#29 – Topwater Bass Fishing
Article by Brandon Hughes
Lures (my favorite model/color in parenthesis)
- Walking/Spook style (River2Sea Rover 128 in Bone/White)
- Popper (River2Sea Bubble Popper 88 in Bone/White)
- Frog (River2Sea Bully Wa 65 in Big Mouth pattern)
- Buzz Bait (Screwy Lewy Lures single & double buzz in Ghost/White)
- Rip Rap Banks/Points (Spook or Popper)
- Spawning Areas (Spook or Popper)
- Flats (Spook, Popper, or Buzz Bait)
- Flooded Trees/Stumps (Popper or Buzz Bait)
- Matted Grass/Lilly Pads (Frog)
- Sparse Grass (Frog or Buzz Bait)
- Spook & Popper – 6’9” Medium, X-Fast Action Rod with 20 lb Monofilament line on a 7.3:1 Ratio Ardent Reel
- Buzz Bait – 7’0” Medium Heavy, X-Fast or Fast Action Rod with 20 lb Monofilament line on a 6.3:1 Ratio Ardent Reel
- Frog – 7’0” Heavy, Fast Action Rod with 50 lb Braid on a 7.3:1 Ratio Ardent Reel
Topwater bass lures start becoming effective earlier in the season than many think. Once the water temperature reaches 50 degrees, topwater lures come in to play. However, the “prime” season for topwater fishing occurs during the post spawn period once water temps reach the mid-60s, and continues through the summer and dies off in early fall once the water temperature drops back down to the mid-50s.
I typically start throwing topwater lures once the spawn starts. Throwing a spook or a popper over the head of a bed or fry guarding male or a big female just before she locks on the bed or right after she comes off is a sure fire way to get a reaction strike. During these times using a slow retrieve, with short twitches, and a lot of pauses is key. You want to present the lure more as an intruder to their bed than anything else. Once the post spawn hits and the fish have moved back out, off their beds, it’s time to start keying in on seasonal routes and bait fish. Shad love to spawn on rip rap, once the water temp gets into the high 60s and the bass have stopped spawning, the shad will start. Shad are also low light, early morning spawners. First thing in the morning during the post spawn I like to find rip rap banks, rip rap points, and rip rap near bridges. Throw a spook on these rip rap locations first thing in the morning to imitate dying shad. If it is windy and the water is choppy, or it is stained and hard to see, that’s when the popper becomes the better choice. Here is a short video of me fishing a River2Sea Rover along a rip rap bank/point on Kentucky Lake during the first week of May. Feeding flats are also great places to throw a spook, popper, and a buzz bait. The earlier in the season the slower you want to work the lure, and the longer pauses you want to have. As the water warms up you can increase the speed of your retrieve accordingly and decrease the length of your pauses.
Flooded trees, laydowns, brush, etc. are great places to throw a topwater popper. The advantage of a popper in these situations is it will not slash side to side like spook making it less likely to get hung up, it makes a lot of noise to draw the bass out of cover, and it can be worked in a small area with short twitches while still creating a lot of action. I like to throw a popper down the side of any log or other piece of cover I see laying in the water. Poppers are most effective if used in a cadence style retrieve much like a jerkabit. I like to use a few short twitches followed by a pause, and then a few short twitches, followed by a pause style retrieve. Most of the time the strike on a popper will come during that pause, so experiment with the length of the pause. You will find some days the bass want a very long pause, while other days a very quick second pause works. In these same areas a Buzz Bait is also effective. I like to use them in the same manner where I’m trying to draw a fish out of cover to strike my lure. Down the sides of logs, up tight against cover, down the middle of a couple of trees or a fork in a tree, and parallel to the bank, or a grass line/edge are the most effective areas. If at all possible without snagging too much, always always always use a trailer hook. This will allow you to hook up with more fish. Often times a bass will short strike on a buzz bait and that trailer hook can be the difference in a 2 fish day and a 20 fish day.
