Let's Talk Topwater
by: Scott Brands 5/22/2018
Summer is just around the corner and that means many bass anglers are going to be breaking out the top waters soon. Low light periods of the day and overcast conditions during summertime are great times to fish a top water bait, but donít overlook the top water bite going on right now! Actually, if youíve gone all spring without throwing a top water, you may have missed out on some explosive days on the water.
The first top water bite I got on this year was in early April when the water temperature was 49 degrees. It was a cold and overcast Saturday afternoon with light rains and there were very few other anglers on the water. Fresh green grass patches were beginning to grow in the shallows and there were plenty of largemouth holding in that shallow grass. I took out a popper, fished it over top those grass patches, and the bite was on fire. I was unable to get a bite utilizing other spring methods, but if top water is your only option, then I think weíll all agree thatís a good problem to have.
More recently, a lot of the local ponds have begun to develop thick grass mats. Whenever I see grass mats I always look to get on a frog bite. There are 3 types of frogs that Iíll rotate through when fishing mats. I will typically start by throwing a traditional style hollow body frog and work it over grass mats using a hop, hop, pause style retrieve. If that is not working, I will straight reel in the frog over top the mats. If you still canít get bit, another option is the popping frog. I work this frog just like I would a popper but I usually get more aggressive with it and really slap the rod tip down to try to get that popping sound out of the frog. The last style of frog I use is a relatively new bait called the Tenkel Sprinker. This is a hollow body frog with a plopping tail on the back (think whopper plopper meets hollow body frog). I like to throw this frog in the open water pockets and all around the edges of those grass mats. You can also fish it over top the mats, but I find that the tail isnít very affective in making that plopping sound when doing so.
For the places that donít develop matted grass I like to fish poppers, walking baits, whopper ploppers, and buzzbaits. There are a couple ways to determine which of these baits will work best in any situation. I will generally start with the popper, but I will walk it just like I would a walking bait. I will play around with retrieves and include a few pauses in the process. If Iím consistently getting bit on the pause then I will stick with the popper and make sure to include more pauses in my retrieve. If Iím getting bit while walking the bait then I might switch over to a walking bait to see if that produces even more bites. When you start seeing dragonflies coming out in full force flying close to the waters surface, then a buzzbait or a whopper plopper is a good choice. A buzzbait is more weedless than a whopper plopper so I will use the buzzbait in places with a lot of obstructions and opt for the whopper plopper in those less snaggy areas.
Last but not least come the wakebaits. Wakebaits come in different shapes and sizes with some of them looking like squarebills and some like giant swimbaits. The wakebaits I like to use are the larger ones such as the musky sized Jitterbug and the 9 inch MS Slammer. I primarily fish these baits at night and I only throw them in black. I am not sure if color makes a huge difference with how much noise and vibration these baits give off, but I have more confidence in throwing a black bait at night so thatís what I stick with. Most of the time you will not catch a ton of fish throwing these lures and you may go a few nights without a bite, but the fish you do catch will typically be above average size.
I have a few other top waters in my box that come out from time to time, but these are all the main ones I use and have had consistent success with. What are some of your favorite top water baits?
Blog content © Scott Brands
anglerwannabe, CO 5/23/2018 8:37:49 AM
Scott, don't know if you ever use them.. but a Horny Toad or Ribbit frog can be used on top or as a weedless jig in heavy weeds. Nice blog.
Scott Brands (Skookshunter), CO 5/24/2018 8:10:44 AM
Yep I have used the topwater toads as well. I threw them more last summer based on your recommendation and they definitely work!
Coyute, CO 5/24/2018 1:18:09 PM
I also enjoy chucking the Stanley Ribbit. The Double Take Hooks Stanley makes work well with that frog. I'm mostly a buzzer and spook guy but love some frogging. All I threw last night was a Ribbit and a Spook with good success. Fishing a popper is good fun. Fishing a Plopper is great fun. I'm also a fan of a black jitterbug at night. I doubt I'll ever go down the MS Slammer road - too expensive when there are so many other options that do just as well at a fraction of the price. I like the Manns 1-minus as well. The Sprinker looks interesting. Haven't fished that one - yet.
IceFishingFool, CO 5/24/2018 8:43:40 PM
My go to for years was the jetterbug, now its that and my hand carved mice, now knowing how well the Smallies hit one I sent to NY and it got fished on the Erie Canal might have to send him another one.
Scott Brands (Skookshunter), CO 5/25/2018 7:31:43 AM
Coyute, do you have any suggestions for a big topwater like the MS Slammer at a cheaper price? I used to fish what was basically the same thing at a cheaper price but the lipe broke off of both my cheaper lures. One I had for about a year and the other broke after just a couple uses. I reached out to Mike Shaw who makes the MS Slammer and he assured me of the quality of his product. So far it's held up very well. They are pricey but I would rather have a $70 bait that lasts versus a $20 bait that breaks after two uses.
Matt, CO 5/29/2018 8:01:23 AM
Good stuff Scott! I love topwater, nothing more exciting than explosions on the surface. Fishing topwater poppers on a flyrod for smallies is a blast. Go as big as you can throw with the line you have on your setup - if you can't cast it, it's too big. If you see some panfish nibbling the surface, size down on the popper and have some fun with those guys. I just saw a cicada in my lawn, so listen for the "clicks" in the trees and I like to fish under those overhanging or near lake edges. Lastly, for the muskie folks, big walk-the-dog baits are so much fun. Check out the Seducer, which may not be made anymore. A friend was throwing this one year in Canada and I felt like I wasn't even on the boat - any muskie around just wanted his bait, seemingly coming from miles around. Tom McInerney (opencage) also got his first muskie on WTD topwater (ironically taking it under-water on a figure-8!) and then had 2 more fish on the hooks in the next two spots, July 1, 2 years ago.