Ask any fisherman or woman the most entertaining method of catching bass, and chances are they will respond with "the topwater bite." From my personal experience, I can tell you that I laughed so much with the excitement that my partner thought I would have a heart attack!
While this method has a lower "strike to catch ratio" than other forms of bass fishing, it is still worth using and keeping nearby if the surface comes alive with baitfish jumping out of the water for their lives!
I believe that bass can be caught on a topwater lure all day long. For me, a small arsenal of topwater lures is a must, but remember to alternate them to match the changing mood of the fish.
I prefer a 6 ½ to 7-foot baitcasting rod with 15lb test line. Whenever possible, before using any store purchased lure, I constantly change the hooks to a premium hook such as Gamakatsu. I have seen too many hooks straighten or break from a large fish or thrown the hook because they were not sharp enough.
I will often start with the buzzbait. This lure comes with single, double, treble, and in-line blade combinations. I like to use smaller buzzbaits, but that is not to say that a large 6- or 8-inch buzzbait with loud blades will not produce. Correctly tuned buzzbaits should NEVER run straight. If it does, something is wrong, fish do not swim in straight lines, and neither should your buzzbait. Bend the propeller or propellers to arch the retrieve in the water. The more splash and noise it makes, the more fish will see it and attack it.
Start your retrieve quickly. After a few casts, if you are not getting any bites, slow down the retrieve until a fish swirls near the bait* or strikes it. This is the bass telling you at what speed they want their meal moving.
Next, come topwater poppers. This name covers a large group of surface lures with cupped faces that give the "popping" sound. This lure spits water when retrieved with small downward jerks of the rod tip toward the water surface. The dimension of this lure is essential. Make sure you know the size and colors of the baitfish that live in that body of water you are fishing. Referred to in fly fishing as "matching the hatch," your lure color and size play an essential role on bright sunny days when the sunlight reflects off the body and flashes on the water's surface. On overcast days, color is not so important, as the bass do not get to see much more than the outline of the bait and will decide to either ignore the bait or strike at it. Again, if the fish swirl at the bait* you should be prepared to drop the rod and use a floating plastic worm (see below).
Next, the "spook" baits are Zara Spook and Zara Puppy or similar cigar-shaped lures. (Often, I will increase the size of the hook from a 1/0 to a 2/0 with this lure). The best method of retrieval is "walking the dog"'. This snapping, twitching, and slow line retrieval combination takes some practice but, once mastered, can be deadly when topwater action is at its height. When bass are chasing shad to the surface, this lure should be cast directly on top of the fish, keeping the boat a reasonable distance from the activity area.
Casting accuracy is vital, as a poorly placed cast will waste precious moments until you can cast again. To practice your casting in your backyard or a park, use a rubber weight in place of the lure. I often use an old car tire or a bucket as a target and practice for an hour a day.
When a fish takes a topwater offering, WAIT. Let the fish take the lure, feel the weight of the fish, and then set the hook. The initial reaction is to strike, but this often pulls the lure out of the mouth of the fish. When the fish are biting, I usually count s-l-o-w-l-y to three, then set the hook.
Surface fishing spinnerbaits and jerkbaits often catch fish. Again start with a fast retrieve and slow it down till the fish tell you what they want.
* The floating worm is often overlooked as a topwater lure but can be deadly when fish do not take a larger topwater offering. If fish swirl near the buzzbait or popper but will not strike it, pitch a brightly colored worm (pink or yellow works well), the bass will swallow this offering more readily.
Charles is a pro-angler. He is sponsored by Bullet Weights, Budz Fishin Wayz, G.Loomis, Gamakatsu, Lake Hawk, Chevy Trucks, Hawg-ly Lures, Uncle Josh, Ike-Con Fishing Tackle, Snap-Set Spinnerbaits, Map-Trap, Stamina Components, and Power Resources.