Topwater tune-up

About the author

Bernie Schultz

Bernie Schultz

Bernie Schultz is an eight-time Bassmaster Classic qualifier, illustrator, writer and antique tackle collector. Follow his career on the Bassmaster Elite Series and get advice from this longtime pro here on Pro-spective.

In the last installment of "Pro Spective," I shared a few tips on how to develop proper cadence for jerkbaits, the focus of which was on how and when to move the lure.

Well, with this entry I'd like to discuss how those same basic concepts apply to topwater lures. Just like jerkbaits, it's all in how you move the lure.

The Moment of Truth

When I conduct seminars on topwater fishing, I always talk about "The Moment of Truth" — the point at which a bass is poised beneath the lure and contemplating a strike. It's the most crucial time in topwater fishing. In that instance, what you do or don’t do, ultimately determines the outcome.

Should you pause or should you move the lure? And if you do move it, then how much?

Normally, those questions can only be answered by the fish and time on the water. But that doesn't mean there aren't a few short cuts. To better understand this critical point in the retrieve, let's consider the various groups of topwater lures and how it applies to each of them.

Depending on the type of topwater lure I'm throwing, I usually have a basic presentation in mind … at least to start with. And I'll always begin with that unless the conditions or the fish dictate otherwise.

Take poppers for instance. Let's say I'm trying to catch bass during the shad spawn. Obviously, the first order of business is to locate the shad. Once that's accomplished, then it's a matter of keeping the lure in contact with them and using the right moves.

The Rapala X-Rap Walk (top) and Rapala Skitter Pop (bottom).Courtesy of RapalaThe Rapala X-Rap Walk (top) and Rapala Skitter Pop (bottom).

If the shad are tight against a rock bank, for instance, I'll make certain the lure touches down right at the waterline. (You'd be surprised at how many instant hook-ups this can generate.) If I don't get bit there, then I'll start the retrieve by using short, steady pulls of the rod tip to make the lure spit and slide across the surface. And I'll do this at a fairly brisk pace, pausing the lure only briefly between pulls. The spitting action emulates the tail flips of a shad on the surface perfectly, and it can drive bass crazy.

If that approach fails to produce, then I'll slow the retrieve — popping or chugging the lure more, using longer pauses between pulls.

If I'm trying to draw fish from submerged cover, like grass or brush, I'll usually begin with a much slower presentation, popping the lure a couple of times then letting it sit over or next to the target. And if I get a quick reaction from the fish, then I'll take that as a cue to speed things up, using quicker pops with shorter pauses.

These moves with a popper aren't guaranteed to work in every situation, but they are fairly reliable, and they provide a good place to start.

Now let's say I'm using a prop bait. Then what?

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