Even though the calendar doesn’t say so, summer is here. Water temperatures are in the eighties and because of that fact a lot of fishermen give up on catching bass in shallow water. The truth is you can still find fish that will aggressively take top water lures if you pick the right times and places.
Some of the major factors in this type of fishing are the availability of bait fish, cover in the form of structure or vegetation, and shade as well as oxygen rich water. With these things present bass will often be nearby and on the lookout for an easy meal. Their metabolism is high right now and if in an active feeding mode will chase top water lures and give you some exciting action.
One of our factors is shade and this can be provided in several ways. Overhanging trees, cloudy days, matted vegetation, stained water and of course the hours around sunrise and sunset all can provide protection from sunlight. Largemouth bass are not usually going to be hanging around in areas where the light intensity is high. They are going to move to deeper water or find places where the light is less intense. Those cloudy days will probably be your best chance of catching fish during the middle of the day. Bass will sometimes stay in shallow water all day if the sun is hiding and the bait is plentiful. Thus picking your times and spots will help increase the chance of getting the fish to bite a noisy lure.
Another factor is the availability of bait fish. In the reservoirs of Georgia that usually means shad. In the ponds it can be shad (if the owner has stocked them) but primarily it is small fry from bream, and bass hatches. Bass are not going to congregate in numbers unless they can find something to eat. Typically you can see these little fish attractors flipping or swimming around close to the edges and that usually means the big boys are close by.
Oxygen rich water in the shallows of reservoirs is usually found in areas where the wave action is heaviest. In ponds it is more about water flow. If a pond is spring fed or has some kind of natural water flow it is more likely to have high oxygen content. Bass are not going to be as active in areas where the oxygen content is low even if other factors are favorable.
There are lots of different kinds of top water lures to choose from and it is best to be ready with a variety. Some are designed to be worked fast while others are engineered to be moved more slowly. For example a buzz bait is designed to move along quickly while others like a Jitterbug, Tiny Torpedo, or Zara Spook can be worked fast or slow. You definitely have to experiment with cadence because what the fish want will vary from day to day. Sometimes they want a bait that is popping along a steady pace and other times they will more readily take a lure that is has a very erratic motion. You will also find days when the fish like it best when the lure stops for eight or ten seconds before moving again. One other possibility is that if you are getting a lot of short strikes (fish that are rising to the bait but not actually taking it) you can change to a trick worm without any weight. That worm will sink very slowly and if you flick it along will dart erratically. Those short strikes will turn into hook-ups.
I keep several top water lures in my tackle box along with a selection of Trick Worms and just about always have one tied on when I go fishing this time of year. The top producers for me over the years have been the buzz bait and the Zara Spook or Zara Puppy. There are all kinds of buzz baits but the one I like best is the one made by Lunker Lure with a white or chartreuse skirt. In the last few years I’ve grown dependent on the Trick Worm by Zoom for shallow water bass. Although technically not a top water lure it catches fish and has the added advantage of being able to be placed in heavy cover and grass beds without getting hung up.
One final option for fishing the top this time of year is to go at night. Some of the biggest bass you’ll catch in the summertime will be caught after dark. I’ve caught fish on Jitterbugs and Buzz Baits doing this and the color of choice for both is black. It is pretty cool (and nerve wracking) to listen for the bite instead of seeing it.
Fishing with top water lures is one of the most exciting ways to catch largemouth bass and now is a great time to go. Remember to find the shade, find the cover and find the bait. The rest will take care of itself and you’ll be rewarded with some of the most enjoyable trips imaginable. Nothing like watching a big bass dart from cover and attack your lure. Hang on and good fishing.
Alvin Richardson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org