For self-proclaimed topwater junkies like Elite Series pro Gerald Swindle, it's never too early in the year to talk about topwater applications. The popular Alabama pro has a few tricks up his sleeve when it comes to scoring bass on top.
"If you live down in Florida, you can catch bass on topwater all year long, and it's not a big deal. Up where I live in Alabama, and around Tennessee, topwater time extends from early April all the way into November," explains Swindle.
One common conundrum many weekend anglers face when scanning through the topwater box is which style of bait should be brought into action. Given the conditions, Swindle will reach for either a popper or walking style bait.
"The bait I like most out of the whole topwater line is the Lucky Craft Gunfish. I throw that the majority of the time," says Swindle. "I like it when there's a little chop on the water because it has some spitting action. If it's really calm, I'll drop down to a Sammy 100 because it's a little more subtle, which is important when the water is really slick."
Although Swindle favors the Gunfish walking bait, there are specific times when a popper is his go-to topwater offering. "In early spring when the bass are guarding fry and again in the fall, it's hard to beat a popper," he claims. "Sometimes when I'm around heavy vegetation, the popper will sit in the strike zone longer than a walking bait and really draw the bass out of the cover."
When choosing colors, Swindle lets the conditions and forage dictate his decision. In early morning and low light conditions, chartreuse shad is his go-to color. As conditions brighten, he'll switch to a more transparent color like ghost minnow. "Those seem to be the two that I use the most but I also like the American Shad color when I'm fishing a lake with blueback herring in it," says Swindle.
If the bass are blowing up and missing the bait, Swindle sometimes swaps colors or changes sizes, but he believes that it is more important simply to alter the speed of the presentation until he finds a pattern that causes bass to inhale the offering.
For fishing these baits, Swindle says your favorite topwater rod should be fine — as long as the handle isn't very long.
"Always shy away from real long handles because they'll make it uncomfortable to work the baits. They'll catch your clothing and tire out your wrists by the end of the day," he explains. "You're looking for a medium length on the handle, a soft tip, and a good backbone." Swindle uses monofilament line exclusively in topwater fishing (fluorocarbon tends to sink and kill the action), and he spools the line on a 6.3:1 gear ratio reel.