I designate October the “topwater fishing month of the year.” The water is right. The fish are right. All you have to do is be right and sling those topwater baits.
Topwater baits are often more effective in autumn because they can remain in view of the predator longer while wiggling seductively at them. Cooler, more comfortable water temperatures allow the top-of-the-food-chain predators to roam the epilimnion (upper stratum of water). Schools of stripers and bass are looking toward the surface for schools of shad.
School is in, so join the class.
Here are several tips for successful topwater fishing:
- Cast your topwater plug or soft plastic bait perpendicular to ledges or bluffs. Predators may be holding under a ledge along the channel waiting for lunch to come within striking distance.
- If bait schools are in flight mode, make your retrieve imitate the frightened prey. Retrieve your plug or soft plastic with a rapid, steady rate. If you have observed shad, you will have noticed when they are frightened they don’t swim and pause. The twitch and pause technique many of us use with topwater baits isn’t the best for spooked shad. Shad cruising calmly or swimming moderately and “flipping” the surface will swim like a bat out of torment trying to escape deadly jaws. But if they’re flipping, use the twitch and pause and try imitating the baitfish in all their “ways” of swimming so you don’t spook them. The predators entering their range will give them the heebie-jeebies.
- Soft plastic baits work even better at imitating dying or injured shad if allowed to sink slowly. Shad color, shape and size should be imitated too. Inserting a small portion of a nail in the rear of the soft plastic will affect the desired dying minnow movement.
- When fishing aquatic vegetation, cast topwater baits in open spots in weed mats and points formed by the weeds.
- Working a non-weighted worm, rat/mouse/frog or a weedless spoon (Johnson Silver Minnow) over vegetation triggers strikes through the matted weeds. Bass frequently miss their target when trying to grab lures through the weeds, but they are often persistent, meaning they’ll try several times to eat your bait. Be patient and let them get at it—you feel them, yank.
- If you’re addicted to spinnerbaits, you can retrieve them fast to keep them near the top or use its close cousin, the buzzbait. Adding a trailer hook to these baits give them another chance to hook the predator. Rig your trailer hook so the point rides above the shank. This arrangement snags fewer weeds than if the point is below the shank.
- To increase the “weedlessness” of your spinnerbait or buzzbait, you can add a plastic worm or 4-inch grub Texas-style to cover the hook point. Another trick is to attach a rubber band to the eye of your spinnerbait and stretch it to hook in the barb portion of the main hook. You can also bend the spinnerbait arm back until it almost touches the hook. These are effective in tree limbs as well as weeds.
- Another weedless trailer can be constructed by adding a 1/0-3/0 single hook to the spoon then putting a 4-inch grub on the main hook while burying the tip of the trailer hook in the body of the grub. This not only protects the trailer, but also adds bass-attracting action to your bait.
- Although daytime traffic may be less now than in the summer, nighttime anglers are still going hot and heavy. Fishing is much easier when the moon reflects a lot of light, but bass fishing is better when the moon is in a darker, waning or new phase early in the monthly lunar calendar. In either case, use dark-colored topwater lures, as they form a distinct silhouette against the night sky. Lighter-colored lures will appear gray and are less likely to be noticed.
- If you want the aid of light, fish around docks, marinas, bridges and other places with lights. Using a flashlight in your boat may be more likely to spook than attract them. Black lights are popular for providing enough light to fish without disturbing the fish.
- Noisy topwater baits will attract bass at night better than the quiet ones. Poppers, chuggers, slurpers, rattlers and spinners get a fish’s attention and help it to hone in on your lure. Topwater baits are easier for bass to see because they are easier to distinguish against the sky.
Fall offers the last best days of topwater angling. As the days get shorter and the water temperatures drop, we will have to start fishing deep again so get out and do it on the top while you can.
Recently, Vernon Summerlin has begun publishing Kindle eBooks on Amazon. He plans to publish a short fishing book once a week. Larger books and other topics of his are in the works. You can search amazon.com and type in “Vernon Summerlin.” Please send any thoughts, requests, etc. to [email protected].