Friday, July 8, 2016

Bass Blast Topwaters: Light the Fuse

Bloop, bloop, bloop--whomp! The Rebel Pop-R bears an awkward name, but sure action.

Bass Blast Topwaters

Light the Fuse

          Nothing else in bass fishing suggests fireworks better than topwater plugs, buzzbaits and weedless soft plastics. A surface strike from a big bass can impress memory for a lifetime, the suddenness not immediately anticipated. Also like fireworks, topwater fishing has to do with light. Once summer gets underway, the word about bass is early and late. By October, plenty get caught during afternoon hours, but I see boats come off the lake before 8:00 a.m. earlier in the season. The usual notion assumes cooler temperatures in the morning and evening account for better action or any action at all, but research has shown changing light advantages largemouths and smallmouths to see prey such as shiners and sunfish better than they can see the bass. Between first light and the sun angling over the horizon, light intensity transitions from darkness to brilliance. Vice versa in the evening.

          We’ve enjoyed surface action during an early August afternoon with the temperature hovering around 90. A front began to approach; clouds slowly thickened, gradually reducing light. One bass after another struck Hedden Torpedoes fished over a weedy flat 10 feet deep. The next two months produced great topwater action. By October 1st, water temperatures about optimal for bass provoked them to give chase throughout the day. Although my favorite October lure is spinnerbaits, whenever clouds alternated with sun or we fished early in the morning or near sunset, surface plugs or buzzbaits worked well.

          Some anglers claim to have observed bass staying close to bottom during these times of transitional light I’ve mentioned, looking upward to catch the silhouettes of any forage. This state of affairs makes topwaters the perfect offerings. Perhaps the bass cruising the weedy flat in August didn’t actually hug bottom, but trailed about through the milfoil stalking anything situated above them. In any case, topwaters work over weedbeds, however deep the water beneath. They’re also effective in timber fields, which may be 30 or 40 feet deep, although usually shallower depths host taller trunks and may invite better surface fishing, may not. Southern reservoirs are a different story than my home state of New Jersey. Snagless buzzbaits may best tackle any sort of timber, stick-ups and submerged brush, unless you want to test casting accuracy with plugs and treble hooks, which I confess I’ve done in the timber at night to great success.

          Changing light is only part of the story, since the lunkers blasting night surface aren’t influenced by light at all, unless the moon is present. No one I know or have read has reported anything in particular about success when the moon shades in and out of clouds, but it is the same principle we’re discussing—just a matter of degree—so interesting to me.

          During summer and fall, when we get up early to fish bass, we make it to the lake before first light to leisurely prepare for first casts with just enough blue to the east to notice the faintest hint of what’s coming, and we’ve caught bass in this darkness. Whatever my partner really feels, I invest more value in the first cast at this time of day than any other. Invariably, I make sure we position so that cast goes to very shallow water.

          Big bass like shallow water so long as they can get away with it, and for this sort of situation, there really seems no other time like very early and well after sunset. I once aimed my first cast to a corner of an 18-acre pond, the Rebel Pop-R plunking down in a foot of water, and I felt the cast was perfect. “Bloop, bloop, bloop, kablam!” Minutes later, I lifted a bass of almost five pounds, and it was still too dark to get a photo.

          Smallmouths are much the same—even in summer—although in my own limited experience, I’ve had the best topwater action in the evenings. During the day, smallmouths hang close especially to large rocks situated in deep water, yet many spread out as the sun goes down, leaving the protection of shadowing stone, frequenting gravel-bottomed shallows, especially those combined with sparse vegetation holding forage. Typically, I fish surface plugs with quick, cadenced retrieves, covering range and feeling very eager with each cast for a strike, because strikes happen fast and frequent.

          October, on the other hand, witnesses smallmouths in shallows all day long, especially at the heads of deep drop-offs with boulders rising out of the water. It’s fun to cast a variety of plugs or perhaps to stick with a favorite right at rock edges, and more than once, plastic has shattered due to a deliberate, but bad cast. Any time of year when water is sufficiently warm, a classic plug like the Torpedo will last as long as anglers fish bass, because nothing beats the blast of a Torpedo.  


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