Generally speaking, I'll work prop baits slower most of the time. Yeah, there are occasions when I may want to move the lure more quickly, like when bass are schooling or when they're actively feeding in thin, topped out grass. But those situations are usually reserved for smaller models featuring a single tail prop. I'm not sure why, but they seem to perform best in those types of scenarios.
When I'm throwing a larger model with tandem props, I use a relatively slow retrieve with lots of pauses. The presentation goes something like this; I cast to the target area, then let the lure rest for a few seconds. Once the ripples dissipate, I then give the lure two short pulls — just enough to get the props turning — and no more than six to 12 inches per pull. Again, I'll let the lure sit. At that point I feel I've alerted any fish in the area to its presence. Then it becomes a waiting game, allowing the fish a chance to approach the lure.
Depending on how the fish responds, I'll either give the lure a quick, short pull or let it lie motionless. One or the other will usually work, and it may take a fish or two to figure out which is best. Again, remember "the moment of truth."
I couldn't begin to count the number of bass I've caught by allowing prop baits to lie stationary. Even when they're not in motion, there's something about their profiles and the slightest movement of the props that incite bass to strike — especially when there's a light ripple on the surface.
Walking baits are another matter. Those I usually move steadily, walking them from side to side across the surface. Sure, there are times when an occasional pause can make a difference. But I first want to determine the right speed or rhythm of the walk and how far to let the lure glide in each direction. It's those two aspects of the retrieve that often make a huge difference.
Once I'm comfortable with the rhythm, then I'll try pausing the lure at key points during the retrieve — like near standout targets, such as a stump, boulder, laydown or clump of grass. I learned a long time ago that by walking the bait up to these types of objects, then pausing it, bass are somehow forced to react — big ones, too!
Some days bass will explode on a topwater as soon as it hits the water. Other days it may take pauses of up to a minute or more to make them bite. Much of that will be determined by the conditions and the species of bass you're after. Smallmouth are usually the quickest to take a topwater. But that doesn't mean spots and largemouth are far behind. They, too, can provide quick and explosive topwater action. And that's part of the fun — figuring out what each will bring on any given day.
Only patience and perseverance, along with the skills to present each type of topwater correctly will bring consistent results. But one thing is certain, if you do things right, you could easily fool the biggest fish in the lake.
Big bass love topwaters! It's just that simple.