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I normally don't respond much to "best bait" type posts,
simply because there is no such thing.The absolute best bait
is the one the fish want most at any given time. Finding yourself
coming up with a favorite bait is doing nothing more than greatly
limiting the number of bass you catch. You're "favorite" bait
is rarely the fishes favorite for more than a short period of
time on any given day. You will always end up fishing this bait,
even when it doesn't work, and way too long after it stops working.
It's that simple!

After seeing the "best topwater" post I was urged to give a couple
of thoughts on these baits. That's easy because if I did
have a favorite way to catch fish it would definitely be on top,
however, limiting yourself to one topwater is very close to
limiting yourself to one bait period.

I guide on Lake Okeechobee, a topwater anglers dream lake.
Why do I say it's a topwater dream lake? Ask anyone who has
fished there with me and they will give you the same answer
as myself. Because it is! There are several reasons for this.
Probably the biggest is climate. I catch bass all 12 months of
the year on topwaters. Another is the amount of aquatic
vegetation on the lake. There are well over a dozen
different types of vegetation I can name right off the top
of my head. Even better is the fact it stretches the entire
length of the shoreline around the 750 square mile lake,
with the exception of a 5 mile stretch on the east side. In most
areas it extends well over a mile from the rim canal out into
the lake. That's a heck of a lot of grass. You could easily
get lost fishing inside this grass, and many do. Another reason
for the great topwater fishing is the sheer number of bass,
their average size, and the fastest growth rate of any lake
in the U.S. A large portion of the bass reach trophy size
in less than 4 years. Virtually all bass that are actually
capable of reaching the 10 pound class do so in less than 5 years.
We also have as many, if not more, bass per acre than any
lake in the country. It all adds up to great topwater fishing.

I'm in my 22nd year working the lake. This past June and July
proved to be the best topwater fishing I have ever had on the lake.
Not just numbers but, the average size was also incredible.
It was an everyday, most of these all day, topwater fishing
experience that is normally only seen in dreams. Days where
myself and one client caught 100 bass per day, all on topwaters,
was very common. It was also a common occurance to witness
schools of bass with 100 or more fish, come out from under
one single grass mat. Rarely did a day go by where some of these
schools were not made up almost entirely of bass over 4.5 lbs.
Of course these schools had many larger bass in them.

The fishing was so good that the bass actually followed a bait
until one fish was hooked and then the entire school would
attack the hooked fish trying to take the bait from its
mouth. Once that first bass was hooked, it was simply a
matter of tossing a bait on top of it for others in the boat
to instantly hook up. This attack mode was something I have seen
before but, never everyday for this amount of time. One day I
was pitching a spinnerbait in scattered kissimmee grass when a
small bass grabbed it. I was in very clear water but the
sun was at an angle where I could not see down into the water
other than right at the boat.The glare prevented me from seeing
what was going on around the small bass until I had only
a few feet of line left out. Everytime I hook a bass I
instantly begin looking for other fish that are following it.
If you don't, you're missing out on a lot of shots at big fish.
When I got the small bass to the side of the boat I suddenly
could see there was a bunch of big bass after the white skirt
it the small ones mouth. I stopped reeling in order to watch
them for a second and there was suddenly a huge white flash.
I knew what it was and instantly freespooled the reel. It was a
huge white mouth and it had just inhaled the skirt along with
the bass attached. Well, I didn't hook this giant but it was
quite a rush. When I got the spinnerbait in, it had a scaled
13 incher that had seen better days, attached to the hook.
I've had sharks and barracuda do this many times in saltwater
but it was the first time ever with a bass. I saw bass busting
shad one afternoon at the edge of a grass mat. I got the boat
close and both my client and I immediately hooked up. I dropped
anchor and caught 30 bass on 31 casts while my client caught
just under 30. This mat wasn't much larger than my Stratos boat.
My client had a business dinner that evening and we left them
still hitting every single cast. When this sort of thing
would happen, which was pretty much daily, there were so many fish
jumping around your hooked bass, you couldn't tell which one was
yours. You didn't know if you had a 4 pounder, a 5, a 7,
too many bass in the mix to even tell. That's pretty hard to
take, especially at work!LOL There were many times during this
2 month period where myself and clients caught 5 bass on
consecutive casts weighing a total of 25 to 30 lbs., with a few
heavier than that.

