Fishing topwater lures for bass is definitely one of the most fun and exciting way to target bass. The best topwater lures will force a bass to strike hard from below.
Nothing beats seeing a lure hit hard as a bass moves quickly up from the depths.
Topwater fishing is one of the most visually rewarding ways to fish for bass.
For a lot of fishermen however it can also be one of the most frustrating.
If you have ever targeted bass in this way you will know that you need to use the right lure at the right time and to use it in such a way that the bass cannot help but hit it hard.
There are a number of different types of topwater lures available they all have one thing in common; they try to imitate some form of natural food that a bass might feed on.
You can find a lot of lures that are designed to imitate an injured baitfish that is making small disturbances on the water surface. These can be called poppers/chuggers or walkers.
Then there are those that directly imitate a type of small animal of insect that bass feed on like frogs, small ducks, grasshoppers and jitterbugs.
Chuggers or poppers have a small concave shaped mouth on them that as they are retrieved causing the lure to make a small splash and a little noise referred to as a pop. The pop is caused by the shape of the head of the lure and the noise that the bubbles it forms make.
The attachment point for your line is actually in the concave mouth which helps to give them their distinctive movement.
Both popper lures and chugger lures are usually fished quite slow in comparison to most other bass lures.
Walkers as the name suggests are designed to be “walked” along the surface by flicking your wrist as you reel them in. The flicking causing the lure to dart from side to side. The darting makes a small wave on the surface of the water which the bass are attracted to.
The are commonly called "walk the dog" lures. The swim action is caused by flicking and jerking the rod tip. The end result is that the lure will dart from side to side.
Although the are shaped like a stickbait or long thin crankbait the absence of any lip(or dive bill) stops the from diving when being retrieved just like a crankbait would.
Small plastic frogs and other such imitations are really great for bass. The bass will tend to strike these types of lures really hard as they are generally larger than the poppers or walkers above.
Frog lures will come with different build designs like soft body or hard body. Some will include an internal rattle to help attract the bass.
The soft bodied lures can have the hook hidden. It is only when the bass actually strike the lure that the hook is exposed.
This makes the great for working over deep vegetation and cover, without running the risk of snagging any weeds.
Other types food they will imitate would be small mice, ducklings and other such aquatic amphibians or small mammals.
The bass lures as the name suggests have a small spinning blade or propeller on the back and occasionally on the front. The propeller will spin as you retrieve the lure through the water.
The propeller creates a small wake behind the lure as it runs just under the water surface. This disturbance in the surface will drive a bass crazy.
It is both a visible stimulus and also the bass can feel the vibrations that are given off.
The best time to use a topwater lure like a prop bait is generally on a calm day without much surface ripples or waves.
Buzzbaits are probably some of the weirdest looking freshwater lures you are ever likely to see.
The lure is nothing more than a shaped piece of rigid wire with a blade and a rubber or plastic jig at the hook.
They have a spinning blade or propeller just like on a prop bait, that is used to create a small wake through the water.
The bass will actually strike the smaller squid like jig that hides the hook in it's skirt.
Traditionally the main times of the year to use a topwater lure is late spring and early summer. This is when bass can be at there most active.
The reason why bass are most active during these times is mostly down to water temperature. They tend to be quite inactive below 55 degrees and above 80 degrees.
Between these temps and during late spring and early summer is when bass will tend to reproduce or spawn. During this time the male bass become very territorial and will strike hard at any kind of intruder near their nesting area.
The best time of the day to fish a topwater lure is either dawn or dusk. Bass unlike other fish and mammals cannot adjust their eyes to the changes in light from the sun during the day.
At the height of the sun between morning and evening bass will generally hide in the shade away from the intense bright light of the midday sun.
You can of course target them here but you will have much better luck by getting up early or waiting until later in the evening.
Fishing for bass is mostly done on a baitcasting setup using medium to small sized lures. However it is possible to use some very small lures if you have the right tackle setup.
A good ultralight spinning setup is much better than any baitcaster at throwing light lures right where you want them.
That is mostly down to the reel as a baitcaster does need a little bit more weight to get it moving that it does to pull line off of a spinning reel spool.
