It’s hot. I mean really hot. Summertime in Appalachia typically has a few guarantees and a couple of those are heat and humidity. There are any number of activities that people can do to beat the summer heat, but few are as fun as watching a bass absolutely destroy a top-water lure.
Every year there are a number of people that quit fishing when the hot, humid days of summer begin due to slow biting response. Don’t put away those rods just yet though; there is still a lot of great fishing to be had. In fact, when the temperature rises can be some of the most action packed fishing of the year.
The top-water bait is without a doubt one of the most enjoyable and exciting forms of fishing that we do. As with any style of fishing, there are all kinds of different things that can make an outing successful or not. Focusing your time during low-light hours such as daybreak, nightfall, and throughout the night will greatly put the odds in your favor. In addition, top-water, summertime bass fishing often comes down to simply what kind of lure you have tied on.
One question I see bouncing around every year during summer is, “How do you know what kind of top-water lure to throw?” That’s a loaded question, so I’ll start with the basics.
The majority of top-water lures made fall into one of three general categories: poppers, walkers, and blade/prop style baits. They come in a myriad of colors and sizes as well as various design styles within each category. For the most part, it doesn’t hurt to have a couple of each in your arsenal. Once on the water, it is really just a process of elimination to find out what type, size, and color the bass want.
Blade and prop style baits, such as buzz baits and torpedo style lures, create a lot of noise. Whether you work them slow or fast, making significant water disturbance and causing a scene are the end results. The two main colors I’ve found to be the most productive are white and black. Sometimes the bass can be picky and want a larger or smaller style, but a good “middle of the road” size will cover you in almost all situations.
That same general size principle goes for all top-water style baits. For the most part, and from my experience, throwing these types of baits is either really successful or not much. If you throw a blade or prop lure for 15-20 minutes without any interest at all, it’s time to switch.
Popper style lures are typically elongated in shape and have an opened “cup” on the face of the lure. This “cup” is what makes the popper, well, a popper. I like to work this lure with short twitches and 1-10 second pauses in between. The forward splash of water made by the popper creates an injured baitfish imitation that drives fish crazy. Two specific examples of when I’ll tie on a popper are when fish seem to like the splash of a buzz-bait or prop style lure but keep missing the bait, or when they are inspecting and turning away from the same lures.
This is a good strategy since often times fish want the action of a buzz or prop style lure but will not commit to chasing it down and striking it. The ability to start and stop a popper gives the bass the best of both worlds since the lure creates a significant splash, but also has a subtle stop. Some days however, fish just simply like a little more subtleness to a lures action. This is where walking baits come into play.
I consider walking baits to be the most versatile of all the top-water lures, and my personal favorites. You can work them as slow or fast as you like, as loud or quiet as you like, and they cast a mile! They come in more colors and sizes imaginable as well as with different shaped bodies, rattles, hook options, and well…you get the picture. Generally, these lures are “cigar” shaped. They are simply designed lures which are elongated in nature and have a cone shape to each end. Due to that design, they really don’t make a huge commotion unless you are really working them hard. I like to work them with short twitches of the rod creating that classic side to side motion, or what is referred to as “walking the dog”, stopping just 0.5-5 seconds in between twitches.
Unless I see a lot of bass active feeding on the surface, I usually always start out with this style bait. Once I figure out if the fish want a loud or subtle retrieve, I usually then decide whether or not to switch to a different style lure. For both poppers and walking baits, I generally prefer natural colors such as black, white, silver, green, or multi-colored baitfish specific patterns.
For the most part, once you figure out the type of action they want you can start consistently catching fish. From there, you can experiment with colors and sizes to figure out the “hot” lure of the day. Also, most bodies of water have a certain size and color the fish seem to always prefer. Remember what really works well today because on your next trip out they just might be keyed in on the same exact thing. So next time you look at the forecast and see those hot and humid days stacking the odds against you, grab your top- water box, your favorite fishing rod, and go take advantage of the hand that you are dealt. You never know, it just might be the best day of fishing you have ever had.
Editor, Appalachian Range Outdoors