There’s no question that topwater fishing is the most exciting way to catch bass. Even the most seasoned angler gets chills when the morning calm is shattered by a big bass exploding on a topwater as it works over her head.
Topwater fishing isn’t all about excitement either, it’s also one of the most effective ways to target bass (both numbers and size) in the summer when the water temps are topped out and the fishing has started to lag.
Here’s a list of the most effective summertime topwater presentations, and a breakdown of how and where you should be using them.
Hollow bodied frogs like the LiveTarget Hollow Belly and River2Sea Bully Wa are some of the ultimate bass-catchers around any kind of vegetation. They are almost completely weedless, and can be worked through the thickest pads and grass – which is where big bass hang out in the summer.
Where: Obviously, hollow bodied frogs shine in lily pads, matted grass beds, and other areas of heavy vegetation. They’re not limited to just those areas though. Frogs can also be excellent around laydowns, shoreline grasses, overhanging willows, and docks – anywhere there’s lots of snags that would prevent traditional topwater fishing.
How: Make long casts into the thickest portion of the grass and slowly twitch the frog across the surface, pausing in any holes or looser portions of the mat. Around hard cover, skip the frog up, under, and around anything and twitch it to “walk-the-frog” tight to cover.
Buzz toads like the V&M Bayou Bullfrog and Gambler Cane Toad were designed by buzzbait fishermen that were frustrated with the inability to fish buzzbaits in super heavy cover. Their legs or appendages are designed to “buzz” on the surface like a buzzbait in a weedless package.
Where: Buzz toads are effective anywhere a traditional buzzbait can be fished. Around laydowns, docks, rip rap, grasslines, and more. Because they are weedless, they also draw strikes when worked through places that traditional buzzbaits can’t reach – like heavy vegetation, pads, and skipped under overhanging trees.
How: Rig one on a screw-lock or lightly weighted superline EWG hook and cast and retrieve just like a buzzbait with the legs churning the surface. They can also catch bass on the fall, so if you draw a strike that doesn’t hook up, let the toad fall on slack line and often the bass will come back and eat it.
Originally designed to target saltwater fish like striped bass and snook, pencil poppers like the Cotton Cordell Pencil Popper and Lucky Craft Gunfish 135 create a surface commotion like no other. They are big baits, usually between 5 and 7 inches and excel at triggering strikes from suspended schooling bass, particularly in lakes populated by pelagic forage like blueback herring or alewives.
Where: Pencil poppers are most effective when fished in areas where bass commonly school. Places like the ends of points, over submerged treetops, and along rip rap are excellent starting locations.
How: They cast a mile, so make long casts over common schooling holes and work the bait in a really fast walk-the-dog motion, trying to make as big a disturbance as possible. This presentation is particularly effective under traditionally poor topwater conditions – high sun and calm. Don’t be afraid to throw a pencil popper all day long.
Traditional “walk-the-dog” baits like the Rapala Skitter Walks and Sebile Action First Flat Belly Walker are dynamite summertime producers. They do a spot-on imitation of a dying baitfish in its last throes on the surface. They allow anglers to cover tons of water, and are particularly good at generating strikes from big fish.
Where: The ideal places for walking baits are anywhere bass are shallow enough to see it. Grasslines, points, rip rap, sand drops in rivers, and around docks are just a few of the places they are effective. Another good pattern is to cover shallow flats targeting “wolf packs” of big females.
How: To walk the dog, make a cast and start rhythmically jerking your rod tip down 8-10 inches, while alternating reels. Each twitch should make the bait flare to one direction, while the corresponding reel will pull in the slack. When done properly, you’re actually only reeling in slack, and the rod tip does all the back and forth. It’s also a good idea to pause and speed up randomly during the retrieve.
Take a floating wooden plug, slap a propeller one end and you’ve got yourself another of the most effective summertime topwaters. Prop baits like the High Roller Lures RipRoller and River2Sea Tango Prop track well, displace a bunch of water, and cause a unique commotion that other topwaters can’t match. They are particularly good around shallow grass and for smallmouth.
Where: Prop baits are deadly around spawning bluegill, docks, grass lines, and other shallow cover. They are also excellent smallmouth baits, and when fished across flats on northern lakes, they elicit some hellacious strikes from giant brown bass.
How: Prop baits are about as simple as it comes. Cast it out, let it settle, and give it short jerks. Try different cadences, oftentimes one particular cadence is much more effective than others.