Topwater Transitions from Spring to Fall

The changing of the seasons makes it is necessary to modify fishing approaches to improve fish-catching opportunities for bass and northern pike. As with any other lure type, changing up topwater presentations from spring through fall can lead to catching more fish as they shift their focus toward different types of prey and forage during each of these seasons.
A pencil-style lure is one of my favorite springtime favorites, as predator fish are getting aggressive and ready to feed after being hunkered down during winter. Pencils are big enough to get a fish’s attention as they prepare for spawning and can be worked slowly enough if fish are lethargic during cold front conditions. If the water and/or air temperature is lower than 50 degrees, I like going with a twitch-and-pause retrieve while using a 4-inch pencil. Moving the lure slowly forward, 1 to 2 feet at a time, and then pausing up to 10 seconds can be highly effective. The pause is the key; that is when many fish either strike or assume a position beneath the lure to strike it when it starts moving again.
After air and water temperatures rise above 50 degrees, I like to use a 5-inch pencil and go with the classic “walk-the-dog” style retrieve where the lure moves from side-to-side. Warmer surface temperatures in spring can mean more and bigger minnows swimming in schools near the surface or in shallower bays. When that happens, the aggressive nature of the side-to-side movement can elicit strikes from predators already looking up and feeding on bigger, active minnows.
Once surface temperatures exceed the low 60s, there’s often a significant increase in active bug life on the water. One specific insect that I look for during the summer months is dragonflies. When I see dragonflies, I switch from a pencil-style lures to prop baits. A prop has a plastic propeller which simulates the sound that a dragonfly makes when flapping its wings as it struggles on top of the water. This style of lure can be used effectively from sunup to sundown, even when it is extremely sunny and calm, because of the presence of dragonflies.
I cast a prop parallel to emergent weeds that are adjacent to submergent vegetation and use a start-and-stop retrieve. I like to cast the lure, let it sit for 5 to 10 seconds so that fish can begin keying in on its silhouette, and then go with anywhere from 1 to 4 cranks of the reel handle. Because the goal is to get the plastic prop to sound like a dragonfly’s wings flapping on the water, it is sometimes necessary to reel in the line more slowly to make sure fish can target the lure and eat it. Waiting to feel the fish’s weight during the strike is paramount to improve the number of fish hooked, because simply going by sight might lead to pulling the lure away from the fish.
Fall is one of my favorite times of year to use topwaters as the fish are hungry and feeding heavily in preparation for the upcoming long winter months ahead. The key to fall strategies for topwater lures is the first hard frost. Sometimes this happens as early as late August; sometimes it occurs at the end of September.
My favorite way to chase fall predators like bass and northern pike is with a popper. Using heavier line, like 50- or even 65-pound braid, can be useful when tied directly to poppers. I like to cast them into any remaining emergent weed cover (even if it is dead due to frost) and retrieve it out over submergent weeds.
Poppers work great in late fall, as they offer a larger profile meal with little energy expenditure needed to chase them down. The popper retrieve in fall is all about slowing things down and being patient. A cast usually entails letting the lure sit for up to 20 seconds or more after hitting the water, twitching the lure slowly 1 to 4 times so that it gurgles instead of splashes, and then pausing up to 20 seconds again. Using poppers in late fall is often a case of “less is more” when it comes to movement and noise on top of the water.
Being versatile with topwater hardbaits and adjusting the lure is used based on the season can improve the numbers of fish landed. If you are looking for exciting explosive strikes from predators like bass and northern pike during the transitions from spring through fall, then casting an assortment of pencils, props and poppers is well worth your effort! Yo-Zuri hardbaits are great options to consider for these necessary seasonal changes as they offer a host of different topwater lures and patterns to fit whatever situation the fish present. You can find more at

Are you enjoying this post?

You can be among the first to get the latest info on where to go, what to use and how to use it!

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.