There are few, if any, bigger thrills in the sport of fishing than catching smallmouth bass on topwater lures, especially in rivers and streams. Under the right conditions smallies will hammer a variety of topwater baits and leave you shaking with nervous excitement. Topwater baits really shine during the summer months as water temperatures climb above the mid-60 degree mark. Overhead presentations are especially effective early and late in the day when fish are more active and roam freely in search of prey.
Keep in mind that if you fish topwaters for smallies you will miss more strikes compared to other presentations. And if you’re used to fishing for largemouth bass on top you will miss more fish than you’re accustomed to because of the smallie’s tendency to slap at the lure rather than `slurp’ it in like a largemouth bass does. In fact, sometimes smallies don’t even open their mouth and just smash the lure like a battering ram! Because it is easy to miss fish by setting the hook too quickly, try to delay your hook-set for a second or two after a fish strikes.
Here’s a lineup of some very effective topwater lures that belong in every smallmouth fan’s bag of tricks.
(1/8 or 1/4 oz.) Just like the American Express card, don’t leave home without it, (especially a black or white colored buzzer). Buzzbaits are very easy to fish (try a slow-to-moderate retrieve) and are great for covering water quickly. Using a reel with a high-speed gear ratio (6:1) makes it easier to keep the lure on the surface. The anticipation of a smallmouth bass slamming a buzzbait will send chills down your spine. If a fish blows up on it but misses, quickly reel in and cast right back and retrieve through the same area. Smallies will often hit a buzzer more than once.
Heddon Zara Puppy:
Talk about excitement! The classic “walkin’ the dog” retrieve wakes up BIG smallmouth – especially in autumn. Fishing a Zara Puppy can be frustrating though, because smallies often blow the lure clear out of the water without getting hooks. It sure makes for a pretty sight though.
Intermittent twitches of this surface popper call in smallies from long range, especially when they are chasing down minnows or shad. Use the smallest size available (2″) and don’t overwork this lure. A subtle “spit, spit” of water from the concave face of the lure as you retrieve is more realistic than a loud, “SPLOOSH” retrieve.
Heddon Tiny Torpedo:
This traditional favorite is shaped like a cigar butt and has a rear propeller. It is usually slowly retrieved or twitched along the surface in key fish-holding areas.
Rapala Floating Minnow:
(Sizes 7, 9, 11) The old balsa wood favorite will never go out of style. Quickly twitch it along the surface for active fish or retrieve it for a few feet, then let it float back to the surface and repeat. Of course, Rapalas fish well on a straight retrieve under the surface, and are one of the few “all day” lures you can throw for bass. Fish it on top in the morning, below surface in the afternoon, and back on top in the evening.
Storm Jr. Thunderstick (1/4 oz.) or Baby Thunderstick (1/8 oz.):
The Thunderstick’s rolling action often results in the lightning strike of a smallmouth bass! These plastic minnow imitators tend to cast farther and truer than Rapalas, especially in windy conditions. Fish it just like the Rapala and hold on.
Storm Baby Chug Bug (1/4 oz.):
This new addition to the smallmouth angler’s bag of tricks offers great promise. The Chug Bug is a favorite with largemouth bass anglers and this new miniature version is great for smallies. The Baby Bug offers great versatility in retrieves – you can twitch it, pop it, chug it, spit it, or whatever else comes to mind. The rear treble hook has a flashy tail for added attraction.
Smallmouth bass on topwater lures are great fun. If you haven’t tried this style of fishing before, then experiment with some of these lures and presentations and join in the fun this year. Good fishin’