With topwaters, the most explosive bass action is on the surface.
Catching bass is fun. Catching them on “topwater” is even more fun. Topwater is an all-encompassing phrase. In reality, there are many topwater techniques; most involve lures that float on the surface.
Arguably, the angler’s most effective topwater lure floats at rest but twitches, spits and bloops with manipulative rod tip action. The front lip of this lure is concave, so it pushes water when the angler moves it. Move it a little and it makes a subtle noise and splash. Move it a lot and it goes bloop and pops like bubble gum; some brands have a shallower lip angle, which pushes (“spits”) water out in front several feet. If you’ve ever seen fleeing shad with dimples and splashes as they break the surface, you’ll understand what you are trying to mimic with the spitting versions. (Pictured: Pop-R)
Stickbaits come in several styles — floating, sinking and suspending. For topwater, use the floaters. They are long, thinner-circumference lures (think original Rapala) than Spooks but with a lip or bill. They are very effective in shallow water. Cast one out and let it rest until the splash ripples dissipate. Twitch it. Let it rest. Twitch — let it rest. Experiment with long or short pauses. Years ago, these baits were highly popular but are not used as much now. (Pictured: Floating Rapala)
This is the big-bass-catching favorite topwater technique. The lures are nondescript — imagine a cut-off broom handle with hooks. While many manufacturers make their own versions of this lure, one of the early names, Zara Spook or Spook, is the most famous brand of walking baits. The Spook zigzags on the surface left to right, then right to left. Anglers impart action through wrist movement and retrieve speed; make short, violent jerks and the lure bobs and weaves while zigzagging. Short, rhythmic actions are hard to master, but they effectively call up big bass. Short pulls with long pauses make some brands glide across the surface in big, sweeping zigzag patterns of several feet — without moving forward much. A proficient angler can keep the lure around a suspected bass lair for a long time. (Pictured: Zara Spooks)
Chopper/propeller (prop baits)
These floating lures with propellers in front or back or both can be strike getters. They trigger bass’ “attack instinct,” often causing explosive strikes. The popular lure names hint that something is different: Tiny Torpedo, Devil’s Horse (pictured above, bottom), Woodchopper, Whopper Plopper (pictured above, top), etc. Many of these lures have been on the market for decades. Some work better with a steady retrieve (Whopper Plopper), others with a stop-and-go retrieve.
Frog vs. toad
No topwater discussion is complete without differentiating a frog and a toad in relation to fishing lures and techniques. Frog generally refers to a soft, hollow-body floating plastic lure that fishes without hanging up (or snagging) on floating mats of vegetation. The hooks are very close to the lure body, so they don’t hang up in the heavy cover — a real advantage for fishing on top of the grass mats — but it also means lower hook-up ratios. Frog body styles include designs that walk-the-dog (above, middle) or chug/spit (above, top) and some that require anglers to impart more action.
Toad (above, bottom) refers to a full, solid-body soft plastic lure shaped somewhat like a frog, but with legs that wiggle and gurgle when retrieved. Most do not float, so they require a retrieve speed just fast enough to keep the lure on the surface. The angler rigs a large hook through the lure body, and if rigged with the hook embedded, it is “weedless.”
A topwater buzzbait does not float. It requires a retrieve to stay on top, so as soon as the lure hits the water, begin reeling. The blades on buzzbaits can be two- or three-bladed metal or plastic. As they spin on the bait’s shaft, they make a gurgling sound. Buzzbaits have many types of skirts or soft plastics on the back. People try to make the blades squeak or click by modifying the bait. (Pictured: Black buzzbait)
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