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Ontario Fishing Network

Volume 8,  Issue 6 - June 2008  #90


Three Foolproof Topwater Tactics for Smallmouth Bass
By Tim Allard

Boat Cleaning 101
By Justin Hoffman

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Three Foolproof Topwater Tactics for Smallmouth Bass
By  Tim Allard

This article concentrates on three foolproof topwater baits for smallmouth bass: prop baits, poppers and cigar-style lures. Each has a different action on the surface and all regularly fool smallmouth bass.

Prop Baits:
These lures feature one or more blades on their bodies. The blades spin during the retrieve, displacing water and creating a metallic gurgling sound. Some models only have back blades, like Heddon’s Torpedos, while others feature both front and back blades, like Cotton Cordell’s Crazy Shad.

These baits excel in calm or slightly rippled water conditions. There are many ways to fish them. One is a stop-and-go retrieve. Experiment with short and long twitches. Twitch the bait so it spurts forward. Then let it rest for a few seconds before beginning the twitching retrieve again.

An alternative is retrieving the bait on a slow crawl. Move it just enough to keep the blades spinning. This creates a wake and the straight trajectory makes it easy for smallmouth to locate and hit the lure.

Smallmouth Bass

Poppers are lures with a concave nose. The nose cups and spits water when the bait is twitched forward, making a “bloompsh” sound. Some examples of these baits are: Berkley’s Frenzy Popper, Heddon’s Pop’n Image, Rapala’s Skitter Pop, and Rebel’s Pop-R.

The sound and commotion poppers cause attract smallmouth from a significant distance. I regularly use poppers to hunt deep-water smallmouth during dawn and dusk. Like prop baits, poppers do well in calm or slightly rippled water conditions.

There is no right or wrong way to work this bait as long as it’s popping every so often. To cover water, bring the bait in with a series of two to three twitches, followed by a brief pause, before beginning again. This retrieve is suited for aggressive fish.

Slowly work a popper when trying to coax neutral fish to bite. After casting the bait, let the splash rings dissipate after it hits the surface. Next, slowly retrieve it one or two twitches at a time followed by long pauses. This method requires patience, but if you’re in an area that holds big fish, it can triggers the most reluctant ones to bite.

Topwater baits for Bass!

Cigar-Style Baits:
These baits are another productive surface lure. To fish them you need to be able to “walk the dog” (i.e., cause the bait to swim back and forth). This action is achieved by the angler twitching the rod. Here’s how to do it.

Begin by twitching the rod tip downward. Immediately follow this by raising the rod tip towards the bait to create slack in the line. The twitch causes the bait to move to one side, the slack line lets it continue to glide. Twitch the rod again to cause the bait to turn and glide in the other direction. Continue twitching the rod tip up and down. This makes the bait walk back and forth on the water, while maintaining a fairly straight line towards the rod tip.

The sound and water disturbance caused by this presentation evoked aggressive hits from smallmouth bass. The bait can be used in calm conditions, but it’s just as deadly in waves when smallmouth are aggressive. Smallies have no trouble chasing a bait through the crest of a wave to crush it.

Rods, Reels, and Line:
For the most part, I prefer to toss smaller, lighter topwaters (like prop baits or poppers) on spinning gear. I get better distance out of these rods. When “walking the dog” I use a baitcast rod; I find the grip on this set-up easier to twitch baits downward.

The rod itself should have some softness in the tip. Use too stiff a blank and it won’t bend towards the fish during the strike, equating to poor hook-up percentages.

When it comes to line, you can use any kind as long as you balance it with the rod’s action and reel drag. Monofilament can be good for prop baits and poppers, especially if they’re small. Mono floats, helping you get the right action out to the bait. It also stretches, which again can help with hook-up ratios on topwaters as it allows fish to inhale a bait. Fluorocarbon and super lines can also be used, but not on too stiff a rod. Again, these lines won’t impact the action of baits too much, but may reduce your hook-up percentages if you use too stout a rod.

Odds are you have at least one of these surface baits in your tackle box. Consider increasing your topwater roster by adding another one or two. Not all topwaters are created equal, sometimes smallmouth prefer a walk-the-dog bait, while in other conditions it might take a popper to call them up. Lastly, remember to wait to feel the fish’s weight before you set the hook. Set on the splash and you’ll frequently miss fish.

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