Barbs and Backlashes

Topwater Time by whitetips
August 18, 2010, 10:21 am
Filed under: Fishing | Tags: , , , , , ,

Even though I have a tackle box that holds nothing but top-water baits, I have to admit that a top-water bait is usually not the first thing I tie on my line.  But I have to tell you I have been reconsidering that philosophy.  Every angler knows that catching fish on top-water baits is some of the most fun you can have on the water.  I usually figure that a top-water bait is going to be the right tool for the job only a small percentage of the time and I try not to become addicted to the adrenaline-rush of just one top-water strike when another presentation would be catching a lot more fish.  But, as I sit here and reflect, I can recall catching white bass, wipers, trout, largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, pike, and even walleyes on top-water baits.  I have heard stories of catfish being caught on top-waters, and although I have not caught a muskie on a top-water yet, it is just a matter of time.  I have caught fish on top-water baits from spring, May, well into fall, October.  A case could be made that the middle of the summer is one of the times when top-waters are the best tool for the job.

Think about it, how many times during the summer, especially early and late in the day, do you see the waters calm and notice a lot of “life” on the surface?  It happens all the time.  Look and you will see all kinds of aquatic insects on the surface during the summer and most times there are a variety of baitfish or panfish near the surface as well.  Frogs are another example of an important prey item that can often be found on the surface.  Predator fish are always looking for an advantage, anything that will make it easier for them to capture prey, and anytime there are prey items near the surface those predators know that prey cannot escape by going up!  They will run out of water!  So anytime you see baitfish or panfish activity near the surface could be an excellent time to tie on a top-water.  Even if you do not see that surface activity there are situations, for example aquatic vegetation growing just under or even all the way to the surface, when a top-water bait could be the BEST presentation and not just the “funnest”.

Here are some of my favorite top-water baits . . . .

At the top is a floating Rapala, an old #13 Husky Rapala to be specific.  Now that floating Rapala is a classic minnow-imitating crankbait, but since it floats it can be a great top-water bait as well.  I love to cast those floating Rapalas in pits and ponds for bass.  In those small waters bass are very aware of everything that is happening in their environment.  If you are quiet and sneaky, you will catch more bass from those small waters.  I like to cast one of those floating Rapalas as far as I can and place the bait near cover that is likely to be holding a bass.  Once that bait hits the surface any bass in the area will turn to see what caused the disturbance.  Let it sit, do not move the bait, just let it float for several seconds until all the ripples have dissipated.  Then tighten your line and give it a little nudge, just a twitch and then let it sit again.  Many times a bass has cruised over to see what is going on, it spots that “minnow” floating on the surface, and then the poor little “minnow” just barely twitches.  BANG!  FISH ON!  If I do not get a surface strike after the initial twitches, I will usually start a quicker jerk and pause retrieve jerking the Rapala down a few inches, getting a few wobbles out of it, and then pausing to allow it to pop back to the surface.

You will see a few classic top-water baits in my tackle box, baits like a Zara Spook and a Jitterbug.  Those baits have been around a long time, but they still catch fish in a variety of situations.  The Spook on a “walk-the-dog” retrieve and a Jitterbug with its “blub-a-blub-a-blub” on a stready retrieve can be used to cover some water and trigger strikes.  I usually fish the Chug Bug pictured above in a similar fashion using a quick pop and pause retrieve, even walking it back and forth like the Spook.  The Chug Bug, Spook and similar baits are particularly effective imitations of shad on the surface, while the Jitterbug is a great frog imitator.

There are a variety of scum frog type baits on the market now.  The one pictured is a Spro Frog, but there are several other brands of weedless, top-water, frog-type baits that are particularly effective when fished near or even on top of aquatic vegetation and algae mats.  Bass will literally bust right through mats of vegetation and algae to eat those frogs!

The last bait at the bottom right is a generic overhead buzzbait.  Buzzbaits are great for raising a ruckus an triggering strikes from aggressive fish.  They also excel in situations where there is some cover to fish through as most buzzbaits are relatively weedless.

The biggest tip I can give you for fishing top-waters is to not set the hook until you feel the fish.  I know, that is easier said than done.  I have seen the surface explode and jerked the bait away from fish just as much as anyone else.  But, if you can inject a little ice-water into your veins, you will catch more fish on a top-water bait.  I can remember an interstate lake smallmouth bass from years ago that busted my Rapala after a couple of twitches on the surface, but I felt no fish; it missed the bait.  Believe it or not I had not jerked the bait away from the fish and I just let it sit on the surface.  After a few seconds I gave it another twitch and you know what happened–that time the 18-inch smallmouth didn’t miss, and neither did I!

If you are fishing top-waters, particularly scum frogs and buzzbaits, through cover, braided lines will help you catch more fish.  I have used both SpiderWire on casting reels and FireLine on spinning reels.  The braided superlines with no-stretch will help you set hooks into fish in cover and then help you winch those fish out of cover.  Another tip–fishing buzzbaits is a lot easier with a high retrieve ratio casting reel.

I will leave you with a few examples of some summer-time, top-water fish . . .


3 Comments so far
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Pingback by Topwater Time »Matchroom Asia

Twitching a rapala,that’s a good one.. great selection of baits. Always remember, at least in my book, have a backup rod ready for the missed strikes on some of these baits. I love to use a weightless sluggo, or any weightless plastic worm. He didn’t say it, but a guy can catch these fish into October with his methods. Great topic as always. Thanks Daryl.

Comment by Ray

Great point on the “throw-back” baits. That technique will work for any species that will chase a top-water bait. A big Slug-go, Monster tube or swimbait is a favorite throw-back bait for muskies. Oftentimes a swimbait, jig or spoon will work better for white bass or wipers than the actual top-water bait. Catching ’em on top is the most fun, but it is all about catching fish and those throw-back baits will result in even more fish on!

Daryl B.

Comment by whitetips

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