From about now until the middle of June is the best topwater smallmouth fishing of the year. There’s a short period in the fall that can be pretty good but it doesn’t last as long and, in my experience, isn’t nearly as much fun. Like most things, though, you have to fish topwater right to get the most out of it.
The first thing to think about is water color. The clearer the water, the faster you should be moving your lures. Don’t give them any time to check things out. Take advantage of the fact that they’re feeding heavily at this time of the year and that smallmouth bass are curious creatures. There’s no real measure for this. Make your judgment based on experience.
My favorite all-time smallmouth topwater lure is a Zara Spook. I’m talking about the original model. The smaller ones are too small and the bigger ones are too big. You don’t need rattles and you don’t need the chuggin’ model, either. The original is perfect.
My best color has always been Bone. It’s a kind of pearl white. Red Head comes in as a close second. And sometimes I’ll pick one that looks like the local bluegill. There isn’t one specific color for that. You have to match the local hatch.
I know that the walk-the-dog retrieve is popular but I like to do something a little different. I sort of snake my Spook through the water. Think about what a water snake looks like when it’s swimming. I’ve never had much luck working one real hard back and forth and I’ve definitely not had any luck sitting one in place splashing water around.
Keep it moving. I don’t speed mine up and I don’t slow it down. I pick a slow to middle speed and bring it all the way back to the boat. Long casts are important. Smallies will come from 30 feet down to hit one of those things. Make sure you give them enough time to get to your lure and to kill it.
Another good lure is a buzzbait. There’s nothing fancy about this. Ordinary white and chartreuse is about all I throw. Make long casts and bring it back to the boat as straight as an arrow. And don’t vary your speed. Steady will get you more fish over the long haul.
I do bend the blades in a little bit — I prefer a single blade model — to keep the noise down. Like with the Spook, I don’t think that splashing water around is effective. In fact, I think it runs them off.
There’s one other thing I want to mention. The sun doesn’t matter as much at this time of the year as it does at other times. Don’t be afraid to fish topwater late into the morning or start a little earlier in the afternoon than you think you should.
Next Friday, we’ll talk about Billy Westmoreland some more and what he thought about preserving our smallmouth populations. I think you’ll find it interesting.