By Capt. Chaconas
Seeing water explode and your topwater lure disappear is why we endure mosquitoes and hot sweaty afternoons. Best topwater times are early morning, late afternoon, and all day on overcast or rainy days. Topwaters come in three basic flavors: poppers, walkers and buzzers.
Topwater aficionado, Skeeter/Yamaha pro Zell Rowland says, “Most poppers pop, spit, and walk. Try different presentations until fish tell you what they want. Pay attention to what you were doing on the initial strike to develop a pattern. Note where fish came from stump, grass clump, edge or other cover and find similar targets.”
Many fishermen overreact to blow-ups and pull baits from fish. When fish miss, Zell either stops the bait or continues the action to make the fish think its prey is escaping.
He says feathers aren’t just back hook decoration. “When you pull the bait forward, feathers close quickly and then slowly return to their original shape when you stop. If a bass blows up on a Rebel Pop-R, and misses, nine times out of ten I can catch him because the feathers make him come back.”
Buzzbaits are one of bass fishing’s most odd-looking contraptions! Churning the surface, buzzbaits are nearly weedless. Fishing the BASSMASTER Elite Series, pro Frank Scalish says, “A buzzbait elicits the predatory instincts of bass.”
Scalish employs three types of Booyah buzzbaits. For muddy or choppy water when bass are keying in on prey by noise, he uses a “Booyah Buzz” with an additional noisy “clacker” and heavier wire for pulling fish out of dense cover.
“Booyah’s Counter Strike Buzz” has two counter-rotating blades to create a softer gurgle. This leaves a trail of bubbles, preferred in clearer water with sparse cover. For the toughest bite, Scalish downsizes to a 1/8-ounce “Pond Magic Buzz.” He says minis catch more fish.
Scalish’s buzzbaits have gold blades/black skirt or a gold blade/chartreuse-white skirt. For buzzing, Scalish prefers a 7’3” Powell medium/heavy soft tip rod, capable of casting a long way on thin diameter 17-20 pound mono or 30-pound braid.
Skeeter/Yamaha Major League Fishing pro Kelly Jordon says other topwaters can get numbers of fish, but walking baits bring out the biggest! Walking topwater lures are cigar, cigarette or Tiporillo shaped floating plugs. Subtle twitches make these lures move from side to side, dubbed walking the dog.
Jordon uses two Lucky Craft baits: Sammy and Gunfish. The Sammy is subtle, better suited for clear/calm water. With a medium action 7” Duckett rod Jordon casts these baits far from the boat. “Fish are more aware of your presence in clearer calmer waters.”
Line is critical. Mono stretches and he’s unable to set the hook and horse a fish at the end of a long cast. Too much stretch and baits won’t walk. Fluorocarbon line has less stretch, but sinks, submerging the action of topwater lures.
Jordon says Berkley’s Sensation has less stretch, doesn’t sink like fluorocarbon, casts a long way and is effective for hook sets. For heavier cover, Jordon opts for Spiderwire UltraCast braid with zero stretch and it casts a great distance.
Jordon’s Gunfish rattles and spits as it walks, creating a disturbance in a slight to moderate chop. The subtle Sammy quietly glides from side to side while advancing very slowly, aggravating fish into striking. Jordon believes bigger baits get bigger bass but downsizes for more bites.
“The bigger profile shows up better and creates more surface disturbance.” Jordon chooses natural patterns, like chartreuse shad or white. He also uses chrome, to provide flash in clear water.
One trick is using clear lures, allowing Jordon to use a much bigger bait to create more surface disturbance without really appearing that big. Black or dark patterns provide the best contrast making it easier for bass to locate in low light conditions.
Pros point to a few guidelines for topwater fishing: long casts, low stretch lines for better hook sets, let the mood of the fish determine the speed, pay close attention to when, how and where bites are occurring, and downsize when the bite is tough. Above all, they agree that topwater fishing is the most heart-pounding and visually stimulating aspect of the sport! So, tie one on and hold on! It’s topwater time!