During the course of this great fishing, I refined many topwater
techniques and reinforced many things I had already learned over
the years about topwater fishing. It's not hard to
do with the fishing being that incredible on a near daily basis.
The one thing I learned years ago, and it definitely proved to
still be true, is that limiting yourself to one topwater bait
is a tragic mistake. The only time you really have a shot at
testing things such as this are when the bite is red hot.
I had it red hot for 2 months!I've seen tons of people over
the years fish a bait without success and say "well, they don't
want topwater today". Huge mistake! I have switched topwaters
right in the middle of a topwater bite like I just related to you,
and watch the bass absolutely refuse it when they were hitting
another on litterally every cast. It can be as critical as using
an entrely different bait in a different water column.

So, the question is, when do you throw which type of topwater bait?
I've found that over the course of a month of fishing, and by this
I mean 30 days actually on the water, that only a handful of these
are days when one type of topwater produces as well as the next.
In many cases one doesn't produce at all, while another creates
a frenzy.There are 2 things that determine this, wind or the amount
of chop on the water, and water clarity. As far as myself fishing
daily on Okeechobee, I will be in the clearest water available.
This is nearly always very clear with the bottom being visible.
I'm in depthsless than 6 feet but, if it were 10 feet, you could
still see bottom in sunlight. About the dirtiest water I would
fish would be visibility of about a foot. In any water, you
can say the clearer the better. Bass can and are caught in water
with less visiblity but,there is nearly always a better alternative
to topwater. A topwater bite is no different than any other in that
it is always better with some amount of wind.

When the wind is
minimal, a flat calm surface to a tiny ripple, one bait will
outproduce others most any day. This is a walking bait. The 2 I
use most often, and in this order are a "Sammy", and a "Spook Jr.".
I do use others but, a "Sammy" is tough to beat when this bite is on.

When the ripple increases slightly to a small chop, you will nearly
always find the bass reacting better to a "spitter" or what is
most often called a chugger. I refer to them as a spitter because
the last thing you want them to do is make a chugging sound! This
is one bait where sound is the fish catching component. Few people
ever get the sound right, and for this reason never catch as many
bass on these baits as they could be catching. The sound
varies drastically among these baits. When fished with a steady
retrieve, similar to that used when walking a Spook, the bait should
make a subtle sound like that made by shad when they flick on the
surface. This sound is something like saying the word "fat" only
with the "a" removed. It's a fffft sound. This is done by the bait
riding high on the water and spitting it out to the front. When the
bait "digs" into the surface it makes a chug or gurgle
type sound. Nothing in nature sounds like this. Most baits must
be altered to get this sound by shaving the lip. One bait that does
it well out of the package is the Matzuo Spit & Sputter.
With a tiny flick of the wrist this bait spits water 2-3 feet and
makes an excellent sound. What's more, it outproduces baits like
the Rebel Pop-R. You can use this bait to get the right sound from
other baits of this type. When there is a nice ripple or slight chop
on the surface the bass will be active in most cases. This is when
you want to fish this bait with a steady retrieve. One thing I
always try first with this bait is to fish it so fast it is
literally skipping out of the water. So fast you would think no
bass would ever touch it.
The reason being that there is occasionally a day when this is what
they want. When they do,you will catch more bass than ever before
on this bait. The reason to do it first is that if
you start slow and then increase speed gradually, trying to find
what they want, you may miss this bite altogether. You waste too
much time at slower speeds. When they want it this fast, they rarely
touch it at slower speeds. If you start slower and one does
actually strike, you are sucked into fishing it at that speed.
You may not get another fish, when if you were fishing it at warp
speed you would be getting a fish every other cast. This doesn't
work often but it works so well when it does that I never fail
to make 4 or 5 casts like this right off the bat. That's all it
takes to find out if it's working, if there are any fish
in the area at all. If it doesn't work, slow down. As a rule,
the larger the chop, the faster they want it. There is also a very
slow technique that sometimes works best with this bait.
This is usually when the wind is pretty calm. I cast it right
against thick grass or other heavy covery and twitch the bait
one time and let it sit. This produces well when the bite
is slow and they are holding very tight to cover. The reason it
works is the bait can be kept in the same general spot fishing it
in this manner. The concave face keeps it from moving away from
the cover and out of the strike zone.

