As summer winds on, bass begin moving to shallower water and feeding more aggressively—and topwater lures become choice baits. Here are five tips for better success on the surface.
1. Match Your Lure to the Forage
When bass begin feeding on larger shad in late summer, big, propeller-type lures get their attention by creating extra commotion on the surface. Bladed topwaters such as Heddon’s Wounded Zara Spook, Smithwick’s Devil’s Horse, and Gilmore’s Go-Getter are great choices.
2. Fish Deeper Water for Summer Bass
Cast to shallow water, of course, but don’t forget that some bass haven’t gotten there yet and will instead be suspended near the surface over deeper structure. Target these fish over points, breaklines, creek mouths, ridges, humps, and old roadbeds.
3. Change Your Presentation with the Weather
Breezy conditions typically call for a faster, noisier retrieve, whereas calm conditions require the opposite. On especially calm days, consider switching to a lure with a more subtle action, such as a Zara Puppy or Strike King Spit-N-King. Under clear skies, which typically push bass tighter to cover, target stumps, stickups, and other objects, fishing each one thoroughly. Bass tend to roam under cloudy skies; so if the sun’s not shining, cover more water with a faster retrieve.
4. Use the Right Topwater Rod
Most topwater lures are worked by twitching the rod downward. With a long rod, you can end up hitting the water with the rod tip. Instead, use a 51/2- to 6-foot rod with a flexible tip.
5. Be Patient for Better Hooksets
It’s all too easy to miss fish by yanking back on your rod the second you see one surface near your bait. Wait until you feel the weight of the bass, then set the hook—and hold on tight.
Pro’s 5 Best Summer Topwater Lures
1. Rebel Pop-R
A Pop-R in Foxy Shad color. Bass Pro Shops
“I can chug this bait or make it spit to imitate a shad flicking on the surface,” says veteran FLW pro Zell Rowland, who is famous for catching topwater bass with a Pop-R. “Plus I can fish it around almost every type of cover that there is.” If fish are active in clear water, Rowland will often fish the bait extremely fast, holding the rod tip up to imitate the sound of a small shad breaking the surface. If the water is a little stained or cloudy, he’ll usually fish the popper slower, with a chugging sound. “The most important thing is to mix it up and let the let the fish tell you how to work the bait.”
2. Greenfish Tackle Toad Toter Buzzbait
A Toad Toter Buzzbait with gold blade. Tackle Warehouse
“Paired with a Zoom Horny Toad trailer, this is the most versatile topwater bait I can think of,” say Bassmaster Elite Series pro Brandon Cobb. The combo is easy to skip, which allows Cobb to cast it into places other buzzbaits can’t reach. “I’ll bounce it under docks, bushes, undercut banks, or anywhere there is shade. Topwater fishing is often thought of as a morning technique, but it can be even more effective in shade throughout the day, because shade lines concentrate the fish in predictable places,” he says.
3. Terminator Walking Frog
A Walking Frog in Hot Mud Camo color. Bass Pro Shops
Bassmaster Elite Series pro Bob Downey likes a versatile bait too, but his choice is a topwater frog. “I can fish this bait in open water around wood or reeds, to isolated targets in shallow water, or over big flats full of vegetation.” In shallow water, Downey casts past his target, then slowly walks the frog right up to the isolated cover, trying to keep the lure near the target as long as possible. On big grass flats, he makes long casts and works the frog back with a steady retrieve, covering lots of water. “Once I get a bite, I’ll slow it down in that area and fish it thoroughly,” he says.
4. Berkley Choppo
The Berkley Choppo in Bone color. Bass Pro Shops
“I love throwing a Choppo first thing in the morning and the last hour or two of the day to cover water and find the most active fish,” say Major League Fishing pro Justin Lucas. “I’ll usually start with the 105 size in Bone color. I’ll bomb it out and use a steady retrieve. But if that doesn’t produce, I’ll stop and start the bait until I figure out what the fish want.”
5. Strike King KVD Sexy Dawg
The KVD Sexy Dawg topwater plug, in Sexy Shad color. Bass Pro
“There’s always some type of topwater bite going on during the summer, and I can fish the Sexy Dawg around laydowns and docks in shallow water or out in open water,” says Arkansas-based FLW angler Greg Bohannan. “I look for shallow fish relating to some type of wood cover, and I’ll walk this bait right over their heads. Out it open water, I use it as a search bait, and I’ll cast it to schooling fish. I love how versatile it is.”