It was a typical summer afternoon in Georgia, hot and humid. I had taken one of my buddies fishing at one of my coveted honey holes, a farm pond in my hometown of Moreland where I had fished since I was a kid. My friend was from the northwest and was just in town for the week, and I intended show him a good day of southern bass fishing. Unfortunately the fish were not cooperating. We had failed to make a single catch at all that day. Just when we were about to give up all hopes of a fish fry that night, I decided to tie on a Zara-Spook and make a last effort. I cast it out near a thick weed bed close to the center of the lake. After a few twitches the water around the lure exploded like a depth charge as it was engulfed by a six-pound large-mouth. After I had secured my prize on a stringer I decided to try my luck again near the same spot. Much to the surprise of both my buddy and myself there was a repeat performance by a fish that could have passed as the others twin. Guess we were having a fish fry after all!
On the same pond a year earlier I had caught two fish at once on a Bagley Chug-O-Lure, one on the front treble hook and one on the back. They weren’t trophy size by any means, maybe a pound each, but memorable nonetheless. And I realize that reflecting back on all the big and memorable fish that I’ve caught, the only ones that I can recall the exact details of the catch are the ones I’ve caught on topwater lures. There’s nothing like seeing a fish explode from the depths to attack a surface lure, or watching as a huge bucket mouth sticks his head out of the water as he sucks your lure into his mouth. There’s just something about not only feeling but also seeing this event as it happens. And over the years I think this is why the topwater lures in my box have become my favorite for fishing in just about any condition. Some of my favorite lures and techniques are listed in this article.
The buzz-bait is a fairly new lure design in that it’s only been around for about the last twenty years or so, but it is very effective. I have found that some anglers still haven’t added this lure to their arsenal or shy away from using it. I think that’s usually because they either haven’t given it a chance or haven’t taken the time to learn how to properly fish it. This is one of the most versatile lures I’ve found and is also an excellent fish locator, as you can cover a large area due to its high-speed of retrieve and long casting distances.
Buzz-baits are available in a variety of sizes and designs. Some have 2 bladed propellers, some three, and some have an added “cackling ” blade that clanks against the propeller during retrieve. My personal favorite is a plain two-blade propeller in a medium size with a plain white or Chartreuse skirt.
These lures are especially effective in shallow water close to the banks and around obstructions and vegetation, places where bass tend to congregate in the late afternoon and early morning however they can also get the attention of fish in deeper water and bring them to the surface. The design of the lure makes it fairly weed-less allowing you to fish in areas you might not be able to use other surface lures. Sometimes I will purposefully bounce the blade off a log or other obstruction during the retrieve, as this seems to drive even stubborn bass crazy, resulting in furious strikes.
For the beginning buzz-bait user it may take you a couple of try’s to perfect your technique, but don’t be discouraged. The rewards of learning the proper use of this lure will be great. You’ll have to begin your retrieve almost as soon as it hits the water and keep it on the surface of the water. To do this will require a quick retrieve and you’ll have to keep your rod tip high. As you get more used to the lure you’ll also learn to steer it around obstructions by moving your rod tip from side to side, this is useful in bouncing the blade off an obstruction as I discussed earlier.
Walking The Dog
The walking the dog technique has been around for a long time but it still works like a charm. I still use the original Zara-Spook for this method but there are also a lot of other lures made now of a similar design. The size of this lure seems to appeal to the large fish but you’ll also still catch plenty of smaller ones.
To use this technique with a Zara-Spook or similar lure, you simply twitch the rod tip to one side on the retrieve, which will cause the lure to jerk from side to side. This motion seems to be one that really attracts the fish, probably because it resembles the actions of a wounded minnow.
Another advantage to the full size Spook type lure is that you can cast it a country mile. But it’s also available in smaller sizes depending on your preference and fishing conditions.
Topwater Worm Rig
This worm rig simply consists of a soft plastic worm rigged weed-less with no weight. You probably want to use light spinning tackle with this rig because of its lightweight, which makes it difficult to cast.
Any type worm can be used with this rig but some will float better than others. A lot of anglers use the old-fashioned long straight worm that doesn’t have a curly tail as they offer a unique action when fished in this way and tend to float well. The method of retrieve is up to you, jerking motion, or straight retrieve, slow, or fast. Experiment for yourself and find what works in the given situation.
Rigged properly this is one of the most weed-less lure configurations around making it great for casting into dense lily pads and weed beds. It’s also great for close to shore fishing like around bulrush and other vegetation. Bass can’t seem to resist this rig, even finicky or spawning fish will strike at this lure if you can get it close enough to them. If bass are on bed I’ve found this is sometimes the only lure they’ll pay attention to. If you do spot a big bass on bed, or hanging out in the shallows, don’t be afraid to cast this lure in the same area more than once because sometimes it takes a few times to really get their attention.
Poppers have been around for a long time also and come in a lot of different styles, but they’re all fundamentally the same. The main feature is a concave mouth on the front of the lure that catches water and causes the popping sound. This is a fairly straightforward lure to use, you simply retrieve the lure with a jerking motion that makes the lure pop. I usually allow the lure to sit for a few seconds after it first hits the water. This allows time for any fish that may have been momentarily spooked by the cast to come back and investigate it. Sometimes you’ll even get strikes while the lure is just sitting there. I usually try allowing enough time for the ripples caused by the splash to clear.
The speed of retrieve is up to you and you may want to vary it to see what works best on a particular day. One old trick I’ve used is to remove the rear treble hook and replace it with a trailer of some kind, like a curly tail or minnow type jig attached with a short leader. The larger noisier poppers are sometimes good to use on a windy day when you’ll need to cause a little more commotion to overcome the waves.
In closing I hope everyone can have as many memorable experiences using topwater lures as I’ve had and continue to have. Try all these methods if you haven’t already and don’t be afraid to try new things and experiment with these techniques to make them your own. I can’t wait to get back on the lake myself and experience the next memorable catch!