By Mark Fike
I love topwater fishing. For most, that means bass angling, but it can be saltwater fishing, bream fishing, smallie, musky, and even trout. When a fish hits a topwater lure, it is usually explosive. If nothing else, it is exciting and the pulse rate goes up, making that a huge plus in addition to a potential fresh fish meal.
There are many ways to fish a lure on the top. Some cast the lure out and reel it straight in steady as can be. Others jerk or twitch the lure erratically. Some leave it sitting, just barely wiggling the lure from time to time, exercising the most patience of all. The bottom line is that all of these methods will work at some point or another.
How can you increase your fishing success while fishing topwater? Over the 40+ years I have been hurling topwater baits out, I have found that a retrieve or presentation must have two things to up the odds.
First, your presentation should be believable and natural. In other words, if you throw out a shad like topwater minnow lure and you want some attention, make it look like it would if it were really a shad. Dying shad don’t necessarily rip in long spurts away from a predator. Can you catch a fish like that? Yes, in fact, it may actually work well in some instances because a rapidly fleeing prey fish may trigger an aggressive strike. However, for finicky or big fish, make it look real.
Throw your rat or frog onto the pads and make it hop onto the edge or on the pad leaves. This looks very real to a fish. Stopping a frog or rat in the middle of the lake or pond is not nearly as effective as stopping it next to something it could climb on. If you think about it, when a frog or rat is way from cover it often speeds up its swimming. You do the same with your lure!
Let a dying minnow type lure sit still and then barely wiggle it as if it is making its last stirrings. Give it odd twitches and let it remain in place. If you sense or see a fish nearby that is eyeballing the lure but not committing, then maybe you should suddenly start pulling the lure in darting movements as if it suddenly noticed a predator nearby and was trying to escape.
A second thing that will increase your odds is making your lure or presentation different or tantalizing. I have seen some anglers paint a red stripe on topwater lures to make it look like the bait is bleeding. This can really work wonders if you are pitching and twitching your lure like it is dying.
Other anglers replace the eyes on their lures with larger eyes. Larger eyes draw attention of predators. Some anglers put hook dressings on their baits that have bucktail with glitter. Some actually put a bit of gold or silver glitter on their baits to increase the flash. This sets them apart from other things the fish may have seen.
When casting your lures you want to avoid going with line that is so heavy it is easily seen. If the fish can see a distinct line going from the bait, it looks suspicious. This is the same as a duck hunter using decoy line that floats and goes right to the decoys. It is odd and stands out in a bad way.
Keep your approach when getting within casting range quiet and don’t make waves. I have seen some bass anglers roar up in a big bass boat throwing a wake into the pads they are about to fish. The wake may not be so bad because it might dislodge food like insects, but the noise and commotion is not that productive. The neighborhood should not know you arrived when casting your lures to the likely fish haunts.
This fall, try these tips to see if your stringer or cooler gets heavier. Remember, look natural but stand out of the crowd. Be willing to vary your retrieve and presentation to see what works.