Ultralight bass fishing is mostly performed on light spinning tackle not a more conventional baitcasting one that bass anglers usually favor.
In general you are going to want to choose a spinning reel of not more than 2500 in size.
Depending on just how light you want to go a 1000 or 2500 sized reel is best.
Personally I always find you get the best value out of fishing tackle if you go for the mid-range priced offerings from the main manufacturers.
Most manufacturers start their spinning reel sizes at 1000. These reels are designed to take line in the 2 to 4 lb breaking strength range.
Something like a 2500 can handle up to 8 lb with ease. Once you go beyond these sizes you'll find that the reels become too heavy and you need to beef your rod up.
Once you start to do that your ability to throw lighter lures will be diminished.
A rod that is best suited to ultralight fishing for bass is going to be about 6’6″ in length and have a fast action with a light or ultralight power rating..
You’ll not need a line rating any higher than 6 lbs. Ultralight rods are always spinning rods so if you are tempted to use a baitcasting rod then that won’t work with a spinning reel.
Spinning rods have a larger diameter line guide close to the reel to account for the spiral motion that the line takes as it runs off the spool.
A baitcasting rod however has much smaller line guides that are closer to the rod blank, this is because the reel is usually lower to a spinning reel and the line is fed out in a straight line.
Monofilament is the go to line of choice for light tackle. Braid is really not that good in really lighter weights.
Rating wise you need to go with 6 pound or less. The rod and line rating should always be matched if you want to get the very best performance from you casting.
Be careful when working lighter line as the chances of breakages greatly increase. Always be aware of where the under water structures are like weed beds.
Once a bass strikes it may dive down aggressively to deep cover. Once in there it can be very easy for them to snap off your line.
The whole point of using an ultralight spinning setup for bass is so that you can use light and small lures.
Some lures such as large swimbaits and heavy spoons just won't be suitable.
Spinners, although spinners are mostly used for trout you can still catch bass on smaller inline type spinners.
Look out for Mepps, Short Strikers and Panther Martins are the go to lures here.
You can vary the body color and the blade colors, but in my experience a silver blade seems to work best for small-mouth bass.
Depending on the time of year and the water color you can also use a dressed treble hook on your spinner. This are already included with the Panther Martins. Black and dark olive/green are the best colors to use on the dressing.
Crankbaits in the smaller sizes can be extremely effective for bass right after spawning season as they are quite aggressive when protecting their nesting spots. You can use the usual bass crankbaits only in smaller sizes.
The smaller sized crankbaits will tend to run quite shallow so there are best used close in beside weed beds and other underwater structures.
Look for lures like Rapala's and Salmo Hornets in natural color patterns.
Topwater lures like walkers or chuggers can be used on ultralight tackle. However, larger lures like frogs are ot really that suitable.
Topwater lures for bass in small sizes can be lots of fun on light gear. Just bear in mind that a lot of these lures are intended to be worked beside or over large weed beds and light gear does not do very well with snagging on such structures.
Bass fishing using light tackle can be a heck of a lot of fun if you are prepared to get your tackle right and you target the fish in the right spots.
Make sure to always be very quite when fishing with light gear. Chances are the bass are near the surface of the water. Surface fish will tend to spook a lot easier so being quite and not wearing anything that is too bright is the best approach.
Most of this type of fishing will generally be done in the warmer summer months.
You should always try to be as quite as possible and to wear darker clothing.
The best time of day will generally be in the morning and evening when the sun is at it's lowest.
Bass are generally quietest around mid-day due to the high amounts of sun light and glare on the surface.
You may also want to get a good pair of fishing sunglasses that are polarized to help reduce surface glare.
Although big swimbaits for bass were first introduced in California they have now gone mainstream throughout the US.
I would like to explain what I learned and what is meant by the term “big swimbait.” I am sure many of you have read articles about anglers using swimbaits 12”-16” in California to land giant bass.
However, I have learned that the word “big” is relative to where you are fishing and this could vary from waterway to waterway. Basically, I found that the term “big baits” meant 6”-10” lures and this not only meant swimbaits, but all baits.
