Topwater bassin’ fanatics have a saying: “Catching one bass on a topwater lure is worth 10 on anything else.” It’s true. Seeing the drama makes topwater fishing special. You watch the wake of a bass homing in on your lure. You see the fish boil beneath the bait. You witness the hook-set. Your eyes are glued on the bass as it jumps. Fishing doesn’t get any better than that, and during autumn, topwater fishing is at its best.
Topwater lures come in many varieties, and some terrific tricks can increase your catch rate when fishing each type. Here are three to try this season.
The Lure: Popper
Poppers are productive, fun-to-fish bass lures. Each has a face scooped-out, grooved or otherwise designed to catch water. The lure makes a chugging sound when jerked. Examples include Rebel’s Pop-R, Creek Chub’s Super Knuckle-Head and Cabela’s Top Popper.
The Trick: Raking Weeds
On sunny fall days, add a rake to your fishing gear. Bass often lurk in heavily matted weeds when the sun is high this season. Run your boat into the weeds and use the rake to clear a 6-foot hole. Rake out a slot to open water, too. Leave for one hour. Bass soon forget you were there as they gorge on baitfish eating plankton stirred up by your raking. When you return, launch a popper into the hole from a distance. Count to 10, then twitch the lure so it spits. If this doesn’t garner a strike, jerk the popper hard so it makes a deep bloomp sound, and keep it coming. Detonating!
The Lure: Stickbait
Stickbaits have no propellers, lips or built-in action. But skilled anglers can animate them with short, sharp jerks that produce a left-right-left action known as “walking the dog.” Heddon’s Zara Spook, Sebile’s Topwater Stick Shadd and Rapala’s Skitter Walk are among the makes.
The Trick: Head Nod
Stickbaits create a commotion when walked quickly over the surface, but at times, persnickety bass prefer quiet lures, and the fact that stickbaits have no sound-producing features makes them very effective. Cast near cover, and wait a few seconds. Then, gently twitch your rod tip to make the lure nod its head. Repeat, nodding and reeling so the stickbait dimples the water every couple of inches. Bass rarely see lures do this, and few can resist.
The Lure: Prop Bait
A small propeller on one or both ends of the lure body characterizes this group of artificials. On retrieve, water twirls the propellers, causing the lure to sputter like a trolling motor tilted too high. Venerable names include the Smithwick Devil’s Horse, Luhr-Jensen’s Nip-I-Diddee and the Heddon Torpedo.
The Trick: Doodlesocking
For the ultimate in topwater excitement in autumn, try doodlesocking with a prop bait. This old-fashioned bassing method employs a 12- to 16-foot fiberglass or graphite/composite jigging pole instead of a rod and reel. On the end, tie a prop bait with a 24-inch length of heavy braided line. The lure is fished in pockets in shoreline cover. Work it back and forth very quickly with short sweeps of the pole, making as much noise as you can. When a bass hits, it’s like someone set off a depth charge.