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Home / Fishing / Articles



Topwater Tactics

By Rob Piorkowski

As I write this article, I'm not thinking about catching fish, but the one that got away. It was last year at this time, and I hooked and lost a truly big bass. I was fishing at a local lake, for less than an hour. I have been fishing for years, but I forgot the easiest rule of topwater baits. Of any fishing techniques, it is the easiest to remember, but hardest to follow. The rule is "Don't set the hook, until you feel the fish". True, I had been casting only a short while, but the excitement of an early bass made me pull the lure away before I hooked the fish. Too many times the boil you see around your bait is the
fish rising to take the bait, or going on top to collect its dinner on the way down. When it looks like the surface is erupting, and the adrenaline is flowing, its easy to pull the bait away. I've had many occasions where I let the bait sit after a hit, and proceed to catch the fish on the second strike. By relaxing and being patient, you will increase your hooking percentage tremendously. 

As far as techniques for chugging baits, I like a variety of retrieves. Start out slow, and try different combinations of twitches. Once the bait hits the water, let it sit for a few seconds, then start a pattern of twitches. Another method is to immediately start twitching a retrieve, this way the fish will not get a good look at the bait. Either method works, it's the retrieve that will keep catching fish. For my twitch pattern, I like to vary between soft and hard jerks followed by reeling in about 3 feet of line. At the new location, start the twitch pattern and wait, if no action pull the bait to the next 3-foot interval. Sometimes, the range could be up to 6 feet; it will depend on conditions. Also, try explosive jerks to soft pulls that barely cause a ripple. 

For chug baits, I prefer ones with a rattle. Shape doesn't bother me as much as color. I heard a saying once that went "Any color will work, as long as it's black". I do prefer dark colors, even when imitating shad or frogs. 

Buzzbaits are on my list of favorites for topwater fishing. There are many versions, but I prefer a single bladed 3/8 ounce. My color choices are chartreuse, white or black. During the retrieve, I like to vary the speed, and even create the appearance of easy prey. Also try moving the rod tip around to change the direction of the bait. Have you ever saw action using a buzzbait, but didn't hook any fish? Try changing to a darker color, then cast back to the location. I've had fish push a white buzzbait away, but smack a black buzzbait minutes later. Also, for buzzbaits, I like to start retrieving before the bait hits the water. By doing this, the bait will be moving when it hits the surface, and be in the strike zone for the maximum amount of time. 

For flyfishing, I prefer to use small, dark colored surface poppers. I've tried others, but I believe rubber legs catch the fish. For colors, I use black, green or a mix of several. The Accardo Bait Company makes many colors and styles that are great for bass and bluegill fishing. Like fishing chug baits, I like to use an erratic retrieve. Try a variation of soft and hard twitches to find the pattern the fish prefer. Usually with the small poppers, I don't wait too long to set the hook. With such a small bait, the fish can taste then spit it out before you might feel the tug. I'll closely watch for surface action, then set the hook on sight of a disturbance. 

Remember, the water doesn't have to be flat or calm to throw a topwater lure. A little chop or wave will help hide flaws in the baits. Also try bumping the baits into structure. I'll aim my cast to bang into logs, rocks of brush piles. Don't be afraid of losing baits, fish will instinctively hit a bait that bounces off a log or rock. Once you see and feel the action of topwater fishing, you'll also be hooked. And finally, when you get that first hit of the year, "Wait to feel the Fish". See ya on the water.

Rob Piorkowski 


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