When I first started out the results were very disappointing, after using the big swimbaits for a while I would go right back to normal baits, spinnerbaits, senkos, etc.
This went on for almost a full season. So it was back to the classroom so to speak. I had been putting all my time and effort in the physical aspect of fishing “big bass baits” so I completely ignored the mental aspect!
I am in no way saying the mechanistic part of this sport is not important because they are. However, I would say after experimenting with this for almost five years now, the mental aspect is about 75% of fishing “big baits”!
Big swim bait fishing for bass is a mindset! I knew at this time some changes were in order to be successful at this.
I made several changes before my next time on the water. Instead of trying to make this big bait theory work on every body of water, I chose one to learn, the Oswego River, Minetto to Fulton Pool and the Fulton to Phoenix Pool.
Even choosing only one body of water, those sections of the river offered approximately 12 miles of water to learn and about every type of structure and cover combination possible.
Another change I made was I took all other tackle out of my boat except the big bait tackle I was going to be using. When you are holding a bait that is 6 inches or larger in your hand, it is very hard to imagine a bass hitting something so large.
And I bought a dedicated swimbait rod, swimbait reel and only a tackle box full of swimbaits.
When I first started using big baits I really wished I knew how to use them, the wish grew into a desire and the desire grew into an intention. No matter what the cost I would not only learn how to use big baits, but be successful at it as well.
After all, that’s what it is all about. From the summer of 2006 to date I have spent every spare moment on the river. That meant spending from the time the ice thaws to the time the river freezes again.
My time on the water is when hunting season starts. There were many days when I was the only one out there. Many days were spent just riding up and down the river monitoring the depth finder and once I found a promising area, I would dissect it and completely map it in my notebook.
Another important tool is an underwater camera, just be sure it’s one that has a video out port so you record what your looking at on a camcorder. It is also an advantage to have a depth finder that can record what you’re looking at on a memory card.
Does this sound too much like work? Not if you are determined to succeed. Equipment selection like your rod, reel and line are critical. My suggestion is to use equipment that “you” are comfortable with because throwing these large swim baits can get very tiring.
I could tell you some of my exact locations that I have done the best. However, that will not help you at in learning how to use big baits. There are some keys that will help you concentrate your efforts and things to keep in mind. One key is current. There are basically four types of current:
Another important key is light or lack of it. There can be different degrees of light from sunny to dark and everything in between. Now, I can start putting together a pattern with the varying degrees of current and light. One of the most important keys is angles!
Remember to always work your lure with the current because that is the direction the bass would be facing?
Again, someone forgot to tell the bass about this theory. Did you notice that I didn’t mention temperature or the color of the bait as a key? You know why? Because it doesn’t matter how cold the water temperature is or what the color of the lure is when you place the lure in the right area. The bass don’t care as well! These keys only scratch the surface of big bait fishing.
The most important key in using big baits for bass is having the right mindset! Remember, the beginner’s mind I mentioned in the beginning of this article. That is exactly what you need to fish big baits.
Always let the fish tell you what is right or wrong, never determine that yourself. Remember to remain 100% focused on the job at hand, which means don’t be thinking about the last cast or the next cast, put your entire concentration effort into the current cast.
Dedication to the job at hand, determination to succeed and persistence until it happens, is how I learned how to fish big bass baits.
Throwing these larger swimbaits will mean that your tackle has to be ale to withstand the extra pressure that is placed on them.
An ultralight bass fishing setup is really not going to cut it here.
A good swimbait reel will need to be able to handle a lot of larger diameter line. It will also have to be strong enough to pull large lures at speed if need be.
Look for baitcasting reels in the 200 to 400 size. They will have to have the correct gearing to match your lure. For larger lures a lower gearing is favored as you will need some extra cranking power to fight the drag that a larger lure creates as it is reeled in.
A good swimbait rod for such large lures will need to have a medium to heavy power rating, a fast action and have fall somewhere in the range of between 7 and 8 feet in length.
With all the different baits and techniques on the market it’s easy to get confused, feel overwhelmed and lose sight of the simple pleasure of bass fishing.