Finally, let’s talk about frogs! Frogs can be one of the most exciting ways to catch bass once the weather starts heating up. Typically in the lakes I fish, most of the grass dies off over the winter, I like to wait until it has grown back again and getting thick before getting the frogs out. Realistically, frogs will catch fish anywhere you throw them. But matted grass, dense grass, and lily pads where it’s hard to get other lures in or through are my favorite places to use them. If you’re fishing on the top of matted grass with a frog, use the same twitch and pause retrieve you would use with a popper or jerkbait. It’s very hard to walk the dog on top of thick matted grass, and a simple cast and reel retrieve doesn’t give the bass enough time to track, stalk, and strike the frog. Matted grass is also one of the few times I like to stray away from a white colored lure. I go for a darker color like black in order to cast a silhouette on top of the grass and help distinguish my lure from the grass itself. Once the frog reaches the end or edge of the mat, don’t just reel it in quickly. Continue the twitch and pause retrieve a few feet past the edge. Sometimes the bass will be sitting right on the edge of the mat and you don’t want to miss them, it also gives a bass that’s been tracking your lure that last chance to strike before it gets away. If the grass isn’t matted on top but too thick to get the other style top waters through it, I’ll use the frog, but with a walking the dog style retrieve much like a spook. In these cases the lighter color or white belly is the go to option. In these same areas throwing a buzz bait along the sides of the grass matt or grass line is also very effective. As mentioned bass often set up on the edge of grass lines when they are feeding, and this can be an effective approach for achieving a reaction strike along a grass line.
- Always use a feathered rear hook on Spooks and Poppers. During the pauses in the retrieve the feathers will continue to move slightly, giving the lure a lifelike appearance while sitting still.
- Add rattles or weights to frogs. The extra noise from the rattles will help bass key in on the frog going across the top of a grass mat. Also, weights will allow the frog to slightly depress in to the mat allowing it to create a “path” the bass will use to track it.
- Color – White is an all-around go to color in most water conditions. Think of fish, frogs, etc. and typically their underside/bellies are lighter or even white. Chrome is also a good choice on sunny days and in clear water as it mimics natural shad colors. Of course there are hundreds of other color options, but if I had to pick just 1, it would be white.
- Hook Set – Always use a delayed hook set with top waters. It’s a natural reaction to set the hook as soon as you see the fish hit the lure on top of the water. However, force yourself to give the bass a second or two to fully get the lure in its mouth. This is the #1 reason for missed fish using top water. When I see a fish strike my lure, I drop my rod tip down, crank the handle on my reel a few times to take up the slack, and then set the hook. Pay close attention to that part in the video. At the 18 second mark you can see the bass strike my lure and see the delay before setting the hook.
- Follow up Lure – Always have a Senko, Floating Worm, or similar style lure on another rod ready to throw in. If a bass strikes at your lure, but misses it, let it sit motionless for a couple of seconds to see if it hits it again. If not, immediately throw in your follow up lure where the bass struck your top water. This is a great way to catch a couple extra fish!
Hello, my name is Brandon Hughes. I am a Disabled American Veteran, medically discharged in 2011. I have taken to pursuing my bass fishing career since my release from the Army. I am also a very devoted Christian, and thank God for all of the opportunities that have come my way in fishing, and everything he has given me in life! I am married, and have 5 wonderful children, 4 boys and 1 girl. I have loved fishing my entire life, but never had the opportunity to fully pursue my dream until recently. This year I will be fishing the FLW BFL tournaments in the Hoosier Division as a boater, the IBF Invitational Tour as a boater, Fishers of Men tournament series as a boater, and 2 divisions of USABASSIN with a partner. Please follow me on my social media accounts on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Also, I will be writing articles for www.bigindianabass.com and www.anglesandlines.com this year.
My goal is to someday fish the FLW Tour as a pro on the boater side. Until then I am trying to fish as many tournaments as possible to gain as much experience as I can. Most of the tournament series or organizations I fish all have routes to fish your way to high profile events such as the BFL All-American, FLW Forrest Wood Cup, and the Bassmaster Classic. Next season I will fish the FLW Rayovac Central Division as a Co-Angler. I have started a GoFundMe account http://www.gofundme.com/brandonhughesfish for anyone interested in helping me reach my goals. Any help is greatly appreciated.