Ex­plode on Top­wa­ters

Make Bass (and MUSKIES, TUNA, PIKE, and PAN­FISH)

Outdoor Life - - FRONT PAGE - by JOE CERMELE

It wasn’t the hit that stuck with me. It was the wake. Four years ago in Au­gust, on the Cree River sys­tem in north­ern Saskatchewan, tucked into a reed-lined cove, I let a slider go in a 40-foot cast. There wasn’t a breath of wind. Not a rip­ple on the sur­face. The in­tense quiet made that fly’s smack-down sound like the crack of a ri­fle. Strip. Gur­gle. Strip. Gur­gle. It only took two pulls be­fore a sparse clump of reeds 15 feet to the right of the bug stirred. A half-sec­ond later, that gen­tle rus­tle ma­te­ri­al­ized into a bulging push of wa­ter that had so much mass be­hind it, it looked like a fire ex­tin­guisher be­ing pulled just be­low the sur­face. When it hap­pens, it may last for only the length of a sin­gle heart­beat, but that feel­ing of know­ing it’s com­ing—know­ing the fish is locked on and com­mit­ted—is the great­est in the world. I stripped once more and the 42-inch pike ex­ploded on the fly. It re­mains my big­gest north­ern to date, and though I’d have been happy to catch it sub­sur­face, there’s some­thing about a top­wa­ter strike that makes any fish more spe­cial. That can be said of any species will­ing to rise to the oc­ca­sion.

Top­wa­ter fish­ing is as syn­ony­mous with sum­mer as bar­be­cue and a dip in the neigh­bor’s pool. On the river, small­mouths are go­ing air­borne for drag­on­flies. On the lake, that deep-wa­ter hawg large­mouth is up shal­low in the pads, wait­ing for a frog to make a se­ri­ous mis­take. Trout are sip­ping bugs from one side of the coun­try to the other. On ev­ery coast, schools of bait­fish are get­ting thrashed up top by every­thing from stripers to snook and tar­pon to tuna. Now is the time to let those pop­pers fly and those dogs walk. There is no sweeter sound on a sum­mer night than that of a buzzbait slic­ing through an oil-slick farm pond. There is no greater achieve­ment than land­ing a mas­sive muskie on a huge, churn­ing prop­bait. No mat­ter your fa­vorite top­wa­ter game, we’ll help you level up, from the bluegill creek to the gi­ant bluefin grounds off­shore.

A small­mouth sky­rock­ets af­ter nail­ing a top­wa­ter.

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