Top Water FishingBy Roger Brown - September 1, 2004
The reason top water fishing is so great is because it's a visual type of fishing. I can personally vouch for this statement just from watching my 3-day bass fishing school students, charter clients, and from the enormous amounts of emails I get from anglers from all over the world wanting my help with certain techniques, and helping these anglers to choose the right baits for top water fishing.
So, being with writer's cramp from answering all the emails I receive, I thought it was about time to share some of these baits and tips for top water fishing with my readers.
First, let's cover the appropriate equipment needed to fish for top water bass. Like any type of angling one should have the proper equipment to use with each different type of bait that he or she might use. Now, don't get me wrong and think that you have to have a different rod for each different type of bait used because that's NOT what I'm saying. For example: Many different types of top water baits can be used with one (the same) certain rod, on the other side of the coin, a totally different rod may be used for the rest of the baits. There are only two rods I personally use and teach with when fishing top water baits, and they are:
- A six and a half foot (6-1/2') medium action rod
- A seven foot (7') medium/heavy action rod
There are many fishing rods to choose from today, and they can range anywhere from $25.00 all the way up to $500.00. But, like anything else… you get what you pay for? Or do you? I have had the most expensive as well as the cheapest, and I found that a "happy medium" rod will work just fine. I have used many different brands of rods in the past until I came across a very unique one that has all the qualities of the most expensive rod but offered at very affordable price. It's the new Kistler "Helium LTA" series rod, and trust me, I don't have to shop around anymore for rods! It's like a Rolls Royce but with the price of a Grand Am. I use these two different action rods for a good reason when fishing top water, so I'll explain: When fishing artificial baits you really must pay strict attention to the hooks that are manufactured with the baits (unless the case is soft plastic baits which I'll cover in a moment.) For example, for the top water baits that come packaged with the smaller type of treble hooks, these types of hooks are much like a crank bait, which the preferred action rod would be a medium because you would want the bend in the rod tip. With these smaller treble hooks you really wouldn't want to use a stiff rod and rare back to set the hook, because it will most of the time pop right out from the bass's mouth. Now, on the other side of the coin, when you use single hooks, double hooks, or the bigger size treble hooks, you want to come back on the rod and set it. This is where you would use a much stiffer and longer type of rod. The medium/heavy action gives you a good hook set and the longer rod gives you a quicker sweep for getting the slack out of your line.
There are many different types of baits made for top water fishing, but I'll give you my top 10 preference. These baits work consistently just about anytime or anywhere and have been proven year after year to be some of the best. That's why I teach most of these baits during my top water segment in my bass fishing school, as well as use them with my bass charter clients. The baits I will list below will not be in any particular order of preference because the daily conditions will usually dictate which one will work the best on any given day.
Zara Spook (Manufactured by Heddon)
The first bait (and probably one of my favorites) is called the "Zara Spook." This is a cigar looking bait that is built with no action. The action you give this bait can be deadly if you work it properly. The common name of the action of this bait known by many anglers is called "Walking the Dog." The way you work this bait is to first, cast it out, then after it hits the water just let it sit for a couple of seconds, then with your rod tip down (almost touching the water) lightly twitch your rod while reeling your slack in at the same time. Try different retrieves such as three twitches, let it pause, then three or four more twitches all the way back to the boat, shore, or dock. This bait is a must for quality bass!
Senko (Manufactured by Gary Yamamoto Custom Baits)
The Senko is probably one of the most popular baits on today's market. The best way to fish this bait for top water is to first, use a light wire hook, without using any weight rig it Texas style. Once you are ready, cast this just about anywhere there is structure (keeping your rod tip upwards) slightly lift the tip of your rod while reeling in the slack, thus keeping the bait on or just under the waters surface, then hold on!
