Like many bass anglers, topwater fishing is my favorite way to fish for bass. Seeing a bass blow up on my lure on the surface is something that never gets old and it takes me back to my childhood. The first bass I ever caught on an artificial lure was on a topwater. Growing up, my dad would either fish with nightcrawlers or a small topwater called Zara Puppy. This is where I first learned to use artificial baits to catch bass. I have always loved fishing topwaters and during the summer, it’s hard to beat fishing these baits. The following are my Top 5 topwater baits during the summer, and specific ways I use them to catch bass all summer long.
Fishing a buzzbait in the summer is a great way to catch bass and for me the two keys are low light conditions and shade. They will work all day long sometimes, but first thing in the morning and in the shade later in the day always seem to be the best. In Tennessee, where I live, there are plenty of steep banks with laydowns and these will have shade later in the day and are great places to fish all day long. The same goes for marinas because there are so many shady spots around docks and boats.
I like to use two different baits, a 1/4-oz and a 3/8-oz model, both made by Lunker Lure. The smaller version works great for spotted bass and I like to use one with a black skirt, even in the clear water. I’ll upsize to the 3/8-oz model for largemouth and my favorite color is the chartreuse and white with a chartreuse blade. I really like the colored blade since it has less flash than the gold and silver blades. One thing I like about this brand is that the 3/8-oz has a large blade which is the same size as the blade on the 1/2-oz model. This bigger blade on the lighter bait allows me to fish it much slower, which is a key for largemouth.
When fishing the smaller buzzbait, I like to burn it as fast as I can to get a reaction from the bass. I’ll run it right into posts and logs and anything else I can make contact with to trigger a bite. That is another thing I like about the Lunker Lure buzzbaits as they will run from side to side and it makes them easy to run under laydowns and docks and steer them into posts.
For largemouth, I like to slow way down and barely buzz my buzzbait along the surface. I’ll usually be fishing dingier water with this bait and by slowing it down I can give them time to find it.
One final tip is to always use a trailer hook! I have learned my lesson from losing some big bass in a tournament and now I’ll always use a trailer hook. The 1/O works well for both of these buzzbaits.
Rod: The 1/4-oz bait is hard to cast on many rods, so I use a lighter rod, a 7’ medium Abu Garcia Veritas. For the bigger bait, I’ll switch to a 7’6” medium heavy Veritas.
Reel: Abu Garcia Revo Rocket.
Line: I will use 12-lb Berkley 100% fluorocarbon on the smaller bait and 50-lb Spiderwire braid on the bigger bait. Most people think you have to use mono or braid only (since it floats) instead of fluorocarbon, but with a buzzbait your line is usually above the surface, so fluorocarbon works too.
Prop baits are a very specialized bait for me. When the bluegills are spawning and the bass are chasing them, there is no better way to catch big bass than with one of these topwaters. The bluegill spawn typically starts well after the bass are done spawning and July and August are usually the months to be looking for spawning bluegill. This technique has proven to work well for several top finishers at some of the recent FLW Forrest Wood Cup events that are held in the heat of the summer.
I have found that the bluegill will usually spawn in the areas furthest back in the creeks where there are shallow flats. The great thing about this time of year is the bass are done spawning and feeding heavily on bluegill and you will often find wolfpacks of big bass cruising and looking for bluegill. Once you come across one of these groups, you can usually catch one, two, or three and they are often big ones.
I like the Brian’s Prop Bee in the B2 size. It’s a small bait at under three inches long and just a 1/4-oz. It is very lifelike and looks just like a bluegill. I’ll fish it with little subtle jerks to get the props moving and then follow it with a pause. The sound of the prop blades draws bass in from far distances to feed.
Rod: Since it is a 1/4-oz bait, I’ll use a 7’ medium Abu Garcia Veritas to get a better cast.
Reel: Abu Garcia Revo STX high speed with the 8.0:1 gear ratio.
Line: 14-lb Trilene XT monofilament.
There is no better topwater lure for fishing targets than a Pop-R. There are several anglers from Tennessee that have made the Pop-R’s famous by casting to hard to reach spots where most people would never think about casting topwaters to. After seeing them dominate tournaments, I really started to use Pop-R’s a lot more and have really done well with them.
The key is to make short roll casts under branches and laydowns to get to fish that others miss. There will always be some resident fish shallow, so this works all summer long.
