Fall Topwater Tactics
One of my favorites time to fish topwater is in the fall, especially early fall. I believe topwater is effective during this time of year for two reasons. First, coming from the hot summer months fish are lethargic and best targeted with reaction strike baits. Second, the fish can be hard to locate as they chase baitfish. Topwater baits are an excellent reaction strike approach and allows us to cover a lot of water quickly.
Everyone has their favorite topwater baits. For me, I will have at least four different baits on my deck at all times; a Picasso Dinn-R-Bell buzzbait plus a Walk-n-Pop 77, a Walking Boss, and a Walking Boss II (a billed walking bait) all from Livingston.
Regardless of the situation I will always rotate through the different baits to see which is working on any given day. However, I do use a few factors on which baits to focus on in a given day; water color, cover, wind, and baitfish activity.
In dirty water I find the buzzbait to be the most effective approach. The fish can hear (feel it with their lateral line) from a longer distance and it’s easier for them to find with all the commotion going on over head. For stained water, I like the Walk-N-Pop and the Walking Boss II. Both move a lot of water and are visually appealing to the fish as they approach. For clear water I like the Walk-N-Pop and the Walking Boss. The walking boss in particular with it’s easy to walk action is a fantastic visual reaction bait for big bass. Although, the addition of multi-touch Electronic Baitfish Sounds (EBS) in the Livingston Lures will increase the effectiveness of the walking baits and poppers in dirty water as well.
These are just starting points for baits not absolute rules. I have had many great days on buzz baits in clear water and the walking baits in dirty water, so continue to mix up the baits until the fish show you which one is most effective.
In open water I will start with the walking baits (Walking Boss, Walking Boss II). Over grass or near weed lines I will opt for a buzzbait or the popper. The popper in particular allows me to keep the bait in a key area giving the fish time to find it and eat it. In large flats with grass growing near the surface it is hard to beat the buzzbait which will allow you to cover a lot of water while enticing explosive reaction strikes.
Wind effects topwater fishing in two ways. First, by breaking the light penetration through the surface acting a lot like low light conditions or cover. Second, it can effect the baits movement and the ability lures movement and sound features’ effectiveness.
In very windy situations I think the buzzbait is most effective. I have had many great days fishing a buzzbait even through white caps. In smaller wind, or ripple situations the popper and billed walking baits seem to shine. For flat calm days with slick water I like the walking bait. Once again, just a starting point – mix it up and let the fish tell you what they want on a given day.
Understanding what the baitfish are doing, and more importantly how the bass are relating to the baitfish is the final piece of the puzzle. Roaming baitfish with packs of bass chasing them leads itself to walking baits and buzz baits. Bass that are positioned near ambush points waiting for baitfish to cruise past are better targeted by poppers and billed walking baits.
Using the right line is important for all topwater techniques. Fluorocarbon is out, it sinks. Monofilament is out, it has too much stretch. Braid is the way to go. I use 30-pound Gamma braid for popping baits and 50-pound Gamma braid for buzz baits and walking baits.
I’ll add the braid to my high speed 7:1 Wright and McGill Brent Chapman Insight reels on a 7’2″ W&M Brent Chapman Insight rod. This setup is not only excellent for topwater it is affordable on almost any budget.
Fall is often some of the toughest fishing of the year, but if you can find a good topwater bite it can also be the most fun fishing of the year. Mix up your baits and understand the water color, cover, wind and how bass are relating to baitfish and you can turn tough days into fun days quickly.
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