The art of angling is built upon many different techniques and methods in order to catch fish. From tossing a crank, hopping a tube, or burning a spinnerbait, the options are wide open for the intuitive rod slinger.
For those searching out heart-stopping action and high-energy thrills, however, tempting fish on the surface is a hands down winner, if only for the visual aspect of boiling water and the crashing of fish. Here are ten tips to get the most out of your topwater experience.
1. Vary Your Speed to Attract More Interest
Many people make the mistake of working a topwater lure at a constant speed. This will work in some instances, but to really get the fish wound up and willing to strike, you need to change things up every once in a while.
Speed up your lure during mid-retrieve, rip it across the surface at splash down, or simply dead stick it in place halfway back to the boat. Change is good, and it will be these nuances and variables that can turn a following fish into a netted one.
2. Premium Hooks are Key
Topwaters can still be found on tackle shelves with inferior or sub-standard hooks. When dealing with quick-striking and lunging fish, sticky-sharp hooks are mandatory on all of your baits.
Change treble hooks if they are lacking in quality, with a nod going to any of the chemically sharpened replacements hooks currently on the market. Excalibur, Gamakatsu and Owner will work well in providing superior hooking power and penetration.
3. Turn To Trailers
Adding bulk and colour to your presentation can be easily accomplished with a plastic, pork or feather trailer. For buzzbaits or topwater spoons, a plastic, twist-type tail or pork chunk will do the trick nicely. When tossing Spooks or Poppers, a feather-adorned hook will bring home the fish.
Trailers will provide an easier target for your quarry to strike, while also providing added attraction and flash, which works well for luring fish in from farther away.
4. Don’t Turn Your Back on the Midday Attack
We all know that topwater baits work like magic during the early morning and evening hours, but what about throwing them at high noon? In my mind, surface baits can be utilized throughout the entire day, especially when water conditions are murky or fish are extremely aggressive. When targeting muskies, high noon is the preferred time for the pros, whereas smallmouth fishing can be positively deadly when the sun is high in the sky. Different lakes will dictate different feeding habits, so always remember that “anytime is the right time for topwaters.”
5. Surface Baits and Slop Go Hand in Hand
Most anglers think of surface baits as open water tools, with many willing to use them around and adjacent to weeds, but never right in the thick of things. That’s a big mistake. Fishing the slop with weedless topwater baits, such as frogs, rats and spoons can provide dynamite action, especially when Mr. Largemouth is the target for the day.
6. Choosing a Colour
Topwater baits come in every colour under the sun, oftentimes leading to confusion when gazing at the tackle store shelves. To simplify matters, stick with natural colours when making your selection, including such hues as silver, blue, black and white. Keep in mind that it is more the action that the bait gives off, as opposed to the colour it portrays, that will actually attract the fish. The only steadfast rule of thumb for colour is black during the “witching hour.” This shade will give an excellent silhouette to any fish looking up against the night sky, enabling it to locate your lure more easily.
7. Topwaters Aren’t Only For Calm Conditions
We’ve all been witness to the images – early morning mist, not a ripple on the water and a topwater plug being worked slowly along the surface. Yes, calm water conditions are excellent for strikes on top, but a bit of wind and a rippling of waves can be even better.
Wind and wave action will stir up the water, causing baitfish to move around and the larger predators to follow their every move.
Don’t be afraid to fish surface baits when conditions get rough – choosing larger lures that produce more of a commotion is the right technique for getting those explosive strikes to happen.
8. Always Cast Past Your Target
Surface baits have an uncanny way of attracting fish, yet they can also be made to spook fish if the proper cast is not made. Always cast well past your target when tossing topwaters, be it a tree, dock, hump or weed edge. This is especially true if you visually spot a cruising fish, or see feeding action off in the distance.
Landing directly overhead will make most fish scurry of in a flash, so keep those casts long and well past the area you intend to fish.
9. Rattle Them Up
Although it is often the spray being thrown or the wake in the water that attracts fish to your presentation, sound also plays a major role in getting bites. Look for topwaters that have built-in sound chambers, capable of producing loud clacking noises on each pull or pause. Internal BB’s work best over deep water, drawing fish in and off the bottom, and ultimately triggering them to strike.
10. The One-Two Punch
Topwater baits can be very effective in getting fish to bite, yet you will run into days when the fish are forever missing your lure. When a fish strikes, but comes up short, reel in your lure quickly and toss out a tube, grub or jerk worm to the precise location. Nine times out of ten, that same fish will charge your plastic offering, refusing to miss out on an easy meal for the second time around. Mark it up as Angler-1, Fish-0.
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