Whether you're "walking the dog" across some still water or chugging a popper along through choppy water... understanding when and where to use topwater lures can be the difference between just having an ok day and having an EPIC day!!
While there are a lot of different lure options when attacking topwater, we're going to focus on information that could apply to poppers, whopper ploppers and/or buzz baits in this article. We will also assume you're targeting some sort of bass species. A lot of the info here can be applied to multiple species of fish with different lure types but in an attempt to keep this from becoming too long, we'll play the odds that you're targeting bass with these lure types.
What, where and when?
The two most important factors to decide on when choosing WHAT topwater lure to use is size/shape and color. Size being the more important of the two in my opinion. Here's why:
Being that the topwater lure is just that... on the top of the water... means that fish are looking up at it. That cuts the visibility of the lure in half right off the bat. 1 point to size and shape
Because fish are forced to look up to see it, the sunlight will often reduce how much color they actually see (especially when the sun is over head). Think about what it looks like when you swim in a pool. Everything above you looks like a shadow or at least is darkened considerably. Another point to size and shape
Here's where logic takes over. Size tells a predatory fish how much energy they might get if they decide to strike. The bigger the bait the more energy they will receive. Also, shape can give the bass the confidence needed to strike at all. If the lure looks like the usual things it sees swimming around (frogs and baitfish) the bass will be more likely to strike!
Now, where to fish the topwater lure?
Bass are ambush predators. Keeping that in mind, I fish topwater around fallen trees, lily pads, boat docks, overhangs etc. Look for places where a bass can hide but still be close enough to the lure to make a fast kill. That being said, in choppy water situations, fish will often push up in the water column and feed on bait closer to the surface. They might even take a popper from the middle of the lake or pond you're fishing. So don't hesitate to experiment!!
When to reach for your favorite topwater lure?
The short answer? Summer, early in the morning or late in the day. The actual truth? Do you see fish feeding near or at the top of the water? If yes, NOW is the time!!
The generally accepted time to fish topwater is, once the water reaches the 60 degree range (normally around early summer) or you see feeding activity at or near the surface.
So, the water is warm enough AND you see "swirls" all over the lake...now what? I like to let the wind tell me what to do. If the water is relatively calm use a delicate approach meaning finesse (walking the dog) BUT if the water is choppy, tie on the biggest popper you have and let it FLY!! BIG pops...chug up as much water as you can and really concentrate on the pause between "pops". The pause is when the fish will normally strike.
To sum up...
Make sure you have a variety of sizes, shapes and colors. Start probing with topwater lures once the water warms up, and focus on fishing them around structure of some kind. One last tip... when using topwater lures, when the bass strike, count to two before setting the hook. You will find your hookup ratio increases. The explanation is, fish generally lose sight of the lure right before they strike due to the angle they must attack from. Because of this they often will "adjust the position of the lure in their mouth in preparation of swallowing it". They loosen their grip on the bait while they do this and you run the risk of pulling the bait right out it the fish's mouth if you set the hook too fast. Catching fish on topwater is one of the most exciting ways to fish, so have fun and GET BENT!
Tight lines everyone and as always...