Spring is an excellent time to fish topwater baits for large bass. As a bass fisherman, I enjoy the beautiful nature of this sport–the orange glow of the sunrise, the calming of the wind and waves, the continued motion of casting and retrieving.
Regardless of where they live, bass follow the same general life cycles. The two primary influences in their lives are spawning and feeding, and both are in topwater patterns in spring.
During winter, bass hang in deep water, normally in large schools, and they change between lengthy periods of inactivity and short, frantic feeding sprees. But when winter starts giving way to spring, these large schools break up as bass drift away toward spawning areas. This breakup and migration occur when the water temperature nudges into the 50s, and this is the prelude to topwater time.
As the water temp creeps progressively higher, bass move closer to their spawning areas: rocky or sandy shoreline banks, flats bordering channels and ditches, submerged roadbeds in the back of creeks, and other shallow, hard-bottomed, protected structures. These are the places on which topwater anglers should focus.
When the water temperature cracks 60 degrees, it’s time to begin throwing surface baits. Now the bass are fully active, and they’re feeding heavily to prepare for the rigors of sweeping nests, laying eggs, and protecting against predators. Crawfish, sunfish, shad, frogs, and other subsurface creatures are regular items on their menu. Still, any bait that appears alive and struggling on the surface is a likely candidate.
High on this list is a long, slender, floating minnow, such as the floating Rapala or Rebel minnow. This is the traditional first topwater lure for many fishermen, and for good reason. When the water temperature hits 60 degrees, bass still aren’t far removed from the lethargy of winter. However, on a calm, warm day in early spring, these fish will attack a floating minnow that is bobbed within easy striking distance. This bait’s delicate presentation matches the fish’s mood this time of year.
Because they are light in weight, topwater minnows must be fished on fairly light tackle. An ideal rig would be a medium-light baitcasting rod/reel spooled with 8 or 10 lb. line. A suitable alternate would be a medium action spinning combo with 8 lb. test.
The technique with a floating minnow is simple. Cast it into likely areas, near cover if any exists, reel up slack and wait until all ripples disappear. Then, simply twitch the bait with the rod tip, bobbing the head down with a minimum of forward movement. Next, wait for these new ripples to spread away, and then repeat this process.
As water temperature climbs into the mid-60s, fishes’ metabolism rises correspondingly. Now faster, louder baits come into play. Three standards choices are poppers, propeller baits, and walking baits.
Poppers are concave in the front. When pulled with short repeated jerks, a popper makes the “slurp, slurp” sounds of bass surface feeding on minnows. This noise excites fish within hearing and seeing range and draws them in from potentially a long distance.
The best tackle for fishing poppers is a medium action baitcasting rig and 12-20 pound line. Basically, these lures are meant for covering broad areas rather than small targets. Anglers should work poppers down banks, over shallow flats, parallel to weed or grass edges, through standing timber, or along other, similar structure. These baits may also be used around specific targets such as logs or stumps. However, their objective is to cover water quickly and attracting scattered fish.
Propeller baits come in several models and blade configurations. Some are thick and have large blades on the front and/or back. When jerked, these lures cause maximum disturbance on the surface. They are appropriate when the water is choppy or stained and/or plenty noise is needed to gain the fish’s attention.
Prop baits are equally good at fishing broad areas and small targets. Like poppers, prop baits can be worked with a pull-stop, pull-stop action along linear structure. Or they can be thrown past a specific target, jerked up to the prime strike zone, then stopped and quivered as explained earlier.
Walking baits cut an enticing trail along banks, standing timber, roadbeds, docks, etc. These cylinder shaped plugs should be fished with medium action baitcasting tackle and 12 or 16 pound test monofilament. The rod is held near the water’s surface, and the rod tip is jerked in a steady rhythm with your wrist. When done properly, this causes the bait to walk back and forth through the water with a pronounced zigzag action.
So which of these baits is best on any given day? Actually, the right pick is easy–the selection is based on weather/water conditions and preferences of the fish.
Again, slender minnows are tops for the pre-spawn period when water is calm and relatively clear. However, if the water is choppy and/or dark, try one of the other three.
For reasons known only to the bass, some days they prefer one type of bait over the other two, and this preference can change from day to day. So to cover broad areas of water, alternate between poppers, prop baits and walking baits. Be alert as to which one draws the most attention. Once the bass indicate their choice, stick with it.
Perhaps the biggest mistake most fishermen make with floaters is working them too fast. It is critical to avoid being in a hurry with these baits, especially when working specific targeted areas. After casting a surface lure, an angler should wait at least 20 seconds before starting his retrieve. This allows spooky fish to get over the intrusion of the bait in their territory and to become curious or even enraged about its presence.
Time of day is very important in fishing surface lures in early spring. Periods of low light (dawn and dusk) are always good bets when bass are hitting topwaters. However, in early spring, noon through mid-afternoon may be the magic time.
Another factor that affects water temperature, hence surface feeding, is size and depth of the lake or pond. Smaller, shallower waters warm faster than larger, deeper ones. Therefore, surface activity normally begins up to two weeks earlier on stock ponds and watershed lakes than it does on large reservoirs in the same region.
Because topwater fishermen work thin, often clear water, they should take extra precautions to avoid spooking bass. Approaches to fishing areas should be quiet and made with the electric motor instead of the outboard. Casts to specific targets should be fairly long to keep from getting the boat too close. A fisherman’s shadow should never fall across a stump, log or other object where he expects a fish to be.
When fishing topwaters, it is imperative for anglers to keep constant eye contact with their baits and to concentrate on working it as effectively as possible. Sometimes, especially with floating minnows, bass suck the bait under instead of smashing it. Fishermen who are daydreaming will miss this opportunity.
And finally, when a bass does strike, don’t set back too soon. Instead, prepare yourself mentally to “feed” the bait to the bass, literally waiting until you see that the lure has disappeared and your line is swimming away. Then drive the hooks home, and chances of a solid hookset will rise.
Good luck and keep those lines tight!
by Cody Larrimore
– See more at: http://www.alloutdoor.com/2014/05/28/spring-topwater-fishing/#sthash.CZy1Q0Ei.dpuf