Summer is the time for anglers to use topwater bait

  • Lures like the LiveTarget Commotion Shad, left, and the Googan Squad Blooper are perfect for summertime topwater fishing.

    Lures like the LiveTarget Commotion Shad, left, and the Googan Squad Blooper are perfect for summertime topwater fishing. Courtesy of Evan Gregor

By Evan Gregor
Daily Herald fishing writer
Updated 6/15/2021 1:50 PM

Summer is here and that is extra special to anglers for one reason: topwater fishing is back in town.

Topwater fishing is very much true to its name. It involves using a bait that floats on the surface and causes a commotion that draws in curious fish to strike. The most intriguing part for the angler is that there is no questioning a topwater bite, as it is easy to tell if a fish has exploded on a surface bait compared to a bait sitting deeper in the water column.


There are many different types of baits that qualify as topwater, though we will focus on three styles: Creature baits, plugs and propeller baits. All three have plenty of applications in our region and stand as the most common topwater baits across the country.

It generally seems that most anglers get into topwater through creature baits. After all, when you are young, seeing a frog or mouse-imitating lure is beyond cool. The fact that they are very productive on ponds or lakes with high levels of floating vegetation is a bonus.

For those looking to throw frog and rat lures this summer, your best bet is to throw it on a heavier rod with heavier line. Fishing with these baits is best done in thick, weedy cover and you will need all of the strength you can get to coax fish out of the gunk. I recommend a medium-heavy to heavy rod, and a reel spooled up with at least 30-pound braided line.

Poppers and walking baits are two popular plug-style baits that stand as some of the most versatile styles in topwater fishing. Both are the favorites of a variety of species and can be fished in ponds, lakes, rivers and creeks.

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Poppers are noted for their cupped mouths that displace water and make a slapping noise with small movements of the rod. Walking baits will move in an enticing side-to-side pattern with those same small movements. Using either in the early morning, late evening or during other lowlight conditions is killer for largemouth and smallmouth bass.

Finally, propeller baits like buzz baits and plopper baits have become the talk of the fishing industry recently. The fact that they are as effective in area waters as they are in the Amazon for peacock bass and in the North Atlantic for stripers and tuna may be a reason why.

Propeller baits are aptly named, mainly because their action is so like that of a propeller on a boat motor. While other topwaters can be used in a subtle fashion, propeller baits are meant to be chugged and churned across the surface. This action is beyond enticing for active, predatory fish, and leads to some of the wildest strikes and fights an angler can experience.

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