When Lester knows there is a good chance he’ll be faced with bass guarding fry on a fishery, he leans on two different topwaters that he rotates through based on the cover present; a popper-style bait and a topwater frog. These two topwaters allow Lester to cover water while probing shallow spawning pockets for protective parental bass.
“Fry seem to spend most of their time ‘up’ in the water column,” Lester explained. “Knowing fry spend the majority of their time no deeper than a few inches below the surface, I feel like a topwater perfectly mimics something messing with them. I don’t know if adult bass see a topwater near their fry as a bluegill or a frog or what, but I know they don’t like it.”
When fishing mostly open water like sand, clay and gravel banks or fishing over the top of submerged vegetation Lester’s first choice is a Booyah Boss Pop. He swaps out the hooks for No. 4 Round Bend Mustad Treble Hooks and prefers to add a feathered treble for his back hook.
Lester tips his cap to the old school and throws a popper on 20-pound monofilament, a 7-foot medium heavy rod and a moderately fast 7:3:1 reel. Monofilament has some stretch to it and allows a bit of forgiveness when using a small, treble-hooked topwater like a popper.
If Lester is fishing around heavy cover or needs a weedless option to skip under overhanging limbs, docks or in and around heavy vegetation he opts for a SPRO Bronzeye Poppin’ Frog 60. Lester rigs his frog on a 7-foot, 2-inch heavy-action rod with the same 7:3:1 reel as his poppers but tied to 50-pound Vicious No Fade Braided Line.
What Lester likes most about both of these topwater options is he can fish them extremely slow, imparting action on the lures while keeping them in the same small area. Whether it’s a key piece of cover, underneath a dock or on a shade line Lester moves his bait at a lethargic pace.
“When I’m fishing for bass guarding fry I want something I can keep in front of the fish for a long time,” Lester said. “Whether I’m slowly twitching a popper near a ball of fry or walking a frog in place near a piece of cover I feel like the slower the better with a fry guarder. I feel like it aggravates them into biting more than anything; kind of like a bed fish.”
The last piece of advice Lester offered is to always have a follow-up soft-plastic bait rigged when fishing topwaters around the spawn. Whether bass are guarding fry or on their spawning beds, they’ll often swipe at a topwater without getting the bait.
Lester keeps a spinning rod outfitted with a wacky-rigged stick worm rigged on a No. 2 Mustad TitanX Wacky/Neko Rig Hook on his front deck at all times. If he sees a bass follow or miss his topwater, he throws the wacky rig right back to them and more often than not gets them to eat his follow-up offering.
As the bass in your area move off their spawning beds this spring and in years to come, remember these tips from Lester. Understanding the fry-guarding phase will make you a better angler and this two-prong topwater approach will help you catch bass during the immediate post-spawn funk.