Now is a Good Time to Begin Summer Topwater Fishing
If you’re having trouble deciding which lures to use now that summer is here in full force, consider Yamaha Pro Dave Mansue’s advice: throw a big topwater bait, retrieve it slowly so bass think it’s an easy meal, and stay in water less than 15 feet deep.
“For me, the topwater season really gets started as soon as bass finish spawning in late spring, and it continues throughout the summer,” notes Mansue, who lives on the shores of Toledo Bend Reservoir in Texas and has been enjoying topwater fishing there since April. “Initially, bass will cruise the shallows protecting their fry, but soon afterward they move to slightly deeper water and begin feeding heavily.
“That’s what every bass fisherman looks forward to, and even later, after the fish move to their deeper summer habitat, they continue to come into shallow water to feed, both during the early morning and late afternoon hours.”
Mansue prefers the larger surface lures that he can twitch, or “walk,” from side to side, because with a slow, deliberate retrieve these baits will attract bass from deeper water for a strike. He likes to have his boat sitting in 12 to 15 feet of water while he casts toward the shallows at an angle so the lure covers different depths.
“One of the easiest ways to locate summer bass, especially for early morning and late afternoon topwater fishing, is by going to a large flat, the back of a cove, or to a long secondary point, and then working straight out to deeper depths,” continues the Yamaha pro. “If you see baitfish, you’re usually close to bass, and if you can locate some type of vegetation in any of these places, you should fish the deeper edges because that’s often where bass will be located.
“Just start with a slow but steady retrieve without any pauses or speed changes. The effect you’re trying to achieve is to bring bass to you because the lure looks like such an easy meal. Later, you can try a more erratic presentation, but I always like to start with a very slow and deliberate retrieve that gives bass plenty of time to get to it.”
During the summer, particularly on clear, hot days, notes Mansue, bass may not remain in shallow water for very long after the sun clears the horizon unless they can utilize shady cover like boat docks, lily pads, or laydowns. On cloudy days, however, or when the surface is rippled by a gentle breeze, bass may remain shallow the entire day. In choppy water, he prefers a topwater lure with a loud rattle inside.
He’s had banner days fishing topwater lures in rough water, too, and he’s also caught bass on surface lures when fishing dingy water. Just about the only time topwater lures don’t work is in extremely muddy water.
“Often, we talk about topwater fishing being a ‘fragile pattern,’ in which we’re describing how bass tend to move back to deeper water as the sun gets higher,” says Mansue. “Sometimes this movement is very abrupt and the action you’ve been enjoying just ends suddenly. What I try to do is anticipate this movement and gradually move deeper with the fish, but I still use a topwater lure and retrieve it the same way. The number of bites I get may diminish, but the bass will still come up and hit it.”
Even though water may be 40 or 50 feet deep, says the Yamaha Pro, bass will frequently suspend just 10 to 15 feet deep, so they’re still easily attracted to a topwater lure. As the afternoon progresses, bass once more move into shallow water to feed, and the surface action usually improves. Mansue suggests fishing the very same flats and points as in the morning, and with the same slow retrieve.
Mansue recommends fishing with 17 to 20 pound monofilament line, as opposed to fluorocarbon, because monofilament line floats and provides better lure action; fluorocarbon line sinks and can inhibit the side-to-side walking motion. He likes the heavier line because topwater lures often attract larger bass, too, even on the hottest summer days. Y