“Topwater Time” Lazy days without wind and slow moving clouds across the heavens… not too hot and also still pleasant in the early evening. – John Badenhorst
Lazy days without wind and slow moving clouds across the heavens… not too hot and also still pleasant in the early evening. These are the days that many anglers have waited a long time for; some have waited for as long as a year for these days to come around again.
As the sun sets, the surface of the water is as smooth as glass with the odd fish showing itself through the gentle dimple to mark its passing. You cast, the lure sails into your chosen spot and lands with a splash. You wait for the ripples to die down and then you give it a twitch. Slowly you work the lure back towards the bank and somewhere between the first and third cast, the water explodes in a flurry of foam and spray as a hungry bass launches itself out of the water below to smash that topwater lure you’ve been working so patiently. On another occasion, the lure will be sitting quietly waiting for you to twitch and when you look again, there is just a ripple but no lure and you feel the tension of the rod loading up. Setting the hook unleashes the full fury of our olive and gold denizens of the deep as it launches high into the air to try and shake the hook.
The allure around topwater angling has to be the sheer adrenalin and excitement in seeing the take as a visual experience. While fishing with cranks and standard plastics and of course spinnerbaits, will at this time of the year result in some good solid fish, there is no denying the fact that all of us dedicated anglers look forward to that explosion on the surface. Some anglers will sit for two to three weeks replacing hooks, sorting baits and buying some new topwater toys to play with in anticipation of the next couple of weeks. This time of the year, there is a slight drop in overall water temperature and although we as humans might not feel it in ambient temperatures, the fish below most definitely do and this will trigger them into some sort of eating frenzy to help build up reserves for the colder months that lie ahead.
Due to the changing angle of the sun, the time that we usually fish our topwater lures during the height of summer now extends for as much as two hours before sunset. Let me explain… bass have very sensitive eyes and when the sun is at its brightest, they tend to hide in or near cover or most possibly sit in slightly deeper water to avoid hurting their eyes. As the sun becomes less harsh in its intensity, the bass tend to venture out to feed earlier in the afternoon and a bit later during the morning hours.
There is a huge amount of topwater lures to choose from and one simply has to visit a tackle store to see what is available. From frogs to bats, rats, sliders, poppers and everything exotic in-between, the choices are endless. Here it helps to have a few standard, tried and tested options available for your arsenal. My first choice would be a hollow bodied frog such as the SPRO range of frogs. My second choice would be something like the classic Zara Spook with its unmistakeable walk-the-dog action. A good third choice would be a close faced popper
It’s the perfect time to get some surface action because as the seasons change, there is less likelihood of those pesky afternoon thundershowers and the wind that usually arrives with those.
Just some advice here, when you purchase a bait, especially frogs with the double hook, use good quality pliers and bend the hooks slightly outward by a fraction of a millimetre.
that creates a very distinctive popping sound when jerked and to round it off, I would use something like a buzzbait or a something exotic like the Savage Gear 3D Bat with its unique swimming action.
The retrieval method varies from time to time and only practice will give you an indication of how aggressive the fish on patrol happen to be given the time of day or the venue being fished. After a few casts, you might notice some bow waves heading towards the lure but stopping short without any commitment. If this happens, try speeding up the retrieve to awaken the natural aggressive nature of the bass. If there is still no commitment, it either means that the fish coming up for the bait is too small to commit or else they just not that interested from the start. Don’t give up yet though, a friend of mine has taken over three years to experience that very first explosion that left him breathless and weak kneed. It’s worth it to keep at it. That explosion might just come when you least expect it and it most often does.
Rod choices are just as endless but you shouldn’t have to break the bank to get a decent medium to medium heavy casting or even a spinning rod matched with a good quality reel and depending on the structure around your chosen spot, using braid, monofilament or even fluorocarbon is a matter of choice.
This will ensure a better hook-up ratio. When the fish explodes on your lure, the normal reaction is to strike, this in most cases ends up in failure. Rather wait for a second or two, feel for the rod loading up and then set the hook. Bass will hit the lure violently and take it below the surface, once they do this, they will either drop the lure or swim away with it, this happens in a heartbeat and if you strike too early you might lose a good fish or even a possible PB.
Topwater angling is just another incredible facet of our sport in what makes bass fishing so dynamic and rewarding. Grab a rod and some lures and get out there, soon the water and days will be cold and then we will long for those days of explosive takes and big smiles while taking pictures. Remember to send us your pictures for our Readers-Go-Bassin’ section.
*John Badenhorst is the editor of SA BASS magazine, the Master of Ceremony for FLW South Africa, radio presenter at Platinum Gold Radio and a keen ultra finesse angler.
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You haven’t been bass fishing if you didn’t catch bass on a top water Zara Spook!