Whitaker's topwater wisdom

Like most bass fishermen, I love to catch ’em on topwater baits. I fish on top whenever the opportunity presents itself, which is more often than you might think. The key is to match the right topwater bait to the conditions at hand.

I start throwing conventional walking style baits when the fish get on the beds, and I keep one tied on until the water turns cold in the fall. I like big walking baits like the 1.2-ounce MagDog 130 and the 1.5-ounce MagDog 150. Both are made by 6th Sense. Those baits can call fish from a long way off. I go with whichever one better matches the size of the bait the bass are feeding on. You can’t go wrong with chrome, white, bone or anything that looks like a shad.

Walking baits are great for covering open water over points, sunken brush and anywhere bass are schooling. That’s what most guys use them for. But I also do well with them just fishing down the bank.

I usually work my walking baits pretty fast so I can cover more water. I don’t want the bass to get a good look at them. I’m looking for that reaction strike. Largemouth, smallmouth and spotted bass all respond to a brisk action.

I fish walking baits with a 7-foot, 2-inch, medium-heavy action ALX rod. With 40-or 50-pound P-Line braid, I can cast a walking bait a mile. Sometimes I add an 8-inch mono leader.

I go to a popper when I’m up shallow casting to cover that isn’t too thick. It also comes through in the backs of pockets where bream are spawning and sometimes during the shad spawn. My go-to popper is the 6th Sense Splash Back in a shad or bluegill pattern.

I like to fish a popper early in the morning in a tournament and early and late in the day when I’m fun fishing. I slow down with a popper. I’ll throw it up next to a small brush pile, tree or a stump. Then I pop it a few times and let it set for a few seconds.

I cast it with a 7-foot medium action rod and 17-pound mono. I don’t use mono for anything else.

A buzzbait is great during the shad spawn, especially if you have bank grass. It also works really well in the heat of the summer when bass are up cruising the bank and feeding on bream or whatever else they can find. And, it keeps catching them right through the fall.

You can’t beat a buzzbait for just covering lots of water. I’ve caught bass with a buzzbait over points, in the backs of creeks, next to docks, rocks and about any cover you can think of.

I usually fish a 1/2-ounce TrueSouth Custom Lures buzzbait, dressed with a green pumpkin, white or black Bizz Bait Pad Daddy Frog.

I use a Whopper Plopper in pretty much the same situations I fish a buzzbait. I tend to go more with the Plopper when I’m fishing sparse banks that have little cover. I also like the Plopper when there’s a little chop on the surface because it is noisier than a buzzbait.

Of course, you can work a hollow belly frog over grass where other topwater baits can’t be fished. But I don’t limit a frog to grass. I love to skip it under docks and overhanging limbs. It lets you show a topwater bait to bass in places where they normally don’t see one. That’s where it’s going to shine.

I tend to walk a frog faster than a lot of people. I very seldom stop it. When I do pause, it’s just for a second.