It's topwater time

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Kevin VanDam

Kevin VanDam

In the world of professional bass fishing, Kevin VanDam is at the pinnacle and arguably the best in the world.

If you followed last week’s West Point Lake Battle, you noticed topwater lures got a lot of play. That’s because West Point set up perfect for the surface lure bite.

In addition to it being a tough tournament, we were at the end of the bass spawn: males were guarding fry, we had a shad spawn going on early and the bluegills were starting to spawn. All of that makes the perfect scenario for a topwater pattern.

The lake also had a limited amount of targets. When there’s a lot of stuff in the water, you have to cover it in a hurry. But at West Point, we had scattered rocks, an occasional log down, patches of grass and boat docks.

What makes the popper good for those conditions is it creates a lot of action and commotion in the close proximity of a target for a longer period of time. Crankbaits and spinnerbaits blow by these targets, and while you can catch some fish on them, the surface bait gives bass that don’t want to stray from the cover a better chance to react.

I spent most of my practice throwing a new Strike King finesse popper that will be offered later this summer; so new, in fact, that I only had a couple. It will be introduced in two sizes at ICAST, the annual tackle trade show in July.

The smaller version is my favorite for clear, calm water. I caught my two largest fish in practice on it but couldn’t get the big bite during the tournament.

I know it’s going to be a big hit because of how it walks and makes a nice, high-pitch, “blooping” sound. Everyone talks about how they want a popper to spit, but I prefer the higher sounding “bloop.”

You have to fish these poppers with a variety of cadences to see which one makes fish react. Last week, I was able to trigger strikes by making short “pops” while keeping the bait moving back and forth. The water clarity was about 18 inches, and I was fishing it shallow, so I had to keep it moving. That’s important when fishing clear water; you don’t want the fish to get a good look at it.

The popper bite will work into summer as long as the bluegills are spawning. It can be excellent later on lakes that undergo mayfly hatches. Of course, we all know how good it can be at first light and late in the evening during summer months.

And another thing: I’ve heard anglers say it’s only good on cloudy days, but I’ve caught some giants on a popper in the middle of a bright sunny day.

Equipment makes a difference, too. It’s best to throw it on a shorter, lighter rod, like a 6-6 with a soft tip. That allows you to cast farther or even skip it under docks and overhanging trees, while the softer tip allows you to walk the bait side-to-side better.     And finally, throw it on monofilament because it is more buoyant than fluorocarbon. I’ve found that 14-pound mono is the perfect size; heavier line is more difficult to cast and smaller diameter line sinks faster.

Remember, it’s all about the attitude!

Kevin VanDam's column appears weekly on Bassmaster.com. You can also find him on Facebook and Twitter.

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