July 08, 2020
By Dr. Jason Halfen
Few events in the fishing universe rival the excitement of a bass crushing a topwater lure. The visual experience of presenting a frog, popper or walking bait on the surface creates a palpable sense of nervous anticipation, which can only be relieved by a positive hookset. Let’s examine some of the current tools of the topwater trade that will help you hoist more bass into the boat.
While poppers, walking baits, prop baits and frogs are classic topwater lures, modern innovations in materials and manufacturing ensure they remain timeless in their effectiveness. Consider the hollow-body frog. Today’s best frogs balance sufficient weight for long casts with optimum buoyancy to float with a lifelike profile at rest: head high and tail low. Their soft, flexible bodies collapse readily under the pressure of a bite to ensure positive hooksets.
LiveTarget hollow-body frogs are among the top-performing topwaters in my collection. The company prides itself in crafting remarkably lifelike lures, and its frogs are near-exact replicas of their living counterparts. However, on-the-water performance of a lure always supersedes its appearance in the package, and LiveTarget frogs are the real deal. They cast a mile, float perfectly at rest, and attract a ton of attention when slithered through cover or worked in open water.
Like all topwater lures, pausing a moment after the strike—so that the line comes tight and the bass has a chance to dive away from the boat—will help make hooksets more effective. If you’re still missing lots of strikes, consider giving the rubber skirts that represent the frog’s back legs a little trim; sometimes, those long skirts can get wedged between the hook and the frog’s body, impeding a positive hookset.
A hybrid lure is one that blends the features of two or more other baits in an effort to make the hybrid more effective than its predecessors. Hybrid lures are no stranger to the topwater arena, and the Prop Walker from Savage Gear is one new hybrid that has earned a place in my tackle collection.
The body of the Prop Walker is reminiscent of pencil poppers that are so popular among saltwater anglers. It’s slender in the front with a cupped head that spits a lot of water, and has a large, loud internal rattle chamber and an aerodynamic, long-cast profile. Concealed within its rotating tail section are a pair of robust, snap-out propeller blades that convert the walking bait into a water-churning prop bait that creates a ton of commotion and a long-lasting bubble trail. You can quickly change between a walk-the-dog retrieve for clear water and an aggressive, noisy presentation for dirty water, without having to tie on a new lure or grab a different rod.
The right rod is a key component of every topwater presentation. This is no time to break out the buggy whips with hopes of wrangling an oversized largemouth out of cover. Most effective topwater rods fall into the heavy or medium-heavy power categories.
A recent trend in rods has been a movement toward slower, more parabolic actions—especially when paired with braided lines—to act as an effective shock absorber and keep hooks set when pulling bass from cover. Many moderate-action rods are engineered from linear S-glass rather than stiff graphite, which provides the added benefit of making the rod incredibly light in the hand.
The 7-foot-2-inch, heavy-power, moderate-action Mojo Bass Glass from St. Croix serves as the nucleus of my topwater presentations. It has proven effective for walking baits in open water as well as working frogs in the slop. I pair it with a Shimano Curado DC150 spooled with 50-pound-test Seaguar Smackdown in stealth gray, which minimizes line visibility near the lure. When fishing a topwater armed with treble hooks, I add a short leader of 20-pound-test Seaguar Tatsu to help prevent the lure from becoming fouled in the line during the cast.