May 23, 2022
If you poll 100 anglers on their favorite way to catch a bass, I’d wager that 99 would quickly answer "topwater," the lone holdout being someone who never caught a five-pounder on a buzzbait in two feet of water.
Topwater bass fishing is all about the drama: Anticipating the strike, yet always being surprised when it comes. It's an addictive form of bass fishing for which no one is seeking a cure.
While bass can certainly be caught on topwater baits during bright, sunny days, the ideal conditions for me are low light, meaning early and late in the day or anytime significant cloud cover is prevalent. Bass will be out away from cover looking for forage during low-light periods, and a topwater takes advantage of their aggressive nature during these times.
Topwater lures come in many forms; however, there are two specific baits I find myself reaching for most every morning during the warmer seasons: the buzzbait and the walking bait. These two lure styles can be highly effective under similar circumstances, yet each has special times and places where they truly excel.
The buzzbait has been around for decades and is an ideal choice when you're just trying to cover large sections of water in short order. The buzzer also excels across windy points and flats, as the disturbance from the blades helps the bass find the bait in the chop. Yet another advantage of the buzzbait is its ability to come through cover effectively. Shallow bushes, edges of grass mats and lily pad fields are perfect places to probe with a buzzbait due to its weedless design.
The retrieve for the buzzbait is about as simple as it gets: toss it as far as you can and start reeling it back. Keep the rod tip high to allow the bait to plane quickly to the surface while maintaining a slow-to-medium retrieve. I like to reel it just fast enough to keep the bait on the surface, as that slower speed seems to get more bites than faster retrieves.
My tackle setup for the buzzbait consists of a 7-foot to 7-foot 4-inch, medium-heavy rod, which allows me to make longer, more efficient casts. Braid, monofilament and fluorocarbon are all in play with this lure, but lean toward the heavy stuff—15- to 20-pound mono or fluoro, or 30- to 50-pound braid. The bass can’t see the line and you’ll be thankful for the stronger test weights when that big one decides to eat.
This style of lure has produced some of my biggest topwater bass over the years, as there is something very enticing about that side-side, walk-the-dog action. I find myself leaning on this lure when the water is flat and calm or when I want to pause the bait next to shallow cover.
The motion of the walker is imparted with the rod tip pointed downward, allowing the tip to recoil back toward the bait between twitches. This subtle action gives that classic walking motion as you coordinate the turn of the reel handle in conjunction with the rod's action. You quickly develop a rhythm to the retrieve that becomes second nature.
Certainly, one can experiment with retrieve speeds; however, the slower, wider cadence to the bait has caught a lot of fish for me over the years.
My preferred rod length for walking baits is 6-foot 6-inch to 6-foot 10-inch. A shorter rod allows me to easily twitch the rod tip without hitting the side of the boat. Line choices are limited to monofilament or braid, as the density of fluorocarbon causes the line to sink, which greatly hinders the action of the lure. On the other hand, 15- to 20-pound mono or 30- to 50-pound braid floats and won’t impede the lure.
Buzz baits and walking lures have been in my tackle boxes for many years and have earned a permanent place there. If you're new to bass fishing, be sure to stock up on several of each style. They form the foundation of a solid topwater arsenal.