By Chip Leer
Shallow slop holds largemouth bass in the summertime. Extracting them from the jungle is a challenge bass fans love, and throwing topwater baits that skitter and slide across the canopy is one of the most popular ways to attack these green monsters.
Topwater fishing seems simple, but even slight variations in lure choice and presentation can mean the difference between a great day and getting skunked.
It all starts with choosing the right bait for the conditions at hand. Many anglers think all topwaters are the same, but differences in lure style, body shape and weight can have a big effect on your catch rates.
Favorite topwater choices include frogs, rats and mice. Spoons such as Northland Tackle’s Jaw-Breaker are often overlooked but equally deadly, and a hollow-bodied sunfish to the list of fish-catching options.
Besides differences in appearance, topwaters displace water at different rates, both in open water and when retrieved over vegetation. Water displacement alerts bass to your bait’s presence, and allows fish to track it until they’re ready to attack.
Weight and body shape affect the amount of water a lure drafts, which in turn affects displacement. Since conditions and fish moods change, no single style produces best all the time. Some days you need to plow through weeds and water—other times, barely slithering is better.
When fishing atop matted vegetation, I prefer a topwater with enough weight and water displacement to push weeds down or off to the side, so the bait touches the water. Bass rarely grab something off the top of the platter, but may hit if the bait breaches the canopy. Where extremely thick weeds prevent penetration, focus on edges or punch heavy jigs through the mat.
Buoyancy is also a factor. Floating baits ride the surface at rest; sinkers like the Jaw-Breaker flutter seductively into open pockets on the pause. Both are viable options, so experiment and keep an open mind.
Also pay attention to retrieve speed. You want to elicit a reaction strike, without giving the fish too much time to scrutinize the presentation.
When your topwater hits open areas, crank the reel handle and pound the rod butt to make the bait dance and quiver like an injured sunfish or frog.
When a bass bites, resist the urge to set the hook immediately. Pause a couple seconds to allow the fish to turn with the bait, then set hard and get the fish’s head up and out of the grass ASAP. By following these tips, it’s possible to bust more weedbed bass on top all summer long.
Based in Walker, Minnesota, noted fishing authority and outdoor communicator Chip Leer operates Fishing the WildSide, which offers a full suite of promotional, product development and consultation services. For more information, call (218) 547-4714 or email Chip@fishingthewildside.net