Our Outdoors: Topwater Tactics for Bass

By Nick Simonson


Topwater fishing is synonymous with the start of summer.  While the tactics and lures vary, an explosive take of a bait off the surface of the water is about as thrilling as the culmination of a July firework show.  While topwater fishing may not be the best way to catch bass, it sure is one of the most heart-pounding experiences to watch a subsurface wake materialize into the white-foam splash of a strike, and always worth having an option ready to throw to add to the summertime excitement.  To make the most of these opportunities often limited to the back half of this season, a few helpful hints will turn the rush of a hit into a fish in the photo album.
Stay Sharp
Finely-honed hooks on any surface lure are key in connecting with fish, especially on multi-hooked lures like the Zara Spook, Original Rapala other floating offerings.  Be certain that points are sharply filed or damaged hooks are replaced with new ones and that these lesser-used lures like poppers and buzzbaits are in good shape, as by their nature they don’t get as much use as a diving crankbait or a spinnerbait.
Still & Edgy
While surface lures will work when there’s a light chop, they perform their best when the surface is calm and fish are too.  Morning and evening are great times to utilize topwater tactics, as winds are generally lessened and bass tend to be up shallower and a little more aggressive on surface feeding activity in low light conditions.  Work baits along the edges of structure, such as reed beds or lily pad fields, or identify developed weed edges and retrieve them along those stretches of vegetation.  If weeds haven’t hit the surface and begun to mat up, burn surface lures over these high-percentage places as well to draw fish up for a look.


Walk-the-dog style baits like the Zara Spook take some practice, but once mastered can produce some incredible surface strikes. Simonson Photo.

Work It
For popping lures like the Rebel Pop-R or walk-the-dog style baits like the Spook, have a good understanding of the rhythm and method needed to maximize the action of those topwater offerings.  Let the rings of the splashdown dissipate before reeling up any slack and beginning a retrieve with floating lures, as sometimes just the impact of the bait on the water can draw in wary fish and the first couple pops or swishes will trigger the strike, it also gives spooked fish a chance to return and inspect the offering.  For burner baits like buzzbaits or plastic frogs with kicking legs, just start cranking the reel the second the lure hits the water and experiment with retrieval speed to change the tone and clatter made by the lure.  With all topwater baits, experiment with the speed of the presentation and with pauses in it to see how fish are reacting on a given day.

Keep Calm
The very nature of watching the water split and then boil with the aggressive topwater strike of a bass should set alight with adrenaline every neuron in an angler’s brain, and reasonable thinking should go out the window.  So trying to override that sensation can be difficult, but it is important to convert that moment into a hooked fish by staying calm and counting to two, despite the natural urge to simply haul back on the rod in a reactive effort to connect when the water blows up.  The quick two count allows time to feel if the fish is connected with the lure, as the weight will be noticeable, and ensures a more positive hookset.  It takes some time to get the experience down and to figure it out, but this slight pause makes all the difference and practice pays off with many more memorable fish in summers to come.
Light the fuse on one of the season’s most exciting forms of fishing by adding a few topwater baits for bass to a summertime lure selection.  Like the Independence Day holiday and the firework shows in the week surrounding it which kickstart the heart of summer, this style of fishing is just as exciting due to its similar limited window of time and amazing displays of aggression by fish intent on lighting up a given surface lure…in our outdoors.

Featured Photo: Largemouth bass will explode on surface baits during the summer, providing the most memorable strikes of the season. Simonson Photo. 

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