The Bassholes - It takes one to know one.

Top Water Fishing
on Thursday 25 February 2010
by Allen Teer

Top Water Fishing

Topwater Top Water Bass fishing flukes poppers jitterbugs buzzbaits spooks



It’s right at daybreak. You’ve killed the motor about 200 feet away from the lily pads. Now you are on stealth approach with the trolling motor, and the first cast lands in the pocket between four pads. You let the frog settle a minute, twitch it twice, and SLAM!, the tuning fork goes off in your loins as the 5lbr grabs the frog. You’re still shaking as you boat the first fish of the morning, knowing that there is no other adrenalin rush like this.

Top water fishing has to be the most exciting part of Bass Fishing. Whether you are walking the dog with a spook, pulling a Jitterbug, watching it gurgle as it comes across the water, casting a buzz bait over the grass beds, or dropping that buzz frog over some lily pads, there is nothing like the thrill of a great top water strike. In this article we will explore the various top water lures and the various methods of retrieve for each.

The Buzz Bait:
These lures come in all shapes and sizes. From offset shanks to straight and long, light to heavy, the buzz bait is a staple in just about every bass angler’s tackle box. I have two brands of buzz bait that personally have produced the most and best quality fish for me over the last couple of years. Secret Weapon Lures manufactures buzz baits in weights of 3/16 oz, and up. The unique feature of these lures is the spinner behind the blade. This allows the lure to give off some extra sparkle and flash as it gurgles its way through and over the cover. This spinner can be easily detached at the discretion of the angler and reattached when you need it. My personal preference in weight is the 3/16 oz (1/4) as I prefer a lighter buzz bait. This lure can be “burned” or “ripped”  or slow rolled across the top of the water through just about any cover without hang-ups. Strikes on this particular lure have been violent as if the bass were trying to kill the lure.

The second buzz bait in my arsenal is the Strike King Mini-Pro. Yes, an ultra-light lure that I thrown with a medium heavy Deep South 7’2” All purpose rod, Shimano Sahara 4000 spinning reel, and Vicious 30 lb braid line. I use this lure when I want a slow rolling buzz bait to glide across cover such as downed limbs, around stumps, and through lily pads. Now, you might ask yourself, if he is downsizing his buzz bait, isn’t he downsizing the fish he’s catching? Not so, as I have landed fish up to 7 lbs with these little buzz baits doing exactly the type of retrieve I just mentioned. Sure you are going to get all sizes of fish hitting this lure, but isn’t that what we are after? Getting the strike? Both of the above mentioned lures come in a variety of skirt and head colors and Secret Weapon also offers a buzz bait kit where you can mix and match the heads, skirts, and spinners.

Spooks (and other walking lure)
Walking the dog. I’m not talking about taking the pet out for a morning stroll. This retrieve technique has proven itself effective on just about every lake I have fished over the years. The walking motion, or back and forth, of the lure is accomplished by twitching your wrist, thereby moving the rod tip, which in turn relays the movement to the lure, A lot of beginning anglers find this difficult to do, getting the wrist, rod tip, and lure all working together. My advice on the how to’s is this. Cast the lure out and let it sit. Twitch your rod and see how the lure moves. Twitch again, and it should go the opposite direction. Continue this, getting a little faster each time you throw out and soon, you’ll find yourself Walking the Dog like a Pro.

This lure has been very effective over and around stickups, submerged timber. And over grass beds. The highly erratic motion of the lure along with the built in rattles (in most models) gives the impression of a fleeing bait fish, or injured bait fish depending on the retrieve speed. Colors in these lures are abundant as each manufacturer has their own color combinations ranging from traditional chrome/black to some almost life like perch, shad, and other forage fish imitations.

Frog fishing has become more popular over recent years with the introduction of Spro, El Grande Lures Rana Toro (bull frog), the Vicious Poly Wog, Horny Toads, and other popular brands. (too many to mention in detail)

Basically there are two types of frogs and each has it’s own retrieve styles. Slop or Scum frogs and buzz frogs. Slop/Scum frogs are normally hollow bodied rubber or plastic, with skirts for legs and either a large 5 – 6/0 hook protruding out of the back or a double shank hook on either side. These lures are virtually weedless and can be thrown into the thickest cover without the fear of hanging up, unless you are like me and wrap the lure around a stray tree branch or weed stem. On retrieve, I like to just let the frog sit on impact with the water or slop that has been thrown into. After about a minute, I’ll give the lure a twitch or two and let it sit again. Once the lure has reached the edge of the slop, the final twitch will bring it out onto open water and that has been where the majority of my strikes have been on these types of frogs. When the strike occurs, don’t be too quick to try and get the hook set. This is where most anglers loose good fish. Give the bass time to take the frog, as most of these slop frogs are a little on the large side. Once you see the frog is gone and your line moving, then set the hook and try to cross his eyes. A gentle hook set is not going to land the fish with this type of lure. Give the same hook set you would as if you were driving a hook through a T-rigged worm and into a fish.

Buzz frogs are my absolute favorite when it comes to frog fishing. My frogs of choice in this category are the vicious Poly Wog, the El Grande Lures Sapo (toad), and the El Grande Lures Rana Toro (bull frog). The first two are fished on a 4/0 frog hook with a medium hitch hiker. The Rana Toro is a 5” frog with huge flapping feet that was developed by El Grande Lures for fishing on Mexican Waters for trophy bass. This lure has proven itself effective on lakes in the states landing fish in the 8 – 12 lb range. It is best fished on a 6/0 frog hook with a large hitch hiker.

