Too Early for Topwater?

Bucks Falcon Mercury

by Vince Borges

Vince Borges Big Limit

Vince Borges Shows off Four Nice Delta Bass

As a guide on the California Delta, I get many different clients from all walks of life. Just as varied as their geographic nature, so are their expectations of the Delta. Some come here hoping to catch the bass of a lifetime, yet others are only here to enjoy the fishery they read and hear so much about. Whether they catch two, ten, or thirty fish really does not concern them. But there are a select few that are here for one thing and one thing only, and that is to catch the biggest bass the Delta has to offer.

It is late spring now on the Delta and the long sunny days most people associate with topwater fishing are not yet here. Cool nights and mornings; with a mix of sun clouds and spring showers, are the norm. This time of the year can mean water temperatures that rise and fall. This means that our grasses and other vegetation have not yet begun to develop fully.

That awesome Punch bite that will be our summer long staple is not yet here, so we have to do things a little differently. For the clients that want to catch fish period, I have three things tied on: a Senko, a drop shot rig, and a 1/2oz TNT Wadda Jig. These lures will produce bites all day long.

But, for the customer who is there to shatter their personal best, I have four different lures tied on. This part may make your jaw drop; all four are top water baits! I know what you’re thinking, “Is he out of his mind?” Who throws top water baits in cold to cool? The answer is, I do, and so do my clients that want just that one bite.

The first bait of choice is probably the most versatile of the three. It is a 8” floating or swimbait in a trout or lavender shad color. I fish this on a Phenix 7’11” ML swimbait rod with a Shimano Curado 301e7 loaded with Seaguar Kanzen 65-pound braided line. For the most part I make targeted casts to points and other current breaks next to deep water.

As mentioned, the versatility of a floating is why I like it so much. I can slowly wake it, pause and twitch it, or give the reel a few quick turns to get the bait about six inches under the surface. The other thing I like to do with it is add suspend strips to make the bait actually suspend about a foot under the surface; like a giant rip bait. Even in 50-degree water the fish just crush it when it is paused just under the surface.

Vince Borges with BBZ Bass

Vince Borges with a Delta Largemouth Taken on a Floating Six-inch SPRO BBZ-1 Swimbait

The natural swimming motion of this bait looks like a big easy meal for huge bass. They would rather eat one big meal this time of year than exert a bunch of energy chasing smaller bait fish around.

The second bait of choice would be a six-inch Delta Wood Bomber Sinister B52. For those of you who are not sure what this is; picture a Zara Super Spook on steroids. I prefer the wooden Bomber this time of year for several reasons. First, the fish are only going to eat what they think is most natural, and to me, the silent approach of the wooden bait over injected baitswith rattles is way more natural.

Second, even though injected plastic baits come in silent versions, I still prefer the way the wood Bomber sits in the water. I even at times drill a small hole right in front of the front hook with a ¼” drill bit and fill it with lead to get the bait to sit even lower in the water. It just gives the bass a bigger target and also sets the hooks slightly lower increasing your hook up percentage.

Vince Borges Whopper Plopper Fish

A Nice River2Sea Whopper Plopper Fish

I find that by making the bait sit a bit lower, it is easier to walk the bait very slowly without it moving out of the strike zone too quickly. So it is like walking the dog in one place, keeping the bait in the zone, aggravating a fish till he just cannot stand it and has to eat it. I fish the my wooden Bombers on the same reel and line but drop down to the Phenix 7’9” ML Swimbait Rod.

The third and final bait of choice for me is the MS Slammer X3. This is the biggest of the three baits at just over nine inches. The reason I pick the X3 over the other Slammer models is because it has a four part body section (three joints) giving the bait much more action at the slow speeds I will be working this bait. Again, like the Punker, it imparts the most action without having to move the bait too quickly out of the strike zone.

These too are made of wood, and yes, I do like them to sit a little deeper in the water. There are two ways to achieve this; one is to add suspend strips, or to allow the bait to sit in a tub or bucket of water till the baits get water logged. Once they do get water logged and are allowed to dry out, the finish does have the tendency to crack. But it will do so after so many trips to the lake anyway. To me this does not deter the fish at all from eating it. So you might as well soak it at home, that way it is ready to fish on the first trip out. I fish this on the same setup as I do the floating swimbaits.

My final bait is the River2Sea Whopper Plopper, which is basically a floating buzzbait with a crazy rotating tail. The Whopper Plopper makes a crazy plopping sound that sounds like clapping cupped hands together and it makes the fish go insane. I reel this bait slowly near points and current breaks as well, but unlike a regular buzzbait, I can pause it for a moment, twitch it and continue the retrieve or rip it hard next to cover and pause intermittently. I like the same setup for throwing this as I do the Wood Bombers.

Vince Borges with Delta 11-pounder

Vince Borges with an 11-pounder from the California Delta, the fish of a lifetime

There are several things that I do when fishing all four baits. I always change the stock hooks to Owner Stinger Trebles with Owner Hyperwire split rings. The fish I’m targeting will destroy the cheaper stock hooks and rings. Like I said, we are fishing for only one bite and you want everything in your favor when you get that fish of a lifetime hooked up.

Another thing I do is treat the braided line from the lure out about four feet with candle wax. This will help stiffen and keep your line from coming back around and fouling on the hooks. I prefer a black or dark green candle so it does not make your line look like a white rope.

So when everybody else has yet to pick up their surface lures, pick up some big ones, go throw them and you might get the bite of a lifetime. Besides, on the Delta and some other places across the country, if the bass aren’t biting, you could hook up with a bonus trophy Striper and then the fight is really on!