The Pop-R I use is a larger model, a Rebel Pop-R P70 and I actually walk it more than I pop it. This bigger bait allows you to slowly walk it in place to draw fish from where they are hiding. I’ll usually stick with the shad patterns like the silver with black back for this bait.
Rod: For this technique, you want the shortest rod you can find. I use a 6’6” medium Veritas to help me make those short casts.
Reel: Abu Garcia Revo STX high speed.
Line: 17-lb Trilene XT monofilament.
Walking baits like a Zara Spook are my favorite for topwater fishing. In my opinion, they are the most versatile topwater bait. I know that if I tie on a Zara Spook anywhere from Florida to New York during the summer and fall, I will catch fish. They work equally well on largemouth, smallmouth and spotted bass so I will always have one on the deck during the summer.
What I have found is there are some slight differences between the species in what colors they prefer and what retrieve works best. For smallmouth, I like the clearer, translucent colors since more times than not the water is clearer when I am fishing for them. For largemouth, it is usually a little dirtier water and I like the Bone color.
Smallmouth also like the bait to be moving fast and spotted bass are more like smallmouth for retrieve speed. I will typically twitch it as fast as I can with just a few pauses. Largemouth on the other hand like a slower retrieve and much longer pauses.
Like I mentioned, the walking bait is very versatile and that goes for locations as well. I like to throw the bait over shallow points with rock and pea gravel and also along weedlines. These baits also have a great drawing power and attract fish from a long ways. I have caught smallmouth in 20 feet and deeper on top because the bait attracts them from so far away. The same goes for deep weed beds in places like Guntersville for largemouth. Fishing the deep side of the grass and along the grass lines will pull fish from 10 to15 feet of water to hit the bait.
Rod: 7’3” MH Abu Garcia Veritas for longer casts.
Reel: Abu Garcia Revo STX high speed with the 8.0:1 gear ratio.
Line: 14-lb Trilene XT for smallmouth and 17-lb for largemouth.
Hollow belly frogs are so much fun and they are a great way to catch bass in the warmer months. I like to fish these in sparse grass, heavy mats of grass and even in open water.
Anywhere you have matted hydrilla, milfoil, lily pads or even reeds, the frog will work well. The best places for me have always been areas where the weeds are really choked up and there are a few openings. These openings are perfect places to throw a frog and the best ones have a thin layer of duckweed or even an algae bloom to act as a canopy for these bass. In the more open water, I will fish the grass edges and walk the bait as close to the edge as I can.
My favorite frog is the Spro Bronzeye and I use two colors the majority of the time: the Leopard color for sparse grass and the solid black pattern for heavy mats and clear water. I will almost always walk the frog and have learned that you have to make a few modifications to the bait when you take it out of the package. The first is to trim the legs back about an inch as this really helps it walk better. The other modification I make is for when I am fishing really thick mats of grass. I like to add split shots inside of the frog to help it push down into the mat. I add so many that the frog would sink like a rock if you fished it in open water. This really makes a difference as many times I see people fishing mats and the frog is just skipping across the mat and the bass have no chance of finding it.
One thing about fishing a frog is that you will often miss bites. This is just part of frog fishing, but I have found a way to catch some of these missed fish. If a fish blows up through the grass and leaves a “blow up hole,” you can make repeated casts to the same exact area and often catch them. I have done this over and over for ten minutes and finally caught the fish. Usually when they come back a second time, they won’t miss it and since there is an opening in the grass there, you greatly increase your chance of hooking and landing the fish.
Rod: 7’6” heavy Abu Garcia Veracity. This is the same rod I flip and pitch with and it is very stout, but light enough to fish all day long.
Reel: Abu Garcia Revo Rocket. The 9.0:1 high-speed retrieve makes a big difference in being able to quickly catch up to fish once you hook them so they don’t dig into the mat and come loose.
Line: 65-lb Spiderwire Ultracast. The new version is an 8 strand braid (vs the 5 strand) and it is much smoother and casts farther so you can reach those grass openings all the way in the back without spooking fish with your trolling motor trying to reach them.
Topwater fishing has always been my favorite way to catch them. It’s fun and it is a technique that catches both numbers of bass and big ones at the same time. For some reason, the biggest bass in the area will often fall for a topwater. Big bass are usually lazy, but there is something about a topwater that they can’t resist.