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BLACK BASS: Time for Topwater
By Rich Johnson

When fall comes and the weather changes, the days getting shorter, nights longer and the leaves change with the season. This is the part of the fishing season I look forward to the most. The weather may be cooling off, but the action is just starting to heat up. The fish will become more aggressive in their feeding as they fatten up for winter. With this aggressiveness, will come the abandonment of some of their senses, which means more action for you.

This is the season when I switch over to topwater lures. I am a sucker for the explosion that comes with the crashing of a largemouth upon a slowly twitched surface swimming bait. This really gets the juices flowing and will warm you, fall mornings when the mist is rising off the water. Let’s explore some of the choices we have for topwater action in the fall.

LURE CHOICE. My all-time favorite topwater lure has to be the three and five eighths inch original floating Rapala in black back/silver. This is the color I use in the early mornings and on cloudy or rainy days when the water is relatively still. On clear, sunny day I will use the blue back/silver side. As a rule of thumb, I like to match the color of the lure with color of the sky when using top waters, but don’t overlook perch patterns or the black back/gold side Rapala. Clip off the leading point on the trebles if you’re fishing around weeds to keep from fouling the hooks.

Another choice, especially when the water has a ripple to it, is a Devils Horse plug. I became accustomed to using it in Florida and it ha brought me success here in New York as well. This stickbait has a propeller, for and aft, to create a commotion in a somewhat rough water situation. Shad colors and perch patterns are the colors I have found to be most effective.

POPPERS. These plugs can result in some of the most exciting and vicious strikes of any lure. I don’t know why but bass really seem to explode on these lures. Of course the one that everyone knows of would be the Arbogast Hula Popper. This plug has been around for what seems like forever and has been a very productive lure for just as long. Frog color is the most popular and has the advantage when fished around weed edges. I use the smaller of the sizes in this popper, as many small fish will bang at it. You don’t have to worry about large fish inhaling it, and it will increase your hook-ups with the smaller fish. This lure ranks right up there with the Rapala for drawing strikes. The black color is very effective on rainy days and during the late evening hours.

Another popper that most folks forget about when it comes to freshwater is the Creek Chub or Atom poppers. They have been used in saltwater applications for a long, long time with great success. Take it from me, the smallest of sizes in these lure work just as well in freshwater. I’ve found white or silver to be very good choices. The Rebel Pop-R is also a very good popping plug. This comes is a couple of different sizes and the blue or black back are my favorite color patterns. The feathered teaser on the rear treble hook adds to the enticement of the action. The pros on the bas circuit have been touting this lure for years.

Another lure I will rely on heavily in the fall is not a surface lure at all, but is fished a one. Using a small jig/spinner blade, I will attach a one-sixteenth or one-eighth-ounce leadhead with a twister tail or sassy shad on the head. This is then cast and retrieved in such a manner that it is ripper along just slightly under the surface. This creates a V-shaped wake that drives the bass wild. The key is not to break the surface of the water with the blade. Chartreuse white tails are my preference along with black back sassy shads.

TECHNIQUE. When using different surface lures there are different techniques that are required by the angler. With minnow shaped plugs or stickbaits, the method I employ most often is “twitching.” To start, I like to use a loop knot, which allows me to get the most action out of the lure that I possibly can.

Once the lure is cast, I will wait for all the ripples to disappear. Admittedly, this is the toughest part of fishing. The waiting! Usually a 10 count will suffice before I start the first twitch. When twitching, I use a sudden downward jerking motion of the rod tip, which causes the lure to dive just a few inches. You can use any combination of jerks and sweeps that you want. Many times I will twitch, then rest, allowing the lure to come to a motionless stop on the surface before twitching again. This stop and go method is deadly. While the lures at rest, be ready. Many a strike has come while the lure lays motionless, and in some cases, as soon as the lure is started after a pause.

Remember to set the hook by feel, not by sight. We’ve all been found guilty, including myself, of seeing that explosion on the water, and rearing back on the rod, only to have the plug become a flying missile heading right for us. Once you see the strike, wait until you feel the fish swim away with the lure before setting the hook.

Many anglers simply choose to slowly swim the lure all the way through the retrieve, creating a V-wake that will drive the fish nuts. Even though the bass have sped up their activity level, they can’t seem to resist that very slow moving, lazy action. With the popping plugs, I tie directly to the lure itself for a solid connection. The lure is worked with an upward movement of the wrist, which imparts motion into the popper. On the drop pf the rod tip, reel in the slack line so you’re ready for the next movement.

As the name implies, you want to get the popper to “pop.” This popping sound will draw fish out and result in strikes through instinctive behavior and/or territorial responses from the fish. Of course there are many more surface lures to discuss, along with the conditions and techniques involved with each of them. Those mentioned above are some of my favorites and I never leave home without my vest packed with several of each in assorted colors.

So forget the football games and take advantage of this wonderful fall fishing. When you add the excitement of watching that ol’bass explode on your surface lure, you’ll be glad you’re there.


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