On Top for the Fall
by Josh Unruh
The air temperatures are getting lower and the sun is setting earlier. This can only mean one thing…fall is here! And with fall comes an exciting time in the bass fishing world…topwater time! With bass starting to feed up for the winter anglers can find themselves caught up in of one of the most fun ways to catch bass.
When water temperatures start to drop it signals the bass to start feeding before it gets too cold and their metabolisms slow way down. Bait balls roaming high in the water column become targets for schools of actively feeding bass which make topwater baits easy pickings for the hungry giants. Nothing will get your heart racing faster than a vicious topwater explosion!
As an angler fishing from the back deck, I love this time of year. When active bass are looking for bait balls, they aren’t usually fixated on a certain piece of structure. While they will stay within certain boundaries most of the time the area is quite large. This gives the guys in the back of the boat a great opportunity to get in on the action. The key is to use a bait or presentation that is different than what the boater is using.
I have been in many situations where bass are boiling on bait and the pro in the front of the boat is throwing a 5 to 7 inch bait. They will occasionally get bit because the bass are extremely aggressive. In this situation I like to downsize my bait to 3 or 4 inches in a different color. Remember you are looking for numbers and by downsizing the bait you will usually get more strikes and your hook up ratio imporves as well. The best advice I can give is to keep casting until you can find a school that starts to actively feed. Then hold on!
I determine bait selection based on a few factors. The first being the wind. If it is flat calm with zero ripple on the water I will usually go for a popper style bait such as the Rebel Pop-R. I believe the chugging sound that a popper makes really draws fish to the surface when it is dead calm. The cadence with a popper depends on how active the bass are feeding. If they are aggressive I will use an almost constant popping retrieve with minimal pausing. If they are slow to react this is when I will slow down and give 1 pop, let it set for 3 seconds, and then give 2 pops repeating that series.
If there is just a small amount of ripple on the water then this is when I tend to throw walking style baits like the Lucky Craft Sammy or Excalibur Spook Junior. The ripple really helps break up the water and a walking bait tends to fire fish up better in this situation. Again cadence will depend on the activity of the fish. If they are very active I will use a constant walk and sometimes it is as fast as you can move the bait without interrupting its action. On the opposite, if they are slowly feeding then I will walk the bait much slower.
There are a few times when topwater baits can be used in high wind situations as well. During those times I want to use a bait that I can feel the bite instead of seeing it. When there are more than ripples on the water and bass are still actively feeding close to the surface, a fluke style bait really shines. Depending on the depth of the water I will add a nail weight to the bait to get it a little lower in the water column. The usual rhythm I use with this is a snap, pause, snap, snap, snap, pause retrieve. This makes the fluke act like a dying bait fish and actively feeding bass will react aggressively.
Just as important as the bait is the gear on which to throw them. When fishing the topwater hard baits I like to use a fast gear ratio reel. My reel of choice is the Abu Garcia Revo Premier in a 7.1:1 gear ratio. This allows me to pick up line while I work the bait as well as to keep up with aggressive fish during the fight. However, with the fluke I switch to a spinning reel. I use the Abu Garcia Revo Premier Size 30. This reel allows me to make long casts and hold a good amount of line.
The rods are the next thing in the arsenal. On the hard baits I like to use a rod with a good backbone but also has a fast tip. This allows me to work the baits efficiently but also play hard fighting fish without pulling the hooks out of their mouths. My rod of choice is the Abu Garcia Villain VC70-5. It is a 7 foot rod with a medium action. As for the spinning rod, I also prefer the Abu Garcia Villain VS70-5. This is also a 7 foot rod with a medium power.
Line choice is also very important in this situation. For the topwater hard baits you want a line that does not sink. Sinking line will pull the nose of the bait down and cause its action to be taken away. For this I will usually use monofilament or braid. Mono wise I prefer Berkley Trilene 14 pound XL and for braid I usually use Spiderwire Ultracast 30 pound braid. For the spinning rod I will always use flourocarbon since I am not worried about the bait sinking. I prefer 8 pound Berkley Trilene XL 100% flourocarbon.
Topwater fishing offers anglers some of the most exciting bites that you will ever see. It is sure to get your heart pumping and your shoulders twitching in anticipation of the next strike. And just when things start to get lonely on the back deck, KERSPLASH!!! Get ready for an extremely fun time playing on top this fall! GAME TIME!