Hackney: Talking fall topwater

Before we talk about fall topwater action I want to thank everyone for their comments on the information question I posted last time. It’s an important issue and your ideas matter to me.

Here we go… 

Catching a bass on a topwater lure is about as much fun as you can have bass fishing. And now is one of the best times to do it. The fish are shallow and feeding.

I grew up fishing topwater. It’ll always be a part of my fishing. The thing a lot of anglers don’t realize, however, is that it can be a powerful tournament weapon. For the most part topwater plugs attract bigger bass, especially if you throw big baits like I do.

One of my favorites is a buzzbait. There’s something about that ruckus on top that gets them going as the water cools. Better yet, a buzzbait that’s presented properly will catch bass in almost any reservoir, lake or river.

There are dozens of good buzzbaits on the market. The one that I like the best is Strike King’s Sugar Buzz. It’s a part of the trend towards hooks that pivot or swing away from the body of the lure. There are several advantages to this design.

The most obvious is that this style of buzzbait never needs to be tuned. The hook and skirt or trailer will always track straight and true behind the head and blade. This results in more hookups and fewer lost fish because the fish can’t get leverage on the bait after it’s hooked.

It also makes the bait more weedless around vegetation. I use a trailer hook 99 percent of the time. Fouling in grass or wood can be a problem with poorly designed buzzbaits.

Regardless of what bait you fish with, though, I strongly suggest you consider removing the skirt and replacing it with a plastic trailer. This’ll help you get more bites almost all the time but it’s especially effective if the bite is tentative or if you’re getting a lot of short strikes.

It’s also important to learn how to properly tune the blade on your bait so that it squeals or clacks. The Sugar Buzz will squeal right out of the box. If you want to make it clack — there are two types of clack — you need to bend the blade down a bit.

You can create a steady clack by bending the blade down far enough so that it touches the blade on every revolution. If you just think about pushing it up when it’s doing that, it’ll strike the head every third or fourth revolution. This will create a completely different sound.

Most of the time, especially in the fall, I don’t want a clack. I think that’s too much. I just let it squeal as I change retrieve speeds until I find what’s working.

Two other things about buzzbaits you should keep in mind:

Fish with any color you want but don’t neglect solid black. It’s great in all kinds of water and under all kinds of conditions. That includes gin-clear water under a bright sun. When I’m not fishing with black I usually go with something shad colored.

Don’t be in a hurry to put your buzzbaits away just because there’s little frost on the pumpkin. They bang them hard in water as cold as 46 or 47 degrees. I’ve done it at Lake of the Ozarks.

Next time we’ll talk about how to deal with jumping bass. There’s nothing as beautiful, or as terrifying, as a big bass tailwalking across the surface.