There is a modern train of thought when it comes to topwater lures. With a lot of pre-set rules put on these lures, this may be one of the most misunderstood baits in our tackle arsenal. It’s time to rethink the topwater lure, starting with busting the first myth that this bait only work at dusk and dawn. While fishing with numerous charter captains, one thing I have observed is that topwater can have a place to be used all throughout the day, not just in the low light conditions. While speckled trout, striper, and other ambush species of fish are thought to be more active with cloud coverage and low sunlight, I have personally seen this lure effective and produce quality fish all day long with varying weather including sunny days. A lot of anglers are in the mindset that once the sun has come up, that you should switch to subsurface lures to attract the fish who remain deeper in the water column. However, if you’re using a topwater bait with a rattling sound, it often will draw out fish in the lower and middle water columns to come to the surface and strike the bait. The sound is often irresistible to these predator fish, so in the times you might not expect action might just be the same time a fish is going to make a mistake and expose themselves in the chance of a good meal. From my personal times on the water, don’t be surprised if you experience explosions on the top of the water and lots of action even when you least expect it. For the most ideal times for topwater, overcast and low light conditions are most optimal for quality action and the best bang for your buck. Even with that said, some of my most memorable times fishing have been using topwater all throughout the day.
Another typical train of thought is that topwater should only to be used in calm conditions where the water is slick. During choppy conditions, the rattle, chug, swish, bloop, or plop of your topwater bait will attract fish even in less than ideal conditions. When my husband Jeff and I were fishing in New Jersey for striper with a top rated guide, there were high winds and the water had near white cap. We were both highly advised by the captain to throw topwater all day and we ended up having a killer day on the striped bass despite bad conditions. If you’re able to still walk the dog during choppy water conditions with your topwater lure, such as the Rapala Skitter V, then you’ll find this bait to be successful. If you’re not able to walk the dog because of the chop, then switching to something like the Chug Bug, which pushes water forward, will produce more strikes and hook-ups during these conditions. During the rough conditions we fished in Jersey, as the Chug Bug lure made water disturbance at the surface, the striper action turned up and the bite was on fire! It was then we were sold that topwater could be effective in numerous conditions, it’s just learning what topwater to use and when.
The last frame of mind a lot of anglers have when it comes to their topwater retrieval method revolves around a certain cadence and speed. During my time on the water, I’ve learned there’s no set cadence and speed an angler has to fish when using their choice lure, it’s all about confidence and what the fish want. Changing your cadence and speed while retrieving your lure will often reap more benefits and action the more sporadic the bait appears. Switching up your retrieval methods and cadence back to the boat can affect how many strikes you have. Changing the cadence of topwater will give the illusion of a skittish bait that’s swimming away from its prey, or a struggling bait fish at the surface of the water. When working your bait back to the boat, don’t get caught up with the consistency of the twitch or jerk, just keep working the lure with different speeds and cadences until you start seeing some action, let the fish tell you what they like and be open to changing it up from what you’ve always done.
While there has been a mainstream train of thought about topwater lures among anglers, what I have observed and experienced is contrary to the norm. While anglers are switching out their topwater after the sun comes up or in times the water is not as slick, I’m usually enticed to keep on my lure and get ready to watch fish bust on the surface. It’s not always about how another angler has fished it, it’s about your own experience and what time on the water has taught you. It’s time to rethink your topwater and when and how you use it, it might just mean landing more fish and going home with a fuller cooler!
Happy fishing and tight lines!