The next bait is a prop bait. Actually a twin prop bait. A single
rear prop bait is much more subtle. You can remove the front prop
on many of the longer prop baits, like a Devils Horse,
and turn it into a walking bait when a more subtle bait is needed.
I fish a twin prop bait a lot because it catches big bass here
in south Florida. A Devils Horse has probably caught
more bass over 10 lbs. on Okeechobee than all other artificials
combined. Another that I consider a great prop bait is the Cordell
Crazy Shad. I won a one day tournament about 10 years ago where I
caught all my fish on this bait. There was a whopping total of 3
of them.They weighed a total of just over 22 lbs. on a very tough day.
These baits work at any time,any amount of chop, although they
really shine when the wind picks up. I really like the
Crazy Shad at only 2.5 inches but, there is no doubt that bass
love long slender baits like a Devils Horse. If I'm fishing a
prop bait in calmer water, it's going to be a Horse or a
similar hand made wooden bait that I often use. In this condition,
I fish the bait very slowly, using an occasional slight single
twitch and then letting the bait sit. One thing about these baits
is the bass will hit them sitting still. As the wind increases
I use more speed but still a twitch - twitch - stop retrieve.
These baits work well in pretty rough conditions. Just don't
overdo it with the twitches.

Another big fish bait that has been around for years is the original
#11 Rapala. I reserve this bait for only one time of year, and only
3 different conditions. This is during the spawning period when a
lot of big females are up and ready to bed. I throw it where beds
are visible and use very slow subtle twitches letting it remain
still for very long periods.
I catch many huge bass at this time before ever moving the bait,
or just after the first subtle twitch. The other time I pull it out
is when it's so calm they will absolutely hit nothing else. We've
all seen these mornings yet many fail to realize the reason they're
not biting is simply the lack of wind on the surface of the water.
The other time is following a spawning cold front on lakes where
the bass remain shallow and near beds.
At one time the original was all we had. Now I go with the Husky
jerk more often. At this time there is a very subtle key to getting
strikes on this bait. This is that you must pull the bait under
the surface rather than twitch it under. You won't believe the
difference in the number of strikes. In fact, anytime you're catching
bass in spring on this bait or a jerk bait in very shallow water,
and they turn off, this will make the difference. Just slowly pull
the bait down.

