Select Page

Top Water Time

The most memorable visual in fishing…is the top water explosion. Almost every species of fish,
freshwater, or saltwater will hit surface offerings at one time or another. I’ve some strange catches as
I’ve had catfish, crappie and even carp (not too proud of that one) take baits from the top. Natural
hatches and familiar forage land, swim, or glide across the surface of the water and tempt fish to track, chase
and gulp the helpless creatures. Water temperatures will often dictate how active the topwater bite will
be. In the case of the family of bass, it’s game on as soon as the water reached the 60-degree mark. In the
case of bluegill, they will begin in spring, but the all-out assault occurs when the water temperature
reached 70 degrees and the feisty bluegill go into spawning mode. At this time a fly rod is your friend, or
an ultra-light spinning outfit comes out. The barrage of attacks happens when anything comes close to
the bluegill beds. If you fish in areas that hold northern pike or musky you can draw some of the most
vicious hits from these underwater wolves.

Some of the components to consider besides water temperatures are behavioral. Foremost is the
edge phenomenon. Many wild things including fish use edges to navigate or during seasonal migrations.
Besides the travel uses they also use the surface as an edge against unsuspecting prey. Schools of fish
will push baitfish to the surface, and this leaves them to no place to go. Pinned against the surface they
will jump flutily, but the laws of gravity deliver them to the predatory fish. Seeking cover multiple
creatures are lured into the strike zone. Grass beds, submerged wood, shorelines, man made structures
and more all offer temporary protection until fish move in for the ambush and kill.

In choosing topwater lures, color, size and natural action imparted by the angler or built into the bait
should be considered. Everything from frogs to dragonflies are available. Color is of little consequence
(controversial comments inserted now) if the fish only gets a good look at the bottom of the bait. Shape
is important in order to mimic the natural food but also look easy to swallow. Sound making capabilities
are also possible criteria for taking fish from the top. With traditional plugs a “cupped” face creates a
gurgle and the visual spit or splash of water. A resonant “bloop” is a calling card for the bait and bass. If
you’re trying for a trophy, I recommend a buzzbait. Not considered a “numbers” lure I’ve caught some
huge bass on buzzers.

Lessons over the years have brought me to the conclusion, size matters. My
normal buzzbait is big and sports an oversized blade. Other aspects in choosing a buzzer are water color
and wind velocity. In clear water with little to no wind I drop down in size, in stained water and higher
winds I upsize to make the bait more visually attractive and create a disturbance that’s hard to ignore.
A firm believer on retrieve speed it never becomes critical than when working the surface baits. The
goal should be to make the lure look like it’s injured or trying to get away, this draws out the predatory
instinct from all fish. Think of it as an underwater “cat and mouse” game. Water and weather conditions
as well as moon phase all play a part in determining retrieve speed. As a rule, slower is better but I’ve
had times when “burning” a bait draws vicious strikes from the biggest fish. Vary the retrieve until you
find out what gets the best reaction. Mimicking the movement and the speed of natural food sources is
a great start. Additionally, throwing the floating worm, usually a seven-inch worm rigged weightless and
weedless or even a soft plastic tube is a great late spring choice.

Equipment selection can vary greatly. For “plugs” and different hard baits I chose a rod that has some
flex in the tip but a lot of backbone. A baitcasting reel spooled with 12-14-pound test monofilament has
proven to be most effective for me. I like open face spinning for the floating worm and minnow type
lures. Seven-foot rods and a medium size reel spooled with 12-pound braid and a monofilament leader

are what I prefer. If you a fan of frog fishing you might need a rod dedicated to this technique. A seven-
and-a-half-foot rod and reel overloaded with gears and guts is desirable. Exciting and frustrating hollow
bodied frog fishing around vegetation and heavy cover can generate some heart stopping hits. I use a
heavy action rod and 30-pound test braided line tie directly to my frog. My rods and reels are all the
best, most dependable Lew’s equipment.
Have at least one rod rigged for testing topwater. It’s topwater time!