To explain the hitch hiker, that is a screw spring that attaches to the eye of the hook. This allows for the nose of the lure to be “screwed” onto the hitch hiker and the hook then being run through the belly of the frog just above the legs into a slot or indention on the back of the frog. The indention or slot is where the point of the hook should lay, and should be almost flat. The positioning or the hook makes these frogs weedless and allows for them to glide through cover such as grass, lily pads, stickups, and downed limbs. These frogs can also be utilized over submerged timber and other cover where “big mamma” might be hiding. There are a couple of different retrieve styles that can be used with these frogs. My favorite, and one that has produced the most fish, is simply to cast out a little past where you think the strike zone is going to be, and “catch” the lure similar to how you would catch a buzz bait. Bring the rod tip back, pulling on the lure, allowing the legs to come into play for about a foot. Pause, and repeat. What you want to try to do is imitate the swimming motion of a frog. This type of retrieve allows the legs to give off some gurgle and splash, thus sending good vibration through the water. This has landed good quality fish for me in the 6 lb range.

The other method of retrieve is simply to buzz the frog across the cover similar to a buzz bait. This gives great gurgle from the frogs legs, as it allows them to really churn up the water.

A few of the lure manufacturers have made “floaters” in this type of frog that have been effective, however, the more floatation that is put into the plastic will discolor the lure, so pick and choose these carefully. My floater of choice is the Stanley Ribbit.

Jitterbugs and related lures
One of the old standby lures that has been around forever it seems is the Jitterbug. Many variations of this lure and some knockoffs have come and gone, but the original is still a staple in my tackle box. This is probably one of the easiest top water lures to use as basically you just toss it out and reel it in. The wide horizontal lip on the lure does the rest. The side to side motion and great gurgle given off by this lure will attract any bass within earshot. I can still remember the first bass I ever caught top water. It was on the green/black spotted, white bellied Jitterbug on a private pond outside of Lufkin, TX. The water literally exploded right in front of me as the fish hit the lure as it was reaching the bank. Scared the heck out of me, but that was all it took. I was hooked, so to speak, for life. This lure is very effective over submerged cover such as timber and grass beds. The colors haven’t really changed much over the years and they can be found in just about any tackle shop in the US and abroad.

Another Jitter type lure is the Hocust Locust. I would recommend the Locust as well as the Jitterbug as both will produce good fish for you.

Prop baits
Torpedoes, Devil’s Horse, and other prop lures have their place on the water as well. These lures can be jerk type retrieved as well as straight retrieved. The short jerking action will allow the lure to churn, then pause, churn, pause creating a splashing that has been effective around brush cover and submerged cover. Again there are numerous types of these lures on the market, but I stick with what brung me and that is the original torpedo, either shad color or clear. Prop baits come in sizes ranging from small (tiny torpedo) to very large (Devils Horse) and it is personal choice as to which is right for the angler to use.

One area of top water fishing that maybe not many have tried is the fluke. These are some of the most versatile lures that you have in your box and do more than just T-rig underwater. My fluke of choice is the El Grande Lures 6” Minnow. In my opinion this fluke has more tail action than any other I have ever fished. Set up for fishing a fluke top water is simple. You will need an EWG (extra wide gap) 4/0 hook. Hook the fluke T-rig style weightless. Do not expose the hook as this will allow the lure to be weedless. On cast, try to throw past where again you think the strike zone is going to be. “Catch” the lure as you would a buzz bait and “walk the dog” like you would a spook back to the boat or bank. This has landed numerous fish for me in the 6-7 lb range, working the lure through weeds, grass, downed limbs, stickups, lily pads, and other types of cover.

Flukes come in a wide variety of color patterns and are made by just about any plastics company you can think of. Try this technique this coming spring when the top water bite is really on and you’ll find that this is not only an exciting way to top water fish, but a productive one as well.

Chuggers and Spitters
A very productive top water lure is the chugger (popper). This is another lure that even the most novice of anglers can fish. On these lures, the wider the “mouth” of the lure, the more chug that will be achieved. A narrower mouth will give more of a spitting action. Simply cast to your desired target area, let the lure sit a bit, then pop your rod back, making the lure chug or spit. Let it sit again, and repeat. This can be done as fast or as slow as you want to retrieve the lure. I have had my best success with a slow retrieve and trying to get as much chug out of the lure as possible. Areas to throw this lure are next to weeds, over submerged cover, and around stumps and stickups. If throwing toward the bank, try to land as close to the bank as possible, chugging the lure back to you, as bass will sit facing the bank looking for an easy meal.

I hope this has brought some insight into the fun and productive lures and methods of top water bass fishing. As we have just touched the surface, so to speak, of the different top water lures that are available to the angler. All of the retrieve styles and lures mentioned are my personal preference, and are of my opinions only. I leave it up to you to decide which lures, styles, color patterns, and areas to fish these various lures we have talked about. The main thing is, to get on the water, have fun, and catch fish.


Good Luck and Good Fishing!
Allen Teer
Pro Staff Director, El Grande lures
Pro Staff Director, HatCams
Pro Staff Deep South Rods, Azuma Fishing, Vicious Fishing, Hawg Thrasher Lures, KaRu Lures, Minda Lures, Bow to Stern, KVD Line and lure Conditioner, Hag’s Tornado Baits, Secret Weapon Lures