Floating Worm (Manufactured by Yum)
The floating worm is probably one of the best top water baits that an angler may use. I use to use only 6" white or bubblegum floating worms until I was introduced to larger sizes like 9,10, and 11 inch floaters. These larger sizes made a great difference in the quality of the fish I caught. As far as color goes, the white and bubblegum will do the trick, but I just recently came across a very unique color called sherbet, which is made by "Yum." Once I tried it I was sold on them and I won't be without these baits unless the company quits manufacturing them. The best way to rig and work a floating worm is to, first tie about a one foot leader (using your same line that's on your reel) using a very small barrel swivel tied to your main line and a light wire hook on the other end of the leader. The swivel helps prevent line twist, and the small swivel has less weight than a bigger one. Next, take the floating worm and feed the point of the hook straight down the center of the front of the worm, pushing about one inch to an inch and a half down on the point of the hook, then push the point through. Then, while the floating worm hangs straight down, place the point of the hook just inside the belly of the worm keeping it straight (Texas Style.) Now, make a cast anywhere there may be some cover. Let it sit for a moment, then slightly twitch it, making sure you keep the slack out of your line. Repeat this all the way back to you, then cast again.
Superfluke (Manufactured by Zoom)
The Superfluke is in the category of soft jerk baits. It probably has one of the best "injured minnow" actions of any soft jerk bait that I have found. Working it is a snap… First, tie a 3/0 offset worm or wide gap hook onto your line, then place the Superfluke (Texas rigged) on the hook with no weight. Cast it out, and make slight twitches keeping the bait as close to the surface as possible.
Torpedo (Manufactured by Heddon)
The Torpedo is known by many as a "Prop bait", which it has a small silver prop on the end of it. The best way I found to work this bait is to; cast it out, then let it sit in one area while making slight twitches, thus causing a little bubbling action, then let it sit again. If you have ever watched a dragonfly land on the water, you will see a slight flutter of it's wings and then it will just sit still in one place. This is the most effective type of presentation you want to mimic with this bait.
Buzz Bait (Manufactured by Lazer Eye)
The Buzz Bait is truly one of the most exciting top water baits ever made. I have caught many quality bass over the years with this bait, and won't leave home without it! To work this bait, simply tie it on your line and cast it out. When the Buzz Bait hits the water, immediately start your retrieve back, keeping the Buzz Bait running on top of the waters surface.
Stick Bait, also known as a Hard Jerk Bait (Manufactured by Smithwick)
This is a floating hard plastic looking minnow called a Rogue. I have let many inexperienced charter clients of mine use this bait when I know they have little or no experience in angling. Boy, do they work! You just tie it onto your line, cast it out, then make slight twitches with it, letting it pause often.
Pop-R (Manufactured by Rebel)
This type of bait can produce a great many bass when fished correctly. This bait right out of the package will make a gurgling kinda disturbance in the water when you twitch it. Once again, try to work this bait in one area as long as possible, after the twitches, let it sit while reeling in the slack. Now, a little tip for you… If you take a straight file and file down the "Lower Lip" of this bait it will cause a "Spitting" action like some of the more expensive poppers.
Tournament Frog (Manufactured by Snag Proof)
This bait is simply awesome when casting it in and around; lily pads, matted grass, fall downs, reeds, and simply any structure areas.
Spinner Bait (Manufactured by many companies)
A Spinnerbait is probably one of the most versatile bass baits an angler can use because it can be worked (or presented) several different ways. One of the most effective ways to work a spinnerbait is to use it as a "Top Water" bait. You can use this as a top water bait by a technique known as "Waking or Bulging." You simply do this by casting it out, now, right when it hits the water you start your retrieve fast enough to keep this bait on the surface. It will flutter and pop up and down just under the surface, but make sure that you keep it more on top than in the water.
Now comes the tip for top water fishing... Most anglers will set the hook to early on a top water bait because of being a visual type of fishing. The excitement of seeing a bass blow up on a surface bait is such a rush that you sometimes get so excited you set the hook to soon! If you remember this tip I'm about to share with you, you'll find that you will probably catch more surface fish than you ever did before. The key is to "Confirm the Pressure" of the bass before you set the hook. This can make all the difference in the world, believe me…. Let the bass take the bait and draw the slack out of your line causing a straight pressure between you and the fish. Once you FEEL the bass on the line, then set the hook. That's all there is to it!
In sharing this article with you, I hope that you will catch more fish and learn to be more confident with your baits. Don't over work your baits and you will become much more successful when it comes to increasing your numbers in catching bass. I hope this will help the many anglers that have sent me emails with questions concerning top water fishing as well as any angler that loves the sport of bass fishing. If you wish to inquire into my 3-Day Bass Fishing School or simply wish to charter a bass fishing trip on the famous Lake Champlain or Lake George located in upstate New York, feel free to contact me.