Every angler has their own preferred fishing technique that they use when fishing for bass, pikes, muskies, panfishes, and more. I have used multiple fishing method from jigging, worms, spinner, and crank, but my favorite technique thus far, as seen from my catches, is topwater fishing. Whether I’m using a frog, spook, wakebait, or buzzbait, the action above the water when the fish slams it is extremely breathtaking and stunning. Although I do get sore from the constant reeling and twitching of the rod, I can’t be complaining when the result of topwater is being able to see the bass or pike slam the lure. Throughout the years of using topwater, there are a couple rules that you should follow to fully understand the use of topwater:
- Topwater fishing is used more for areas where it’s shallow, where fishes at the bottom of the water can see the ripples and splashes above them, which triggers them to respond to that lure as food. Topwater fishing in deep water would be difficult as the fish will not occasionally stay near the surface.
- Topwater fishing is great when you know when to use. For example, in places with lilypads, frogs would be recommended as that is their natural habitat. Bass or pikes prey on frogs in lilypads, making the frog lure a perfect “dummy” in catching them. In areas where it’s louder from wave crashes and boat motors, buzzbait would be great as this lure creates a wake and a buzz that will trigger nearby bass and pikes to respond.
- The size of the topwater lure definitely matters. Using a bigger topwater lure will eliminate catching smaller bass, or “dinks,” and will attract the bigger predator. For buzzbait, I’ve been selecting the 1/2 oz size, which are relatively bigger and seems to be pulling out big bass as well as some smaller bass who thinks they are a match.
- Depending on the environment, bass will either chase the topwater lure, wait for it to pass above them, or do nothing (some are lazy!). Most buzzbait are fast retrieve lure because of the constant reeling to keep the buzzbait surface and buzzing. Yet, buzzbait’s wake and noise do attract the hungry bass and pike and create giant blowups and aggression. Most frogs and buoyant lure, like a whopper plopper or hollow wakebait and spook, are slow retrieve used to get those lazy bass and pikes that wants an easy meal.
Topwater fishing is a great obsession of mine that I’ve convinced myself to love and be passionate doing. As the season comes to a close with colder water and heavy rainfall, the start of next year will be a great opportunity to grow on the knowledge of topwater fishing.
On a new lake, it’s always a mystery to what you’ll be catching. Although you may be targeting bass, there may be occasions where a pike will covertly stalk your lure and pounce when you least expect it. Pikes share similar environment as bass, whether in rivers or lakes. They are more aggressive and more willing to strike on a lure more than once. As a pike victim myself, I’ve hooked enough of them to know whether I’ve hooked a bass or pike. As stated earlier, pikes are more aggressive and will pull drag, especially a decent sized pike. Although not as aggressive as musky, pikes do fight for a fairly long time and even flailing when you least expect them to. With their sharp, pointy, sandpaper teeth, it is highly recommended to have a gripper and pliers to extract the lure.
Pikes are great for a casual day fishing especially with topwater as the blowups are insane. During tournament day, they may be a bugger as they are capable to easily snap lines. Pikes are native to WI and I’ve learned to be cautious when fishing for them. They’re extremely competent and show no mercy against other predatory and prey fish.
Off a Persuader Three Blade Buzzbait, this approximately 20.5″ largemouth slams the lure with so much strength that, for a few seconds, my rod bent down, rocking my kayak back and forth. Feeling a burst of acceleration after seeing the monster surface and wrestle the water, I carefully fought the hog and slowly reeled it in. At first glance, I thought the bass was a carp due to its football-shaped body, but was soon shaken with excitement after seeing the whole image. A scale wasn’t present at the time, but this bass was eating well; its mouth could have literally fit my hand and everything about it was beautiful. After a quick photo, I released the hog back into the lake to fight another day. ‘Twas a great catch due to an incoming storm, causing me to retreat home. Was it worth the 30-minute drive to fish for 20 minutes? Definitely.
Smallmouth and largemouth bass are two species that don’t commonly share the same environment. In rivers, where the body of water is constantly moving into a larger body of water (such as a lake or river), it is typically inhabited with smallmouth, who adapts and endures the punishment of the river current and rapids. In lakes, where the body of water is relatively calm and doesn’t wake as much, it is typically inhabited with largemouths, who tends to use the tactic of ambush whilst hiding amongst plants such as lily pads or weeds. Any angler who has caught enough smallmouth and largemouth bass will know that smallmouths have the endurance of a cross-country runner while largemouths seem to tap out quicker and give up within a minute or two after being hooked. Although this is the case, largemouth bass has an impressive explosive strike that can be heard hundreds of feet away if the angler is using topwater.
