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Patience, equipment are vital to successful topwater bass fishing

by By JOHN KRUSE, Washington Outdoors Report
| July 25, 2021 1:00 AM

If you are an angler, there are few things more awesome than watching a bass erupt out of the water and smash your lure. Topwater fishing is primarily a summertime affair and it’s the favorite style of fishing for many because of the shot of adrenaline that occurs every time you get a strike. Let’s run through some topwater bass fishing basics and talk about some lures you can use to hook into a largemouth or smallmouth this summer.

It’s not just an early morning bite. A lot of folks think the early morning is the best time to throw topwater lures for bass, but topwater baits also work well in the evening and even after dark, especially on a moonlit night. At times, topwater lures will work all day, especially if you are fishing clear water under cloudy skies. While calm waters are ideal for topwater fishing, don’t be afraid to use these lures when there is a slight breeze and a little chop on the water.

Patience is key. A lot of anglers will rapidly cast and retrieve topwater lures, but sometimes patience pays off. Anglers Steven Hurst and G. Lee Willinger, writing for Bassmaster Magazine, recommend waiting anywhere from 10 seconds to a minute after you cast a weedless frog before retrieving it. It’s not uncommon for the bass to take the lure while it is sitting still after you cast it or when you first start to retrieve it after waiting those 10-60 seconds.

Speaking of patience, the hardest thing to do when it comes to topwater fishing is to hook the fish. All too often you’ll see the swirl of the fish or actually see the bass come out of the water and your first instinct is to immediately set the hook. The problem is, that bass hasn’t hit the lure yet and you are literally yanking it away from the fish before it can bite it. As hard as it is to do, stifle that hook setting instinct until you actually feel the strike on your lure. Then, and only then, set that hook.

Know your lures. Weedless rubber or plastic frogs are great lures to cast into heavy mats of vegetation or lily pads, with the Spro Frog being a favorite with many aficionados. A popper works very well and can be retrieved in a “walk-the-dog,” zig-zag fashion along the edges or open water pockets surrounded by vegetation.

Classic lures work, too. Growing up in the 1970s, I fished a lot of the classic topwater lures and you know what, they still work. If the latest fad lure isn’t working, go old school and cast a Heddon Zara Spook (invented in 1939), an Arbogast Jitter Bug (invented by Fred Arbogast in 1938) or another Arbogast topwater plug, the Hula Popper (catching bass since 1941).

Speaking of classic lures, break out the fly rod and cast some small poppers or rabbit hair streamers for bass. Both have been catching largemouth and smallmouth bass for more than a hundred years.

Something very popular on the bass tournament scene back in the 1990s was the spinnerbait and its close cousin, the buzz bait. Retrieved rapidly to make a commotion on the surface of the water these baits are very effective in drawing strikes and while not weedless, the construction of these lures makes them less prone to hanging up in cover.

Use the right rod, reel and line. When it comes to fishing with frogs, braided line works best because of its strength. Bass taking a frog in thick vegetation will often get wrapped up in that same vegetation or among the lily pads you hook them in, and you’ll need strong line strength to get them out. Fluorocarbon line has become very popular with anglers but it doesn’t float, which gives an edge to monofilament line. Monofilament does float and also casts well when it comes to getting the maximum distance on your cast.

As for the rod and reel, it’s pretty basic. Both level-wind baitcasting and open-face spinning reels work just fine for topwater lure fishing. As for the rod, the experts at Bass Pro recommend a 6-foot, 6-inch rod with medium power and moderate action.

Now that you know what to use and how to fish top water lures, it’s time to head to your favorite bass pond, lake or stream for a morning or evening of top water fishing fun.