Bass Fishing: Tips for using topwater baits

Dave Mordini
Dave Mordini

By Dave Mordini

The anticipation instantly begins as your topwater bait hits the water. As the rings of water slowly dissipate, you can almost feel a bass wheeling around and keying in on your bait. As you begin your retrieve, you know at any instant the explosion of a rocket-like green torpedo bolting out of the water could happen. That is why I love topwater fishing for largemouth bass. Aside from being a kick in the pants to fish, topwater baits are also highly effective tools of the trade under the right conditions.

I believe bass attack a topwater bait for one of two reasons. First, because they are hungry, and second because the cadence and sound your bait creates triggers a reflex reaction in bass to attack.

Many types of topwater baits are available. Let’s take a look at three of them:

1. Buzzbaits — Similar to a spinnerbait, the large blade creates a wake as it gurgles and sputters along the surface. Dusk and dawn are my favorite times to fish it, as well as midday, when cloud cover is present, or in a light rain or drizzle. I keep colors simple. Most times I fish a white-skirted bait and a silver blade and switch to a black-skirted bait if I am night fishing. I can’t tell you how many bonus fish I’ve caught by adding a trailer hook, if cover allows. Engage your reel and begin your retrieve a split second prior to the bait hitting the water so that the bait does not sink. I reel just fast enough so the bait stays on the surface. Here’s the hard part with all topwater lures: Don’t set the hook until you feel the weight of the fish, which is a lot easier said than done.

2. Poppers — The Rebel Pop-R is kind of the lure that all other popper baits are measured against. Their streamline profile makes for long casts on 6-1/2-foot medium spinning or baitcasting combos. Since they float, they can be worked in tight quarters for as long as you like. Wait for the ripples to go away after your cast. At times, bass will attack the bait while it sits perfectly still, and other times, they will strike it as you’re retrieving it. My favorite retrieval cadence is a “twitch, twitch, pause, twitch, twitch, pause.”

3. Walk-the-dog baits — Slightly larger than the Popper style baits, these baits are retrieved in a side-to-side motion called “walk the dog.” The Zara Spook was the first walk-the-dog bait I fished many moons ago, and it still catches fish today. The Chug Bug is another one of my favorites, as it combines the zig-zag action of a walk-the-dog bait, but can also be fished popper style as a result of its concave front. Using wrist action only, the reel should feel no resistance and should simply gather up slack line. The rod imparts all the action for this retrieve. YouTube videos are offered to help you learn to fish the “walk-the-dog” retrieve.

These are just three examples of topwater lures. Other styles and designs are available, but these are my favorites. I fish them exclusively on monofilament line because it floats. Fluorocarbon line sinks, forcing the nose of the bait down, thus impeding its action.

I am booking six-hour guided bass trips in northwest Illinois near the Wisconsin border. All tackle is furnished, as well as snacks and drinks. Treat yourself or someone special to a relaxing day on the water. More importantly, always remember to make time to take a kid fishing. Until next time, remember: Fish hard and be nice to people.

Dave Mordini is an outdoor writer and a licensed Illinois fishing guide. His Get the Net Bass Fishing Guide Service is offered less than an hour west of Rockford in Jo Daviess County. He can be reached at (815) 790-4538 or

From the July 9-15, 2014, issue

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