Smallmouth and largemouth bass do share similar taste in lures, but using the right lure at the right time is important. Being a savvy topwater angler like I am, I have discovered different topwater lures that fits the environment of the bass. In rivers, I tend to use buzzbait and propbait more to wake the water as well as create an alarming sound to pull the curiosity of the bass out from underneath the structure. In lakes, I also use buzzbait as well as weedless lures, such as frogs. Frogs are great to use within the mats due to its weedless hooks as well as the relatively-close imitation of a frog. With buzzbait, I’m able to loudly glide the lure amongst the mat and create a disturbance to attract any bass that are hiding by the side of the mat waiting for a quick meal. River bass fishing and lake bass fishing are not limited to the lures that I’ve stated in this passage; there are many techniques that other anglers use, depending on their sole preference, which makes fishing extremely enjoyable to be able to see what other anglers are using as well as being able to use what you have.
Northern pikes are also inhabited in both rivers and lakes and tend to be one of the top freshwater predatory fish in WI due to its sharp rows of teeth which can feed on near anything below and above water. I do enjoy fishing for pikes because their size vary and it’s always a mystery if you’ll be catching a giant pike or not. As a rule of thumb, I always carry a set of plier as well as fish gripper to tackle these pikes when hooked.
Recently, where I live, I’ve been able to hit both rivers and lakes and enjoy the excitement of catching both smallmouth and largemouth bass, and occasionally, pikes. I’ve definitely become more familiar with bass fishing in rivers and lakes as well as what to expect in each habitat.
While floating down the Red Cedar River today in western WI, I noticed a bat tied up in some thick, fluorocarbon fishing line. As you may be aware of, fluorocarbon can really be a mess when tangled together (trust me, I’ve had a bird’s nest on a baitcast with fluoro, it’s a nightmare). This bat was in despair as it flaps above the water trying to escape. It’s about 6-7″, which was the perfect size for any big bass or pikes if these predator were around this commotion. Thankfully, the bat was rescued, dried, and released into the woods, but I was disappointed at the excessive amount of lines across the edges of the woods. Obviously, these lines were cut or snapped by some kayak anglers who didn’t bother to paddle to the tree and retrieve as much line as possible to eliminate any hazard like what the bat witnessed. I understand that if the lines were too high to reach and they intentionally snap the line; but, when the line is retrievable but ignored, that destroys the purpose of fishing and intentionally harming other creatures due to selfishness. The line was removed and stored for later disposal.
Frogging is a topwater skill that may be extremely difficult for others, yet satisfying once the bass is hooked. As a frog user, I know the frustration of setting the hook a tad too late or too early. Throughout the years while frogging on shore and kayak, I’ve learned that there are multiple ways to use a frog whether it is twitching with pauses, popping with pauses, continuous twitching, or walking the frog. The habitat definitely matters to the bass; in thick-covered mats, I usually continuously pop the frog to create that irresistible sound for the bass. Also, as a tip recommended by a friend of mine, I trim off 1/2″ off the tail of the frog as well. You may realize that many bass strike the tail and not the frog itself. The tail is an attractant to many frogs and trimming the tail closer to the hook will definitely improve the hook ratio. Although I still do miss some bass (huge ones also) on frog, I never give up on using them. I always have a pole rigged with a frog for the opportunity to cast into the mats and pull out a hog.
Whether on shore, wading in creeks or rivers, or on a kayak, fly fishing is the ultimate test of using a rod. After you are able to manually cast, set the hook, and maintain consistent drag on a fly rod, using other rods, such as spincast, baitcast, or spinning, will be much easier. This weekend, I entered the lakes and river with a fly rod, eliminating the use of a non-fly rod. The species that a fly rod is able to catch surpasses that of other non-fly rod, as the lures used can vary from small flies to dragonfly-sized popper. From bluegills to trout to bass to whitefish, topwater fly fishing has introduced me to a whole new level of fishing and contagious action.