Bass are moving off the beds. The males are very aggressive right now and the females, once recovered from the spawn and all the troubles they went through, will be on the feed as well. Now is a great time to fish on top.
When bass get aggressive, they have to be the most fun fish in the world to catch. There is nothing better than heading out in the early morning hours, casting a topwater bait and seeing that big explosion on the surface. Last weekend Missy and I were out preparing for a tournament and decided to run up to an old spot we had. When we got there, we ran into about 15 boats, all circling and cruising the area, hunting for bass.
I was a little discouraged at first, but after watching all of these anglers fish for a while and seeing none of them catching anything, I decided to change it up. I reached into my rod locker and pulled out a Rebel Pop-R and started throwing that. It wasn’t long before I had on a nice bass close to 3 pounds. With all the other boats in the area, I kept the bass in the water and brought him in very slowly so no one would pay attention to what we were doing.
It wasn’t long before I caught my second one. Because we were practicing for a tournament, I decided to get out of that area. I’d found a small patch of fish and didn’t want to stick any more than I had already caught. Before I left that area, I circled the spot and looked at what was under the water to try and see if I could duplicate that in another spot. What was there was a bunch of clumps of scattered hydrilla. In this spot, fish were hitting the surface of the water constantly.
Knowing that not all of them were bass due to the rings they made when they surfaced, we kind of realized that all of the fish feeding in there had to be hitting on small schools of baitfish. We could see small schools moving everywhere. It was almost like they were moving from one clump of hydrilla to another for safety.
The beauty of the Pop-R in that situation is that it stays at the surface of the water. Most of the other anglers I saw were fishing a spinnerbait, Rat-L-Trap or fluke. The biggest advantage that I had over those throwing the other types of baits was that I had something that I could leave sitting still at the surface, allowing the bass to lock in on it and strike. All of those other baits have to keep moving. Don’t get me wrong, they’re not bad baits — but they weren’t producing the way a topwater bait that can sit still was producing.
There is a time and place for every bait. Otherwise, we wouldn’t have so many to choose from. When I have vegetation under the water and a smooth surface, I’m going for the popping baits, or something that makes a little bit of noise to draw attention to it. That noise will mimic the sounds of dying or otherwise disabled baitfish on the surface, which will trigger a bass to bite.
If the bait is always moving, especially when you have underwater vegetation, the bass may not have a chance to lock in on the bait. It’s gone before they can locate it. Slow that presentation down. The Pop-R has always been a topwater bait that I can rely on.
Now, if the water is choppy, you need to do something different because the wind is up. The spinnerbait and swimbait are good choices in these conditions. Both can be retrieved slowly, and both are pretty much weedless. You can tick the vegetation and get those baits through the cover. Not to mention, because you can fish it slower, you are more likely to trigger some reaction bites with those baits.
If the vegetation is topped out, I would go with the swimbait. It allows you to fish slowly, making that bait crawl around the vegetation. A frog is also a good choice in this situation. So there are baits for all occasions. Knowing which one to tie and for each situation can be key to catching bass on top water baits.
Don’t be afraid to get out and try some of these different ways to fish topwater baits. It’s the most exciting way to catch bass, and right now we’re seeing great conditions to get them on topwater. Get out, give it a try, and see if you don’t put a few more bass in the well.
Greg Bartz is a tournament bass fisherman based in Lakeland. Greg fishes lakes throughout Florida’s Heartland and enjoys RV travel around the Southeast with his wife and tournament partner, Missy. Contact him at Greg.Bartz@SummitHoldings.com.