Let’s talk fishing for a change. Topwater fishing to be exact! Every bass fisherman loves to catch them on top; however, knowing the subtle intricacies of topwater techniques can double or triple your topwater success. Now this sounds good, does it not? But first, a little clean-up is in store. I just can’t go fishing with my gear in disarray.
With my arm in a sling, I figured it was prime time to get to work on tackle organization. I had emptied all my rods and tackle out of my Legend boat before I had surgery, for just this occasion. Wow, was I surprised by how much tackle I had in that boat; I knew the Legend had good storage but I never dreamed just how much.
I figured if I could reduce my tackle by half I could probably pick up 5 miles per hour. It is not my goal to pick up speed; I am happy with 72 mph. However, it is my goal to reduce clutter and be more efficient.
After realizing I had over 100 pounds of the soft slimy creatures, I got started on the soft plastics first. With today’s new soft plastic baits, it is not just about worms anymore. To get started on this monumental task, I started with my mainstays and got back to the basics with color. This made the daunting task of sorting much more manageable.
I have a few basic color schemes for all my soft plastics that work every place I’ve fished: junebug, black and blue, green pumpkin purple, watermelon, watermelon candy, watermelon red and red bug. These colors are pretty much the rule; the exception comes into play with oddball colors for certain lakes at certain times of the year. And as far as I am concerned, those colors do not need to be in my boat full time.
After sorting through the soft plastics (which was not as hard as I thought), I moved on to crankbaits. I have 6 plastic boxes of crankbaits —yes, I love cranking! Sorting the cranks was an easy task. I only use a few colors, and my boxes were already separated by depth range. So all I really had to do is replace colors I was low on and remove lures that I had too many of.
I like to keep four of each color and replace them as I lose or destroy them.
Crank colors are much easier than anglers think. Here is my rule for crankbait colors: I keep two or three natural shad patterns, two hot shad patterns (fluorescent colors) and two crawfish patterns. I have never been anywhere and wished I had a different color.
After sorting everything that goes into my Legend, I grabbed my topwater box. Yes, I said “box” as in one box. My topwater box does not include frogs and horny toads as I feel they go into a different category even though they are topwater presentations. Back to the hard baits, this box was exciting to open because I needed to do nothing. I had my quiet topwaters, my noisy obnoxious topwaters and my prop baits. I love this box!
As I began to reminisce of heavenly topwater days, the one part of those memories that changed was the type of surface lure I used to catch them. Maybe I could write about what bait under what condition or bass type would yield the best results?
Keep in mind that this is a general rule of thumb; one thing for certain is bass at some time or another will break the rules.
First we must characterize topwaters into categories: Pop-R types, dog walkers, prop baits, waking baits and buzzbaits. I know what you are thinking: Isn’t a buzzer a prop bait? Well, theoretically, it is; but I keep it on its own because it is used with a constant retrieve. There is one more distinction to topwaters that must be addressed —noisy and loud, quiet and subtle. Examples of quiet and subtle topwaters are Pop-R types, some prop baits, some dog walkers, buzzers and wake baits. Examples of loud and obnoxious are all of the above, except wake baits. How can they all be subtle and all be noisy? I am glad you asked.
It truly comes down to the retrieve and cadence you put on the lure or the size of the lure. Let’s talk noisy and obnoxious first. This is some of the most exciting topwater bass fishing, with crazy violent strikes. I usually go loud under a few situations; the first is obvious —windy conditions. With wind comes waves, and that is the time for big noise. One of my favorite big noise lures under this scenario is the Pencil Popper or a large Spook. Other reasons for big noise presentations are pulling fish from heavy grass or bringing fish up from great depths. But an overlooked situation for commotion is during a surface schooling frenzy especially when striped bass are in the mix. Sometimes the added noise will draw the fish’s attention away from the bait and onto your lure. Dirty, shallow water can be an advantage when throwing noisy topwaters as it aids in the bass’ ability to hone in on your presentation. Under this condition, I say buzzbait!
The quiet approach, this presentation takes the patience of a saint. Often with Pop-R type lures, there is very little movement in your cadence and long pauses in between. Using walking baits such as the Super Spook Junior or Ima Skimmer, you are slowly walking the dog with a longer, slower pull so the bait actually glides to the right and glides to the left. With a prop bait, the motion is a slow pull and a long pause. Even a buzzbait can be quieted by simply fishing it s-l-o-w-l-y or by downsizing the weight or upsizing the blade.
There are many situations for a quiet presentation —slick flat water, postspawn or post cold front. However, my favorite time to fish surface baits and fish them painfully slow is late fall when the water is cold or in the cold water of early spring. The key to success is two things: very clear water and the presence of alewives, smelt or blueback herring. This is when I go to long slender wake baits, such as a Bomber or a Red Fin. Basically, you reel in the wake bait so slow it almost just wobbles on the surface creating a subtle V-wake as it swims. This presentation is slow and tedious but has yielded some of my biggest topwater bass limits to date.
Hopefully this gets you in the right track for some outstanding surface action.
I have found in my many years of fishing that there are exceptions to every rule, but the one thing that never changes is that anyone who fishes loves to catch them on top. Just remember, sometimes less is more and more is just enough.