This last bait is a type I am very partial to. Although all topwaters
are big fish producers,these catch a huge number of my topwater
bass over 5 lbs. They also work regardless of conditions, at all
times of the day. It is a type of topwater many of you have probably
not fished unless you live in Florida, or you fish elsewhere in
water that contains a lot of vegetation. Grass however is not a
requirement for these baits to work. All you need is
some type of heavy cover. These bait are soft plastics. The 2 that
I fish at some point everyday are the Gambler Flappn' Shad and
Zoom Horny Toad. If I could only take one bait on the water and had
to catch a solid limit under all conditions, it would be a Flappn'
Shad. It has to be the most versatile bait I have ever seen.
Other baits can also be fished in any condition but, the difference
is this once always catches bass. It can be fished at any
depth in a thousand different ways. You can't fish it wrong.
Other than during the spawn,
I most often use it as a topwater. By cutting an angled slit in
the bottom of the tail you end up with a "hook" tail. This bait can
then be buzzed across any type of cover imagineable and NEVER hang up.
It also sounds very much like a shad when fished like a buzzbait.
It is always deadly on top but especially during summer when I buzz
it across matted hydrilla.Hydrilla mats hold tons of big fish.
Getting them to bite in there is another story. You can
fish anything along the edges but, rarely does this catch really
big bass. You have to go well back inside these thick mats to catch
the big fish. This bait, and the Toad, are the only 2 I know of that
will pull an entire school out from under a mat to where they can be
caught. They will do it everyday, and at any time of day.
Just throw it as far back onto the mat as possible and buzz it off
into open water. The instant it clears the edge they
absolutely crush these baits. If there are any openings in the
thick mats, they will come thru them to get at it. The strike on
these baits is more explosive than with any other type of topwater.
This has been my #1 topwater technique since the Flappn' Shad came
out about 12 years ago. For the past 2 years I've also crushed them
on the Horny Toad. They also catch fish on lakes without grass by
buzzing them over wood or other cover.
I can't get off the Flappn' Shad without mentioning one technique that
isn't topwater.It has produced more bass over 7 lbs. for me than
any other single technique. If you haven't tried this you've missed
out on a lot of big bass in the spring. I use this only
during pre-spawn and spawning conditions and man is it the hottest
thing going. It works at any time during this period, even when a
front has slowed them down. You use the 4 inch version of the
Flappn' Shad on a 1/0 EWG hook, no weight at all. I throw it on a
baitcasting rod but many people can't because it is very light.
Rather than using weight,go with a spinning rod. The reason it
works is no weight. Simply fan cast all around any
known spawning areas. Begin by letting the bait drop about a foot
and then gently twitch the rod tip once or twice, no more, and
let it fall back. Do this all the way to the boat because they often
follow it from long distances in clear water. If this fails to
produce,simply let the bait drop deeper before you begin the retrieve.
Following a front, or when it's slow for any reason, deadstick
the bait. It is the best bait ever for this technique and when a
prespwn bass picks it up while dead on the bottom, you can count
on a big fish.I've caught several over 10 lbs. deadsticking.
If you have grass in the water you're fishing,toss it on top of
thick clumps and twitch it off, letting it drop when it clears theclump.
You must try this in the coming spring. Not only is it very easy,
it's one technique I promise you will work on pre-spawners. That is
if you follow these directions to a tee.
One thing you must do when using this technique is allow the bass
to have the bait for a couple of seconds after it strikes. Setting
up too quickly is possible with this bait.


One thing about topwaters that you need to be aware of is the right
tackle to get the most strikes and also hook the largest number of
fish. The rods you use are extremely important.
For topwater plugs, you do not want the stiffer rods that you do
for worm fishing. You want a rod with a lot of flex in the tip.
This can be found with a med. action in many brands,
although actions do vary from one company to another. Stay away from
the stiffer, fast action rods.

Line is where many people go wrong with topwaters. You want to go
with heavy line for plugs.This is because heavier line floats better
than thin diameter lines of lesser strength.
A line that sinks will pull the plug down causing it to lose the
desired action and sound.I use nothing under 14 lbs., and usually
heavier is even better. When fishing topwaters very slowly, it's
a good idea to try this trick. Use fly line dressing, or the wax from
an ordinary candle, to coat the last 4 feet of the line. Line sinks
after letting a bait remain motionless for a period, even heavy line.
This wax keeps it floating high.

For buzzing the soft plastic baits like I mentioned here, you want
heavy line simply because of where these baits are used. If you feel
that you don't need 17 or 20 lb. test line,then you're not fishing
in the right place to begin with.
You will have no success at all trying to buzz these soft plastic
baits with the topwater rods used for plugs. You need a much heavier
action and also a longer rod. A 7' fast action worm or jig rod will
work much better here. Actually, my favorite rod for buzzing thick
grass is a 7'6" med. action Lamiglas rod. It is very similar to the
flipping sticks I use.The action is only slightly lighter.

Try these tricks and they are bound to help your topwater catch.
The last techniqueis a spawning killer! 

By Ranger Rob

Originally Posted by Ranger Rob
 
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