During the spring season, change is in the air. Temperatures fluctuate all over the thermometer, and passing weather fronts seem to fly by. It can raise havoc with your bass bite. Bass get on the edge of the shallows waiting for water temperatures to rise, only to be pushed back out again with the next cold front. But when the time is right, and the bass start to make that move shallow, we all have a favorite bait or two that helps us locate bass. I have a tactic that I have never really talked about before. I have kept it a secret for a long time, but I will tell you all today.
What would your pick be if I asked you to open your tackle box and pick a bait that you have not fished early in the season? How many of you, by chance, picked a topwater bait? Yes, you read that right, a topwater bait. This article will discuss using topwater baits early in the season to help you find bass. Bass will be bass when they are in shallow water, and if they get something over their head that they think is a threat, it won't take long before that bass will do everything to eliminate that threat.
We have all seen it happen in the summer, and spring is no different, but you have not seen or been told about this tactic. Ask any touring pro what bait you use during the spring to get bass to show themselves? I bet the answer won't be topwater. They don't want to let one of their top secrets out.
Let’s break down a few different topwater baits that I use and carry in my mix of baits during the Springtime.
Smithwick’s Devils Horse – The Devils Horse is a prop bait. One of the baits that I was playing with one year started this whole thing. I was fishing a tournament in early spring here in Minnesota but had just come back from fishing in Missouri. I was fishing for a couple of days on Table Rock Lake, where the bass were past post-spawn and starting to assume early summer positions. Working the backs of the bays, I was triggering strikes from bass that were chasing shad. When I came back home, I still had a few rods rigged with what I was using, and the Devils Horse was one of the baits that I still had tied on. So as I was going through some mid-depth flats throwing a spinnerbait, looking for signs of bass starting to move up to get ready to spawn, I was triggering a bite here and there.
I reached down on the deck and grabbed the rod still rigged with the Devil's Horse. I made a few casts and worked the bait back to the boat with a pull and stop retrieve. About halfway back, the bait disappeared while sitting on a pause. That got me thinking, "Is there something to this, or was that just a fluke?” After another day of practice, I figured out there was more to this than I saw happen. A few days later, when the tournament started, the bass had started to get into areas that you would expect them to be positioned to get ready for the spawn, and the Devils Horse was what I was going to ride through the tournament. When all was said and done, I finished in the top 3, taking most of my bass with the Devil's Horse.
The key behind fishing the Devil's Horse is finding the cadence that the bass want. Sometimes it's a few pulls, then a pause. But, there have been days that they will even hit on a slow, steady retrieve. So, give the bass a few different looks and let them tell you what they want.
One of the tweaks and tricks with this bait is adjusting the front and back blades. You can tweak the blades to make the bait have different actions. If you adjust them both forward, the bait will move a fair distance when twitched as the blades will push the bait forward. If you tune one blade forward and the other backward, both blades work against each other, not allowing the bait to move far. It's how you'll want to start your day to see the mood of the bass and how they act, then you can adjust from there.
Popper baits through the years have been an outstanding choice to have in your topwater box, and the anchors have been a Rebel Pop-R and Storm Chug Bug. To fish these baits right, make your cast and let the bait sit for a few seconds before you move the bait again. Then, give it a pop or two and repeat the process. Both baits also can walk the dog if the bass prefers a moving bait to trigger bites.
I have had times when the trigger to create strikes, was a combination of a couple of slow pops and then a big pop. As with any bait in your box, work a few different retrieves to see what the bass want that day.
A few tweaks that will help you fish your popper better, use a snap when fishing a popper bait. In this case, the snap will weigh the nose of the bait down a little giving a better popping action and more noise. It won't take as much of a rod tip twitch to create good solid pops. These baits are also equipped with feather or tinsel tail hooks. Even though the bait may be at rest between pops, the tail feather or tinsel still moves, triggering bites from reluctant bass sitting below them.
If I don't know where the bass are located, I'll tie on a walking bait and start to cover water. Then, I can make casts and start to walk the bait back to the boat, looking for signs of bass along the way. Once I get into an area that starts to show signs of bass, I can make a bait adjustment if I think that is needed, or I can continue with what I'm using. Why do I not just put on a Whopper Plopper or a constant moving bait? The biggest reason for not going with that is the water temperature. I can get the bass to show themselves with a slower-moving topwater, but getting them to show with a faster-moving bait like a Whopper Plopper is tougher.
The other key with a walking bait presentation is controlling the speed. Get the bait to walk a little, then let it sit for a few seconds before making another move. Again, try different counts and cadences to see what triggers bites during your day of fishing.
I have a few topwater tweaks that will help you put more bass in the boat along the way.
Red Hooks were big for a while, and I feel that it will get you more bites in certain conditions. It's thought that bass see red as a bleeding baitfish. I also believe the red hook becomes a focal point for the bass when zeroing in for the bite. When equipping your topwater's with red hooks, if it's a 2-hook bait, change the front hook, and if your bait is a 3-hook bait, I'll swap out the middle hook and make this my red hook landing spot.
Using a red hook gives the bass something to focus on when moving in for the kill. Use this tactic to your advantage.
Feather Tail Hook
As I mentioned earlier, use a feather or tinsel tail hook. The tail material will keep moving when your bait is stopped, delivering strikes. It makes a difference when fishing in cold water conditions. I think it looks like the baitfish gill’s moving to the bass. Team this with a red hook tail feather, and you have the best of both worlds.
Sharpen Your Hooks
Make sure when fishing topwater baits that your hooks are sharp. Bass, at times, will swipe at a bait trying to stun it and turn back on the bait again to eat it. If your hooks are sharp, chances are higher that you'll get a hook into the bass on the first swipe. It will put more odds in your favor and more bass in your boat during your day on the water.
Braided line has reshaped topwater fishing because of its limited stretch characteristics. With limited stretch, it's easier to make your topwater baits move, pop, or walk the dog. Unfortunately, one point braided line is limp and will get tangled with the topwater bait's movement. To help keep this to a minimum, I'll add a piece of monofilament as a buffer between the braid and my bait, keeping tangles to a minimum.
I hope these spring topwater tactics will put another pattern in your arsenal to use when on the water. You may not have heard about this tactic, and that is by design. Not many pros want to talk about it. They look the other way when it's brought up, acting like they never heard of it. In reality, they all know about and use it regularly.
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