SA Bass - - Contents - >> John Baden­horst*

“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.

Spin­ner­baits can be fished any time of the year

Soft plas­tic Su­per Flukes is a “must have” in any an­gler’s arse­nal

You haven’t been bass fish­ing if you didn’t catch bass on a top wa­ter Zara Spook!

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