June 2008

Margie Anderson

TOP IT OFF -- A rock pile like this one at Bartlett Lake is perfect for topwater or jigs.

Summer Bass: Top to Bottom

Tips For Topwater Angling

By Margie Anderson

It’s hard to beat the excitement you feel catching big bass on topwater. Topwater lures are almost always considered big-fish baits, and if you choose the right lure and work it right, you can draw the big ones out from deep water and even get suspended fish to eat. 

Different situations call for different baits, but fortunately there is a topwater lure for almost every condition you may find yourself facing.

A lot of people fish topwaters during the spring, but they put them away and pull out the worm bag in the summer. But summer is actually one of the best times of year for topwater fishing. 
Even in the hottest part of the day, you can get big bass to come up out of the rocks or trees and grab a little popper or a Zara Spook.  A lot of pros rely on topwater baits during summer tournaments on clear-water lakes like Mead.

In Thick Vegetation

On the central Arizona lakes we don’t get much vegetation, but some of the lakes in the southern part of the state, and those up north get plenty of weeds in the shallows, and those weeds just keep getting thicker and harder to fish over the summer.  In such thick vegetation, one of the very best lures to use is a plastic frog. 

Usually you can just cast it out and twitch it back, but experimenting a little will let you know what the fish want.  Twitch it, then let it set for a second, maybe fishing a little slower in cooler water then speeding up as the water worms.

Three-Legged Frog

Gene Larew has a new plastic frog with three legs.  It floats even with a 5/0 hook, and the three legs give it an amazing buzz over the surface.  Even with no weeds at all, this frog is absolutely dynamite bait in summer. 

Try throwing it around stick-ups, salt cedars, or rock piles.  It floats at rest because of Larew’s soft plastic floating formulation, and the body is solid, not hollow, so you can work it around even tough stickups without its collapsing and taking on water.

It has a hook compartment in its belly, instead of a traditional hook slit, to help reduce friction during hooksets. Since this frog is solid, not hollow, you can cast it a long way even on stout tackle. 

If you are fishing thick vegetation, you really need to be using braid and a good frog rod like the Dean Rojas Quantum Frog Rod.  It’s a 7-foot medium/heavy fast action rod that Rojas (King of the frog fishermen) designed. 

Pair this with a fast reel (Rojas uses an E770 PT Quantum Burner with a 7.0:1 gear ratio) so you can get control over big fish quickly and get them out of the trash.  This is essential even if you’re fishing rocks or salt cedars.  If you let him, the bass will immediately head for deep cover, so you need to get control of him right away.

Dobyns Likes A Sammy

For more open water on calm days, California pro Gary Dobyns likes a Lucky Craft Sammy.  “The Sammy is a subtle walking bait that works well on flat water,” explains Dobyns.

“My favorite is the Ghost pattern, which is mostly clear with a little red on the bottom.  The smaller model is great for spotted bass, especially when they are suspended out in open water.  I also throw a Sammy on banks where there isn’t much vegetation and in pockets in the backs of coves.

“Walking the dog with a Sammy doesn’t tear the water up as much as it does with a Spook, and sometimes this subtle action is just what it takes to get the big ones to bite.”

If there is wind or a chop on the water, a big Zara Spook is great.  It’s easy to cast in the wind and it’s also a good bait to work over mildly rough water.  They are good for suspended fish.  

Walk The Dog

Points and coves, and even deep, open water are all places where a Spook will catch fish.  A steady walk-the-dog retrieve is all it takes to fish a Spook successfully, and you never know what you’re gonna catch.  At Pleasant, the big stripers just love Spooks, and if you get into a school of them, you’ll have incredible action until they move on.

Sharp hooks are an absolute must on topwater lures.  Pros like Dobyns almost always change the hooks out before using a bait.  He likes to upsize the hooks, but you may need to play around with them to make sure you don’t detract from the action of the bait by using too big a hook. 
On Spooks, Gary uses a #2 Gamakatsu EWG treble on each end and a #4 in the middle.  Using a smaller one in the middle keeps them from getting tangled together. With poppers and Sammys, he leaves the feathered treble on the back and switches to a #4 round bend Gamakatsu treble hook on the front.