Fall is the most wonderful time of the year for topwater bass fishing.
Florida pro Shaw Grigsby would agree with that statement even though he considers spring and summer as good seasons to catch bass on the surface. “Fall is when bass start getting on shad, so you will see shad in the backs of pockets and coves flipping and popping out of the water, and that is pretty much what the topwater bait does,” Grigsby says. “Plus, it’s splashing and making a noise, so it resembles a bass feeding on top of the water. When you are making the sound of that bait swooshing, popping, or going left and right, or whichever represents bass feeding, and they just come running. So a topwater lure is just an incredible bait for the fall.”
The Major League Fishing (MLF) pro will throw a topwater bait throughout the fall, even in cold weather, as long as the water remains relatively warm. He notices during the cold of late fall, baitfish get sluggish on the surface and become an easy meal for bass, so a topwater lure still produces.
Topwaters can trigger strikes from bass suspended over depths of 60 feet or more, but most of the fall topwater action occurs in water less than 10 feet deep. “If you see a fish bust, you don’t worry about the depth,” Grigsby says.
“I have been in the backs of some areas where I could barely float my boat, and I threw as far as I can farther back where the fish were busting and chasing shad. The bass were trying to run the shad up on something where they can get in edge and get them.”
When the leaves change colors and start to fall, Grigsby favors the following topwater lures to catch surfacing bass.
Grigsby’s favorite topwater plugs for walking across the surface are the Strike King Sexy Dawg and the Strike King Sexy Dawg Hard Knock. The Sexy Dawg contains multiple rattles, whereas the Hard Knock has a specially designed rattle chamber that emits a deep knocking sound. His favorite colors for both lures are oyster, green gizzard, and ghost minnow.
Grigsby opts for the Sexy Dawg for most conditions, but he switches to the Hard Knock when waves are rolling. “If it is windy, I can take that Hard Knock and go pow, pow to make noise to let the fish know it is there,” Grigsby says.
The MLF Bass Pro Tour competitor rates the Sexy Dawg as the best topwater lure for bass busting the surface because he can cast it farther than other topwater plugs. “When the fish are out of your normal casting range, you can still reach them with a Sexy Dawg,” Grigsby says.
Steadily walking the Sexy Dawg at a fast clip produces best for Grigsby when he sees bass busting on top. However, he triggers more surface explosions from big bass in Florida with a twitch-and-pause retrieve. Grigsby will twitch his rod three or four times to impart the lure's left-right movement and then let it sit for a while before twitching his rod again.
Grigsby throws the Sexy Dawg and Hard Knock on a 6' 8" St. Croix Victory Baitcasting Rod and a 7.3:1 Okuma Hakai baitcast reel filled with a main line of 40- or 50-pound Seaguar Smackdown Braid. Braided line tends to loop back towards the lure and catch in its hooks when he walks the Sexy Dawg, so Grigsby ties a 10- to 14-inch leader line of 15- to 20-pound Seaguar Abrazx fluorocarbon to the braid. The stiff fluorocarbon prevents the braid from looping and tanging in the Sexy Dawg’s hooks.
When he wants a more subtle topwater lure, Grigsby opts for the Strike King KVD Splash, a small popping plug with left-right side action.
“It displaces water, but it also walks so easily, and I can throw it with standard baitcasting tackle,” says Grigsby, who throws the lure on the same rod, reel, and line he uses for the Sexy Dawg. His favorite Splash colors are oyster, bone, and ghost minnow.
The KVD Splash produces best for Grigsby when smaller baitfish are present, and he needs to match the hatch. He also relies on this lure more in calm weather. “The calmer it is, the more I like a little popper then and not be very aggressive with my retrieve,” Grigsby says.
The same retrieve Grigsby employs for the Sexy Dawg also works for the KVD Splash. Grigsby will walk the lure a bit and then pause it for two or three seconds before walking it again. When fishing for Florida bass, Grigsby lets the lure sit longer (15 to 20 seconds) to let the ripples of the lure fade away before twitching it again. “It is amazing how many of those big ones will come up after it at that moment,” he says.
The Strike King KVD Sexy Frog and Strike King Hack Attack Pad Perch are Grigsby’s topwater picks when he wants to tempt fall bass from vegetation. The Sexy Frog is ideal for skimming across grass mats and slop on the weeds, and Grigsby likes to walk the Pad Perch in the holes of grass mats or the edges of vegetation. He favors a black Sexy Frog when skimming it over the mats and chooses a white Pad Perch when he sees bass chasing shad.
He retrieves both lures in about the same fashion by shaking his rod tip, so the lures vibrate across the grass mat. “I am lightly twitching the lure, and when I get it in a hole, I pop it to make it go left and right,” Grigsby says.
A 7'2" St. Croix Victory Baitcasting Rod rod and the Okuma Hakai baitcast reel are Grigsby’s topwater tackle for the Sexy Frog and Pad Perch. He ties both lures straight to 50- or 65-pound Seaguar Smackdown Braid.
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