Choosing the best line for topwater fishing can be a difficult proposition. There are several ways you can go, and each one of them has its benefits and drawbacks. The old standby is monofilament. I like Sunline Defier mono, usually in 17 or 19 pound test. Mono floats, it does not backlash badly, and it’s easier to cast, especially when you’re in a hurry. The drawback to mono when fishing topwater is the extra stretch and it can be more difficult working your bait from a long way away. The other way you can go is with braided line. I prefer Sunline SX1 35 on 50 pound test. I also use 65 pound test when throwing a frog. Braid has no stretch, and it can be easier to work the bait, and it’s often easier to extract fish from hang ups with braid. The drawback to braid is castability – it’s just not as easy to cast, especially when casting in a big hurry like on schooling fish. The other thing you can do is to put a monofilament leader on braid. This is an option I use quite often when throwing a prop bait, a popper or a walking bait. It is probably my overall favorite way to fish topwater. My leader length is 7-8 feet and I end up retying the leader knot about once a day. The bottom line on fishing line is that it’s really personal preference. You just have to get out there and decide which one you like the best.
In the early Fall, you often see lots of big Gizzard Shad. Bass love these giant shad, and you want to go big with your set up to target these fish. When you start noticing big Gizzard Shad, think big baits. I like to use a big Strike King 3/8 oz. buzz bait with a Rage Toad on the back of it. As the water cools (even down to the 50s, you can catch them with this reeling pretty slowly. I also like big spinnerbaits or even a KVD 8.0 or 4.0. The 4.0 is smaller, but still works when bass are keying on big shad. So in the fall of the year think big baits for bass that are targeting big shad.
Probably the most important part of any flipping set up is the hook you choose to use. Personally, I like a straight shank hook. I think it gives me the best hook up ratio. It’s easy to rig, and the bait stays very straight. The hook I have recently started using is an Owner Jungle Hook (with zo-wire). This hook is extremely strong. Four times stronger than other hooks with the same size wire diameter. Having smaller wire, it penetrates the fishes mouth very easily. And I have found my hook up ratio increasing dramatically since using it. It has a great keeper, keeping the head of the bait up and is by far the best hook I have seen – period.
Typically in August, especially in the deep south, bass begin to transition from deeper water back to more shallow water. Usually it is not because it is cooling down because where I live in Texas, it is probably the hottest month of the year. What happens though is the water quality begins to degrade in deeper water – becomes less oxygenated. I usually like starting towards the back of creeks around creek channels and make sure I keep my eyes open for schooling bass. The ones that don’t move shallow a lot of times will just move towards the surface, and there can be great schooling action this time of year. The other thing that can work well this time of year is to fish shallow isolated cover- topwater and shallow cranks are my favorites. I hope you get to get out on the water some this August!
A great way to catch bass in the summer is targeting the bluegill spawn. The time is right when the water is warm and the moon is full or new. Fishing for blue gill is fun too. I love catching bluegill, but you can also catch big bass that are feeding on those spawning bluegill. Bluegill spawn in warm, shallow muddy-looking flat bays. My favorite way to fish the bluegill spawn is topwater, moving down the bank quickly. But if there is a lot of cover, try a swim jig. I like the Strike King Hack Attack Heavy Cover Swim Jig with a Rage Craw trailer. It runs shallow and looks a lot like a blue gill. You might move your rod a little to put inflection in the bait, but basically just reeling it in works well. If fish are not chasing topwater or swim jigs, try an Ocho rigged whacky style pitched up in shallow water. You can catch some really big fish during the bluegill spawn. covering a lot of water and using the right baits.
How do you set up to catch fish off of ledges in the hot days of summer? The first thing I do is make sure I have about six or seven baits rigged up – football jigs, a few deep diving crankbaits, Carolina rig, and a flutter spoon – something I can jerk up off the bottom and it will flutter down slowly. I rig these on fluorocarbon line. I like Sunline Sniper fluorocarbon because it’s a dense line that cuts through the water well, and gets the bait down into the strike zone. Then I need to know how deep to get. In Texas it is generally 15-25 feet. This is where my electronics are crucial. The Garmin Panoptix is an amazing tool for this type of fishing in that you can actually SEE schools of fish when you get close to them. To be competitive anymore on the professional tour, this technology is essential, but for the weekend angler, it can make for a much more fun and productive day on the water. So rig up a lot of rods on fluorocarbon line, determine the depth, use your electronics to find schools if possible, and get out there and have fun catching!
It’s the time of year when topwater really excels. You can catch fish on topwater when the water temperature reaches 55 degrees but May and June is the time when topwater really takes off, and the best conditions are when the water is clear. My favorite overall topwater bait is the Strike King Sexy Dawg. It’s a great casting walking bait that is easy to walk, it has rattles, and after throwing it a lot this Spring, I am convinced that it gets more bites than any other walking bait I’ve thrown. You can work it slowly or quickly with great results. This is a great casting bait. I just like to cover a lot of water with it and hold on for some great action.
Swimbaits have become more and more popular over the last couple of years. Tournament anglers are always looking to these baits for bigger bites. One I have found recently that has really put some nice fish in the boat is the Strike King Rage Swimmer. It comes in two different sizes, 3.75” and a 4.75”, and really has a great action. To start with, it has a great tail kick with the tail swinging wide, but it also has a good back and forth wobble to it, which is what I think makes it irresistible. It comes in a ton of great colors. You can fish it on a weighted hook or on a jig head. Give it a try. It will definitely put some big ones in the boat!
If you hear anything about fishing at the Potomac River, one thing you’ll probably hear about is snakeheads. They’re an extremely bizarre fish that are considered invasive by both the Maryland and Virginia Departments of Natural Resources. It is actually illegal to have them in your boat alive, and they ask that you terminate any you catch. The fear is that with their extremely prolific bi annual spawns and their aggressive nature, they will overtake the fishery, overtaking other species – bass, catfish, bluegill etc. We actually saw boats on the water designed to bow fish for them because they are a very good eating fish. A few buddies of mine had some and said it was great. I caught this one on a Strike King Buzz Bait. It probably weighed 8 pounds. It was a fun fight.
We are traveling home from the FLW Tour stop #7 on the Potomac River in Maryland. The Potomac River is one of my favorite places in the country to fish. After three days of practice, the biggest concentration of fish I found was in a giant grass bed near Mattawoman Creek. The area had a ton of bass in it, and I knew it would be fairly crowded, but I had no idea the number of boats that would fish it. The first day, there were at least 20 boats in there, and everyone was catching fish. I ripped ‘em, and weighed in 19-11oz., and left that main area by 1:00. The second day, the boats were a little more concentrated, and there were a few more of them. The heavy pressure made fishing a lot tougher, and I only managed 11 pounds. That area still produced some nice strings on day two, I just couldn’t get any bigger bites – caught a lot, just not big ones. In hind sight, I wish I had left that area mid-morning and hunted for some less pressured areas. Lesson learned. I will definitely look forward to the next opportunity to fish that amazing river.