The topwater is the one lure a tournament angler should never overlook during the warm months. There's probably not a faster way to catch a quality limit of bass. When bass are on a good topwater bite for you in a tournament, you can count on doing well in the final standings. The big plus to topwaters is that they provide the opportunity for adding a big bass to your livewell. The other thing I like about topwaters is that a lot of water can be covered with them.
On practice days before the tournament starts, using a topwater will allow you to see strikes without actually catching the fish. This can help you determine your game plan come tournament day. Also, unlike a crankbait or similar lure, it's easy to bend or remove hooks from a topwater and still know for sure if you get a strike.
|You should never overlook the role of the topwater bait when putting together your tournament game plan.|
Buzzbaits, Pop-R's, and other topwaters that are similar, I remove the hooks completely, but on lures like a Zara Spook, I'll bend the hook barbs in. Removing hooks for this bait can cause the balance to be affected, and it won't run correctly.
A few of the tricks that have worked for me over the years may help you as well.
On Zara Spooks, I always add a split ring to the hooks. This cuts down on the bass's leverage when it jumps and helps keep the fish from throwing the lure. Some of the newer Spooks come with split rings included, but a lot of the older models don't.
Another thing I like to do is add a buck-tail on the back hook. This has helped when I've been getting a lot of short strikers.
I like to take a clear-bodied Spook and paint the belly a bright orange color. Over the past few years, this has been a real plus for me, especially if I'm targeting smallmouth bass.
My second favorite topwater is a Pop-R. Even though the Spook is my favorite, I'll catch twice as many bass over the year on a Pop-R. The water you fish doesn't have to be as clear to use this bait effectively. Also, the sound of a Pop R will sometimes draw bass to it versus the sight-only reaction you will get to a Spook.
The first and foremost thing about using a Pop-R is to use a loop knot. If you tie the lure directly to the line, it cuts down on the bait's action. The new Pop-R's have great hooks, but if you use any older models, you'll need to change the hooks. Don't change the size because you'll lose the action if you do.
On buzzbaits, there are several things that you can do to modify them that will add to your final weight. First, always use a trailer hook. In open-water conditions, I'll use a treble as the trailer. Another trick I like to use with a buzzbait is to let the wind blow the blade for a couple of hours. The way I do this is to put the bait right up to the rod tip and then position my boat so that the wind is rotating the blade on the way to the lake.
When I run across a particular buzzbait that is a good producer, I mark it somehow and will only use it on tournament day. These are usually the baits that are almost worn out and squeal. If you have such a bait, use it with care.
Another trick in cooler water is putting a big blade on a small body. This will allow you to quickly retrieve the lure and keep it at the surface. It also helps the strike ratio in muddy water.
There are lots of little tricks you can use. You may know some of your own tricks are limited only by your imagination. But one thing is certain you should never overlook the role of the topwater bait when putting together your tournament game plan. See you at the scales. God Bless.
Bill Wilcox is sponsored by Ranger Boats, Yamaha Outboards, MCMC, BG Products, Pro Rule, Johnson Fiberglass, Brown's Automotive, Continental Batteries, Kistler Rods, Swamp Hog Lures, Strike King Lures, and Fun-n-Sun Sports Center.