Topwater fishing is not for the faint of heart or the weak-kneed fishermen! This type of fishing is known as a heart pumping adrenaline junkie nightmare to some. Now, who is ready for springtime fishing?
I tend to find myself jerking my fishing rod instantly, listening for splashes and looking for small wakes when I am top water fishing. I hate more than anything to see my bait come flying in the air right back at me. I dream of seeing a big splash, a line pulling fight and a tail walking bass with my topwater bait in the corner of his mouth!
An average angler can easily master a few top water techniques and have an incredible time catching lots of bass. These techniques are not hard, but they do require patience and a systematic approach. I highly recommend reading and watching everything you can find online; such as the other information available on this web site. When watching these online videos, do not watch the fish hit the lures; watch the fishermen’s action before, during and after the strike. You should be able to find at least a few techniques that will help you catch more fish on top water lures. There are many expert anglers presenting some really good and informative videos online now a days.
Before you go fishing let’s make sure you are using the right reel, rod, and line.
My choice for a reel is one that has a high gear ratio. Currently, I am using a Carbon Lite baitcaster reel 6.4:1 branded by Bass Pro Shops. This is one of the lightest baitcasters I have ever used. It has one piece aluminum frame and 7 ball bearings. The high speed reels will help you pick up your line faster off the surface of the water.
When choosing the correct fishing rod I would suggest you look for a model with a flexible tip and make sure it has some back bone at mid shaft for a strong hook set. My personal choice is the Bass Pro Shops Johnny Morris Signature Series II Trigger Rods in the length of 7’2 medium, fast action. A longer fishing rod will help you get more distance when you are making a cast. The tip on this rod is soft enough for you to walk any kind of top water baits.
I am a strong believer in using braided fishing line on all my top water rods and reels. I like being able to yank on old Mr. Bass from a distance, and braided fishing line will not stretch. I use the Vicious 40 lb test green braid line on my top water reels. Don’t forget to put some monofilament backing on the reel prior to adding the braided line to the reel. The purpose of putting the monofilament line on the reel is to eliminate the braided line slipping on your spool.
Now your next big decision should be which top water bait should I fish? Stickbaits, Chuggers, walk the dog baits, shad baits or just a crazy commotion bait. Let’s start with a basic review of each of the following:
Stickbaits are sometimes known as twitch baits. I recommend casting this type of lure close to the cover and twitch it to create a commotion on the surface. Sometimes the bass prefer to see a small twitch and then let the lure sit momentarily. After a few seconds, then use a slow twitching retrieve all the way back to the boat. The fish will tell you if they want it twitched fast or slow. In the summer time, these baits are very effective when bass are feeding on shad near the surface.
Chuggers are a splash type surface bait. These lures can be worked slowly or rapidly back to the boat with a short ripping type motions with your fishing rod. I have even seen people fishing these baits by jerking them a couple times and then leaving them motionless for a few seconds. This type of bait can be worked in shallow water or around schooling fish. Vary the speed of your retrieve until the fish tell you they want to eat it!
The walk the dog baits are baits like the Zara Spook or Lucky Craft Sammy. Once you know how to walk the dog, this bait will produce some unbelievable catches. These baits also work very well in the early spring and in the fall. My best coaching tip I can give you on learning to walk the dog is that you must reel in line and make small circles with the tip of your rod while it is pointing down towards the water; all at the same time. Others anglers have recommended making short twitches with your rod tip while you are reeling in. The lure is supposed to walk side to side as it moves toward you. I would also suggest tying a loop knot to the head of the bait when you are securing the bait to your line. This really helped me when I first started learning how to walk the dog. These topwater baits are especially good on points, in the backs of pockets, open water humps and near blow down trees.
The shad imitation baits are considered to be soft jerk baits made out of plastic that mimic an injured shad. Some people do not consider these a topwater bait, I do. These baits are probably one of the best injured minnow action baits on the market. Remember when you are working this bait it is suppose to look like an injured bait fish. First, tie a 3/0 wide gap hook onto your line, then place the soft jerk bait on the hook with no weight. Cast it out, and make slight twitches keeping the bait as close to the surface as possible.
The most popular top water bait of all time is the buzzbait. It is truly one of the most exciting top water baits ever made. I can tell you I have caught a ton of huge bass over the years on this bait. Many people fish this bait because it is easy. Tie it on your line, cast it out and reel it back. My suggestion to you is to remember to keep this bait running on top of the water surface all the time. You can also control the direction of the lure by slightly bending the wire that is attached to the blade. Begin the retrieve of the buzzbait right as it lands in the water. Keep your rod tip raised during the entire retrieve. Always retrieve at a speed that is fast enough to keep the blade(s) on the surface. I like a blade that is noisy and splashes water steadily around the bait. Bump the bait into the structure you are fishing around to get a strike. My biggest suggestion to you is not to set the hook until you feel the fish pulling back. Too many people are quick to snatch the lure back to fast pulling the lure right out of the fish’s mouth.
I have had many great memories of fishing topwater baits for bass and stripers over the years. Some of the strikes I’ve enjoyed over the years still amaze me that a fish can hit a bait so dang hard! The massive top water strikes are still one of the most beautiful things you will ever see while you are fishing. The massive explosions and extreme splashes will catch you off guard and I promise you they will leave you with a rapid heart rate and a set of shaky knees. More than anything I hope it will make you want to come back for more.
About the author: Tom Branch, Jr. is a freelance outdoor writer and a full time Lieutenant/Firefighter-Paramedic with over 25 years of service with the Gwinnett County Fire Service in Georgia. He has been working in the Outdoor Industry for over 15 years and has done everything from successfully managing and developing a pro fishing team, developing new products, designing packaging, participated in different radio & television shows as well as helping developing Writer’s Conferences. He and his wife Kim live north of Atlanta in Braselton, GA with their 2 labs Jake and Scout.
Check out his blog at – http://outonalimbwithtombranchjr.blogspot.com