Summer Topwater Primer

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story by Dan O’Sullivan

Summer, Summer, Summertime…

Now is the primetime for bass anglers to start thinking about topwater baits.

Sure, topwater baits are effective from prespawn through fall, but it is this time of the year that most of the topwater bass are taken throughout the year. The combination of warmer temperatures, active bait and water quality keeps fish shallow and feeding.

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Whether you live on a river in the middle of the country, a Western impoundment, a natural lake in the north, or a TVA Lake in the South, topwater is something that anglers can look for to produce strikes.
There’s not many things that can get an anglers’ heart pumping like a topwater strike. The visual nature of the attack, the sound of the strike and the sight of water exploding skyward all combine to make what is perhaps the most exciting moment in bass fishing.

But, when should an angler throw a topwater bait? What conditions should be present for an angler to capitalize on specific types of lures. Advanced Angler decided to give you a little topwater primer to help you start planning your topwater attack.

Not Just for Mornings
Many anglers have a misconception that the topwater bite is only for the low light conditions of the dawn and dusk hours. Certainly, the low light conditions create a favorable set of circumstances for catching topwater bass; but if anglers relegate them to early and late, they are missing great bites.

In fact, many of the sport’s best topwater anglers prefer to fish more bottom oriented baits until the sun gets up in the sky enough to make fish position themselves around cover. The shadows created by docks, trees, rocks, grasslines and other objects makes it easier to pinpoint where bass might be hiding.

So, the answer to the question of when to throw topwater baits is – all day long.

What Baits When?
There are several kinds of topwater baits, and without knowing when to try each one could be confusing. So, we will examine a few kinds of lures to identify when each type might be at its best. We will look at several different categories of baits and identify when they might be most effective.
We will look at lures in different categories; poppers / chuggers, walking baits, prop baits and buzzbaits

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Poppers / Chuggers
This is a category of lures that anglers use to twitch with sharp snaps of the rod tip to create a popping sound on the surface. The popping retrieve is excellent for a slower retrieve, but anglers like Zell Rowland, Rick Clunn and Craig Powers have all made the topwater popper their mainstay.

The times of limiting the topwater popper to only a slow, pop and pause retrieve are limited. This type of bait is at its best when the angler makes long casts with it and skitters it along the surface with short subtle twitches of the rod tip to make the lure spit and dart across the surface like a fleeing baitfish.

This type of lure is best in fairly calm water with a fair amount of visibility. Any wind that creates more than a slight ripple on the water will cause this lure to be less effective. Try throwing it on a 7-foot medium action rod and a 6.2:1 to 7.1:1 retrieve speed reel. For years, 15-pound-test monofilament line was the standard for action, but as braided line has become more popular, using 30-pound-test braid has made casting long and setting the hook easier with these light baits.

Poppers to consider – Rebel Pop’R, Lobina Lures Rico, River2Sea Bubble Pop or Lucky Craft G Splash.

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Walking Baits
The cigar shaped walking bait has become possibly the most widely used topwater bait on the market today. the zig-zagging action of the category draws strikes from bass in shallow water, as well as those suspended in deep water.

The lures can measure up to six inches in length and because of their relative heavy weight can be cast a long distance. For that reason, the category is excellent for use as a search bait, but it also is effective as a primary topwater lure because it truly does draw large strikes.

Because of the larger size and noisier presentation, the walking bait is best in conditions that have a little bit more than a slight chop on the water because of wind. That’s not to say that it won’t work in water with a slight chop; especially if larger fish are present. But, the bait performs well in decent chop.

This lure is heavy, so a 7-foot medium-heavy action rod is prime for tossing the lure, and because it is a reaction bit that requires casting with two hands, we prefer a glass rod. Again, a 6.2:1 to 7.1:1 reel spooled with 15 to 20-pound-test monofilament or 30 to 50-pound-test braided line is best for this category.

Lures in this Category – Heddon Zara Spook, Heddon Super Spook, Strike King Sexy Dawg, Paycheck Baits Repo Man, Lucky Craft Sammy, Lucky Craft Gunfish, Jackall Bowstick, River2Sea Rover, Lobina Lures Rico Suave, SPRO Dawg and Black Dog Baits Lunker Punker.

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Prop Baits
The prop bait really has two distinct differences. There are the long, skinny baits that are popular in Florida around the grass, and then there are those that have a baitfish profile. The original prop baits were so good around grasslines because they created a lot of commotion but didn’t move very far. These lures float, and can be twitched or pulled along very slowly to draw big strikes.

This category needs heavy tackle, so 6’9″ to 7’3-inch medium heavy rods are best, and because of the rotating blades, 15 to 20-pound-test monofilament is best. using a 6.2:1 to 6.4:1 retrieve reel is best.

Baits in this category – Smithwick Devil’s Horse, River2Sea Tango Prop, Lucky Craft Splash Tail, River2Sea Whopper Plopper 130

The other prop bait category involves baitfish shaped or smaller prop baits that mimic fleeing shad or baby bream. This lure is best used in the postspawn period through summer when bass are sitting just outside of bluegill nesting areas looking to pick off stray bream that have left the nest.

Lures in this category are smaller and lighter typically, so medium action gear is best, and using 15 to 20-pound monofilament is better because of the potential for braided line tangling in the propellers. These lures are best with calm conditions to a slight breeze and a twitch and pause or subtle steady retrieve are best.

Lures in this category: Lucky Craft Kelly J, Heddon Tiny Torpedo, Brian’s Bees Topwater

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Buzzbaits
Buzzbaits are the noisiest topwater lures because of the large propeller on the top of the safety pin wire frame. Buzzbaits are great for targeting bass around cover, but are best when there is a slight to moderate chop on the water most of the time. A good rule of thumb is to throw a buzzbait when the water has too much action for a popper or a walking bait.

Buzzbaits are at their best when they can be cast near targets and slowly retrieve past them, even bumping them as the go by. Try using heavy tackle, and because this is a chunk and wind lure, it is best to use braided line and heavy gear. A 7-foot to 7’6″ medium-heavy rod and 6.4:1 retrieve reel is best. Try using 50 to 65-pound-test braided line and holding your rod tip up in the air to keep the bait on the surface at slow speeds. Giving the lure a little pop, or quick turn of the reel handle periodically can sometimes be excellent strike triggers.

Lures in this Category: Talon Shibui Buzz, Strike King Tour Grade Buzzbait, Revenge, Lunker Lure, Boogerman Buzzbaits, River2Sea Crystal Buzz and more.

Check out many of these topwater lures and more at Monster Fishing Tackle