Top Water All Day
Ask any fisherman or woman the most entertaining method of catching bass and chances are they will respond with “the top water bite”. From my own personal experience, I can tell you that I laughed so much with the excitement, that my partner thought I was going to have a heart attack!
Whilst this method has a lower “strike to catch ratio” compared to other forms of bass fishing, it is still worth using and keeping nearby in case the surface comes alive with bait fish jumping out of the water for their lives! The tackle required depends upon conditions, however, I believe that bass can be caught all day long on a top water lure. For me, a small arsenal of top water lures is a must, but remember to alternate them to match the changing mood of the fish. I prefer a 6 and ½ to 7-foot baitcasting rod with 15 lb. test line. Whenever possible before using any store purchased lure, I always change the hooks to a premium hook such as Gamakatsu. I have seen too many hooks straighten or break from a large fish, or the hook been thrown, because they were not sharp enough.
I will often start with the buzzbait. This lure comes with single, double, treble and in-line, blade combinations. I like to use smaller buzzbaits, but that is not to say that a large six or eight inch buzzbait with loud blades will not produce. Correctly tuned buzzbaits should NEVER run straight. If it does, something is wrong, fish do not swim in straight lines and neither should your buzzbait. Bend the propeller or propellers to arch the retrieve in the water. The more splash and noise it makes, the more fish will see it and attack it.
Start your retrieve quickly. After a few casts if you are not getting any bites, slow down the retrieve until a fish swirls near the bait* or strikes it. This is the bass telling you at what speed they want their meal moving. Next come top water poppers. This name is used to cover a large group of surface lures with cupped faces that give the “popping” sound. This lure spits water when retrieved with small downward jerks of the rod tip toward the water surface. The dimension of this lure is important. Make sure you know the size and colors of the baitfish that live in that body of water you are fishing. Referred to in fly fishing as “matching the hatch”, your lure color and size plays an important role on bright sunny days when the sunlight reflects off the body and flashes on the surface of the water. On overcast days, color is not so important, as the bass do not get to see much more than the outline of the bait and will make a decision to either ignore the bait, or strike at it. Again, if the fish swirl at the bait* you should be prepared to drop the rod you and use a floating plastic worm.
Next come the “spook” baits. Zara Spook® and Zara Puppy® or similar cigar shaped lures. (Often I will increase the size of the hook from a 1/0 to a 2/0 with this lure). The best method of retrieval is “walking the dog”. This snapping, twitching and slow line retrieval combination takes some practice but once mastered can be deadly when top water action is at its height. When bass are chasing shad to the surface, this lure should be cast directly on top of the fish, keeping the boat a good distance from the area of activity. Casting accuracy is vital, as a badly placed cast will waste precious moments until you can cast again. To practice your casting in your backyard or in a park, use a rubber weight in place of the lure. I often use an old car tire or a bucket as a target and practice for an hour a day.
When a fish takes a top water offering, WAIT. Let the fish take the lure, feel the weight of the fish and then set the hook. All to often, the initial reaction is to strike, but this often pulls the lure out of the mouth of the fish. When the fish are biting, I usually count s-l-o-w-l-y to three, then set the hook. Surface fishing spinnerbaits and jerkbaits often catch fish. Again start with a fast retrieve and slow it down till the fish tell you what they want.
* The floating worm is often overlooked as a top water lure, but can be deadly when fish will not take a larger top water offering. If fish continue to swirl near the buzzbait or popper, but will not strike it, pitch a brightly colored worm (pink or yellow works well) and chances are the bass will swallow this offering more readily
Charles “The Bass Doctor” Stuart
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