more bulky or aggressive presentations. This can be a great option for bass guarding their nests during the spawn.

Prop baits

Prop baits for bass have been around for a long time. Long slender prop baits with props on either end have been staples in places with a lot of grass like Florida and Minnesota and around the spawn. Bluegill shaped prop baits, however, have become very popular over recent years accounting for a lot of bass fishing tournament wins. They are easy to fish with a series of short jerks of the rod to spray water. They can produce a lot of action without moving very far forward keeping them in a bass’s strike zone longer. These are tremendous baits for fishing around bluegill beds, and around over hanging trees and patches of shade the bass may use on bright sunny days.


Buzzbaits are the topwater cousin to the spinnerbait. These baits feature a lead head with a skirt and an arm that extends up and over the top of the skirted head with a prop blade that spins on a steady retrieve. The blade gurgles the water on a steady retrieve and will spit and spray water on a quick jerk. They are great for fishing a topwater around sparse grass, along rip rap banks and other places where you might be worried about snagging a lure with treble hooks but want an agitating topwater presentation. Post spawn, late summer and early fall can be great for buzzbaits.


The hollow bodied variety have become a very fun way to catch bass that are foraging under matted vegetation. The bass will see the frog being twitched along the top of the grass and water and come up through the cover and explode on the bait. Because you fight the bass around a lot of heavy grass, you will always want to fish them on heavy braided line.As the name implies, these soft baits are meant to imitate frogs on the surface. We actually would lump both the hollow bodied soft plastic frogs with rubber skirted legs together with the more molded soft plastic, two-footed toads that are rigged on EWG hooks and pulled over the top of the grass

They are equally effective around wood and man made cover, especially when hanging up other lures is a concern. A frog may be one of the most snagless lures available to a bass angler.

They vary in design from cupped popping mouths, to pointed noses. Some have hairy legs, rubber skirted legs and even spinner blades for legs. There are tons of colors out there, although it’s hard to go wrong with a small sampling of black, white, green and maybe a color like yellow.

To learn about more bass fishing lures, read our Guide to Bass Fishing Lures.

Topwater Tips for Bass

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