If you are unsure if what tackle to use check out our guide Bass Fishing Rod Selection Guide.
Whether it’s tournament fishing or guiding on Eastern Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River, I employ three user-friendly techniques that my clients can easily master with a minimal amount of instruction.
The first technique is drop-shotting. Drop-shotting is a simple variation of an old live bait rig where the weight is anywhere from three inches to three feet below the hook. I usually rig my weight about one foot below my Gamakatsu / wide gap#1 or #2 hook. The drop-shot rig is generally fished vertically under the boat in water from 15 to 50 feet, but can be cast and slowly dragged or jigged back to the boat.
The key here is a slow presentation; the bait does not need a lot of action applied to it. Whether fished deep or fished shallow, maintain bottom contact. Let the weight bounce along the bottom as the bait seductively hovers over it. To rig the drop shot, tie a polymer knot, clinch knot, or whatever your personal favorite is, and leave a long tag end to attach to your weight.
Weights designed for drop-shotting have a clip on them that attaches to the line without having to be tied. Other weights will work, like split-shot, a pegged bullet sinker, or a regular bank sinker, but the clip-on style will slide off the line when hung on bottom so you won’t have to retie an entire rig.
My choice of baits for drop-shotting is usually minnow imitations in the three- to four- inch size. Kietechs’ Shad Impact was my personal favorite last season. Rod and line choice for all three techniques is a spinning rod medium power with an extra fast action and 8- to 10- pound test fluorocarbon or monofilament line.
Another very effective bass-catching method is the wacky rig. My personal preference is the five inch Gary Yamamoto Senko with the hook impaled in the center of the body of the worm. I prefer a Gamakatsu 2/0 straight shank worm hook. It seems to hold better in the fish’s mouth and I don’t seem to have as many come unbuttoned. I have tried the shorter shank finesse hooks and find I don’t seem to get the hook penetration that I get with a longer shank hook.
I stay with darker natural colors. When fishing a wacky rig, I don’t feel color is as important as it is with other techniques. Many times when I am tournament fishing I will put three different colors: green pumpkin, watermelon red flake, and black with blue flake in my pocket and blindly rebait my hook as needed.
When fishing a wacky rigged worm, simply cast the bait near visible cover like docks, rock piles, stumps or a weed edge and let it fall naturally on a semi-slack line without imparting any action to the bait. The slow undulating action as the worm free- falls to the bottom is what triggers the strike. After the bait has reached bottom, which will take several seconds with this weightless presentation, snap your bait off the bottom about a foot and let it settle again. If no strike occurs, reel in and make another cast. Wacky rig fishing is a real do-nothing technique requiring little angler skill, making it perfect for kids, novice anglers or anyone making the transition from live bait to artificial.
Wacky rigging and fishing a drop-shot rig will catch both largemouth and smallmouth bass. Dragging a tube bait is primarily a smallmouth technique that can easily be mastered and may put some of the biggest bass in the lake in your boat and is effective in shallow and deep water.
The action of the tube slowly crawling along the bottom and occasionally deflecting off of a rock, boulder, or wood structure will trigger a reaction strike from smallmouth hungry for crayfish. Tubes that resemble Gobies and crayfish in the three- to four-inch range in hues like green pumpkin, smoke, watermelon, and root beer with various flake combos are my preference. Tube jigheads come in a variety of styles and sizes but I prefer a cylindrical shaped head with a 90-degree hook eye. It will kick out and deflect when it strikes an object, giving the bait a more erratic action.
It is important to have a quality hook that won’t straighten if a giant bass is hooked. The weight of the jighead will depend on factors such as depth, wind, and current. Usually 1/8- to1/4- ounce jigheads are best for water less than 10 feet. I will go as heavy as 3/4- ounce if fishing very deep or in heavy current. Remember, when deciding how heavy a jighead to use that the tube should gently tick across the bottom, not dredge it.
Try these three techniques that anyone can master and enjoy the simple pleasure of bass fishing. Remember to release the fighter so others can experience the thrill of this beautiful game fish.