Bass fishermen generally describe topwater fishing as the most exciting type of fishing because the action occurs in full view on the surface. But they also describe it as a very fragile type of fishing. That’s because so many different conditions influence topwater fishing. And, a change in any one of them can stop the action almost instantly.
A shifting breeze, cloud movement, and even something as innocent as starting an outboard engine can make each bass change their behavior.
Top 10 Topwater Fishing Tips for Bass
Here are ten topwater fishing tips describing various aspects of topwater fishing. Especially, which when followed, can help improve your fishing success.
1) Choose the Proper Lure
Topwater lures are made in a wide variety of shapes, sizes, and actions. Also, much better suited for specific conditions than others. Smaller, quieter minnow-type lures usually work better in early spring. For example, while larger prop baits and chuggers are a better choice in summer. Because of how the bass is feeding.
Quiet lures tend to produce the best in quiet water, noisy ones do better in rough water. Poppers and chuggers are good summer/autumn lures because you can present them so many different ways, both in open water as well as around shallow cover. Later in autumn when the bass is really feeding heavily, larger noisy prop baits are among the best choices.
2) Retrieve Speed Is Critical
The speed at which you retrieve a topwater lure is often more important than the lure choice itself. This is because a surface lure can attract bass both by sight as well as noise.
Although there are no specific rules about what speed to use under certain conditions, generally speaking, a slower retrieve is often the best. This is particularly true when the water is unusually cold or hot.
Many topwater pros start with a slow, quiet presentation. Then change to a faster one-often on the same retrieve-until they finally get a strike. In shallow water, a slow retrieve should be tried first to avoid spooking bass). But very often, a slow retrieve works best over deep water, too.
When basses are schooling and feeding on the surface, a faster retrieve often is better. At certain times, bass may only hit a lure after it’s been sitting absolutely motionless on the water for fifteen or twenty seconds.
3) Watch the Time of Year
Topwater fishing can be productive year-round, but it tends to be best between late spring and early summer (March to June) and again from late summer into autumn (August through October).
These are transition times for the fish during which they are moving from shallow water to deep and back again; they are often suspended, which makes them the most susceptible to a surface lure. In the summer when the bass is relating more to structure and cover than to food, and are more scattered, larger lures that create more commotion may be needed to bring a strike.
The same is true later in the autumn when the bass is feeding on large shad; use a large topwater lure to tempt larger bass. In the winter, look for vegetation if you want to fish a topwater lure. Bass will hold in moss, hydrilla, and other greenery. Also, it can often be brought out with a slow but noisy topwater lure.
4) Fish Shallow and Deep
Don’t limit your topwater fishing to just shallow or deep water; work both. In shallow water, bass will either be cruising the shallows looking for food (generally at night and early in the morning). Or, they will be holding around shade and cover (throughout the day). In either case, a small chugger or popper can be used.
These are not suspended bass, and the fish may be spooky, so make long casts and work your lure slowly. In deeper water, you’ll be targeting suspended bass. Key places to look are over points, around channel breaks, the mouths of creeks. And also near special underwater structures like roadbeds, humps, and ridges. Large topwater that can be “walked” or “waked” on a long retrieve often work best.
5) Watch for Changes in the Water
Changing water conditions frequently dictate how bass react to surface lures. On calm, slick water you may need a quiet, minnow-type lure that swishes over the surface. But if the wind starts blowing and causing a surface chop, you’ll want to change to a prop-type lure that creates more commotion.
Remember, you want the bass to see, hear, and feel your lure, but at the same time, you don’t want to overdo it, either. Watch for changing cloud conditions, too. Typically, overcast skies make the bass more active, while clear conditions push them tighter to cover. Bass react very quickly to these conditions. These conditions usually mean you’ll need to change lures just as quickly to continue catching them.
6) Listen to the Bass
While it is true that any type of strike indicates you’re in the productive water. But, studying the type of strike you get may tell you how to get even more hits. For example, if a bass hits your topwater lure very lightly and not aggressively, consider changing to a slim profile lure like a minnow bait, and retrieve it very slowly.
On the other hand, a huge, explosive strike usually indicates bass are more aggressive and that you can use a faster retrieve and possibly a larger lure, especially if you’re fishing a lake known for big bass.
A jumping/skipping retrieve is often effective during these times because the aggressive bass is also very easily excited, which is what this type of retrieve is designed to do.
7) Choose Your Lure Colors
Carefully Topwater fishing is based in large part on bass being able to see your lure in the clear water, so it follows that you want to use colors that may appeal to the fish, or at least colors the fish can most easily see. On a dark, overcast and rainy days (which produce excellent topwater fishing) consider a black lure.
It will show as a silhouette, no matter how dark the sky becomes. On bright, sunny days, consider using shad patterns or possibly even clear lures.
Interestingly, many early fishing lures, including topwater plugs, were painted with white bodies and redheads. This combination caught a lot of basses, as many old-timers can readily attest, but today these colors are seldom used by bass anglers. Red and white do remain a popular and productive combination for northern pike and Muskie, however.
8) Don’t Neglect Open Water
Because most fish that hit topwater lures are suspended and roving bass, it pays to cast to open water as well as to visible cover. This means making a lot of blind casts, but remember, topwater lures attract fish by the noise and vibrations they make and bring the bass to them.
Depending on the depth of the water you’re fishing, consider fishing open water with one of the walking lures, or a prop bait.
9) Use the Proper Rod
Using the proper rod is critical to the success of your topwater fishing because it will allow you to work the lure properly and impart maximum action. That action is generally controlled by the rod’s tip, so choose a rod with a light or medium/light action and a flexible fishing tip.
Most bass pros use a shorter rod, as well, measuring from 5 to 6 feet. This is because most of the action the anglers do by twitching or jerking the rod downward. And a longer rod will hit the water each time you jerk. Either a pistol grip or straight handle may be used, depending on your own preference.
10) Wait to Set the Hook
This may be the most difficult aspect of topwater fishing, but it is also one of the most important. You should wait for an extra instant-until you feel the weight of the bass on your rod—before setting the fishing hook. This is to ensure the bass actually has the plugin its mouth and that you don’t jerk it away from the fish.
When the bass is hitting actively and aggressively, they may not be taking the lure at all but instead, simply slapping or butting it. Leaving the lure in the water after an attack like this frequently results in an almost immediate second strike if you don’t move it.