Bass anglers all the country have dozens of ways to trick a bass into biting. Some days we have to rely on slower baits, like jigs, Texas-rigs, Carolina-Rigs, drop-shotting, or shakey head fishing. Other days anything moving quickly like a crankbait, spinnerbait, or swimjig will tempt the bass into biting. It is really a trial and error each day on the water to figure out what the bass want. While those baits are slowly moving across the river or lake floor, or gliding through the water column, some bass are only looking up, allowing us to catch them on the top, and for me, that is the most exciting way to catch a bass.
Using topwater baits all the time to catch bass would definitely be a mistake, but if I had to choose one way to catch a bass, topwater would be the way to go. For me, it is the sound of the bait, combined with the sound the bass makes when they grab the lure that tempts me as much as possible to throw topwater baits.
Topwater baits come in many different shapes, colors, sizes and materials. The hard plastic topwater baits come in the form of a popper style bait, a spook type of bait or a buzzbait. The first two being a bait that can be worked very slowly and have two or three treble hooks on them. Some manufacturers will also include rattles in their baits, something that I look for when buying a topwater lure. When selecting the right topwater bait, pay attention to your color choice. If you know the fish are eating bluegills, then choose a bait that has some color to it. If they are feeding on shad or minnows, then keep the colors minimal, or choose white and silver patterns. The buzzbait has a single attached hook just like spinnerbaits and are designed to be moved faster. These baits are designed to cover a lot of water and work well when weeds are not present. When fishing a buzzbait it is nice to have a faster geared reel too. A reel with a ratio over 7:0 will help you reel more comfortably and not put as much strain on you if you plan to fish it a long time. One thing every angler should do when fishing a buzzbait is to add a trailer hook. These are normally purchased separately and are a must in all buzzbait situations.
The other type of topwater bait is the frog style baits. These come in all different sizes, shapes and colors too. Frog baits themselves have become so popular the last decade that they branched into two different varieties. The solid plastic frog rigged on a wide-gap hook and the “hollow-belly” style frog. These frogs come pre-rigged with hooks and are have a hollow body made from plastic. Both of these work well, however I am more partial to the hollow body frogs as they don’t wear out like the solid body frogs do. I have used a dozen different brands of hollow-belly frogs, but one thing to look for is the weight that is added to many frogs. This is mandatory in my mind, allowing you to cast farther and it sinks the frog into the weeds a little more, allowing the bass to grab on better. My favorite by far is the Optimum Furbit Frog, is has all the important details you need in a frog. The biggest advantage this frog has over others is the weight is placed outside the hook, meaning the whole hook will penetrate the bass’ mouth. As you can see, just in the world of topwater fishing, anglers in search of bass have several options to choose from, long before they even make their first cast.
Before you make that first cast, you should always think about the rod and reel selection, no matter what bait you will be throwing. When throwing topwater baits, it is the same, you must match your bait to the proper rod and reel setup. When you are throwing popper or spook baits you should use a medium action rod with at least ten-pound test monofilament line. This will help you cushion your hook set which is important when using any bait that has treble hooks. The monofilament line also is more buoyant than fluorocarbon, helping you maintain the most action out of your topwater bait. If you are fishing frog style baits, then you need a whole different setup. Most of the time the frog style baits are fished around weeds, they float and have concealed hooks for the most part making them an ideal choice. These baits are perfect for casting right on top of the thickest weeds you can find, as long as you have a properly rigged rod and reel. First, you must use braided line, this will help you get a strong hookset and allow you to pull the fish out of the weeds. Next, is a medium-heavy rod with a fast action tip. Lastly, and really an added bonus is a reel with a fast retrieval, anything with a gear ratio over 7:0 will help you reel in your “weedy topwater” bass.
When and where?
Is there a perfect time to fish topwater baits, not really, but some key yearly and daily times are important to focus in on. Summer is by far the best season to fish topwater baits because the fish are on a full feed. The water is warm and the bass must eat more often than they did in the winter and spring. When the water temperature gets above sixty degrees it is always a clue for me to start thinking about how I can bring the topwater baits into my bass fishing arsenal. The time of day is key to a good topwater bite too. Early in the morning and the last hour of daylight are always key times to throw topwater lures. If it is raining out, that is your sign to get out a buzzbait, the bass love buzzbaits in the rain. Of course, if you see weeds, throw your frog. The bass love weeds for shade, plentiful food amounts and good oxygen levels, where there are weeds, there are bass.
Topwater baits can be fished anywhere there is water. I have used buzzbaits and spooks in over twenty feet of water and caught bass, and I have caught bass under weeds in less than a foot of water. Some good locations to throw topwater baits include the normal bass hiding spots, rip-rap, laydown logs, points, weeds and standing timber.
A topwater bait is just that, a bait to try and trick a bass into biting something on top of the water. Like any other bait that you use to catch bass, be sure to mix things up, change colors, and vary your speed of retrieval.