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Topwater techniques remain successful

The popularity of various fishing techniques seems to grow then fade as time goes on, but topwater action never gets old.

Longtime Lake Erie anglers remember the glory days of nightcrawler-baited, weight-forward spinners in the 1970s and ’80s, when everybody had Erie Dearies ready for their walleye trips. Stream anglers went whole hog with their Rooster Tails and Mepps spinners, while the bass crowd fell in love with grape, strawberry and other fruit-scented soft plastic worms.

While all of those lures and presentations continue to produce, anglers today have added considerably to their repertoire. Fishermen and women gravitate to the most productive tactics, for obvious reasons.

Fortunately, some of the most productive techniques also generate exciting bites. And when it comes to thrills, not much can top the strikes produced by surface lures.

I recently had an extended opportunity to fish topwater for largemouth bass and came away from the experience with a lot more knowledge about when and where to work the surface, and a new appreciation for the quality of the bass they can tempt.

Three lures comprised my surface arsenal. One was a buzzbait, the other a walker and the third a venerable popper.

Each of them yielded good numbers of bass and it was relatively easy to determine which lure to tie on given the day’s wind and sky. One, however, out-produced the other two regardless of the day’s conditions.

The hot ticket was the popper. Specifically, it was a Pop-R that I purchased 30 years ago when Rebel reintroduced the lure it had dropped from its lineup in the late 1970s.

The buzzbait worked well on overcast days when there was a good ruffle on the surface. The walking bait, which twitches in left-right-left-right fashion when worked properly, was best on cloudy calm days.

The Pop-R, however, worked every day during my four-week test period. Regardless of the wind, the sky conditions, the temperature and other factors, the Pop-R brought fish charging to the surface.

I was particularly impressed that the old Pop-R generated vicious strikes — and lots of them — even during midday outings. Long regarded as a low-light tactic, my topwater fishing at high noon was just as productive as the times when I hit the water early and late during the low-light hours.

In one 90-minute span at midday, I hooked and landed 18 largemouth bass ranging from one to three pounds. During my month of topwater experimentation, I caught a considerable number of bass topping four pounds and four that exceeded six pounds.

Along the way, I learned that the cadence applied to work the lure across the surface also made a big difference in generating strikes. In clear water, a fast retrieve was better. When the water was a little murky, I slowed down the pace to get the fish to react.

One trick I learned from pro angler Zell Rowland of Texas in the 1980s also proved helpful. I followed Rowland’s counsel about tying the mono directly to the screw eye in the Pop-R’s face and sliding the knot down so it pointed toward the lake bottom. That results in a spitting action that helps seal the deal when bass zoom up to investigate.

Done properly, that spitting retrieve generates explosive strikes, the kind that make fishing trips memorable and pull you back to the lake again and again. They just never get old.

Jack Wollitz is a writer and angler who enjoys topwater fishing throughout Northeast Ohio and Western Pennsylvania. He also appreciates emails from readers. Send a note to Jack at jackbbaass@gmail.com.

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