Top-water hard to top

Larry Woody • Aug 16, 2017 at 9:30 AM

I’m not sure what sort of aquatic critter the lure was supposed to represent – it was cigar-shaped, bug-eyed and solid white, and it weaved, wobbled and gurgled across the glassy surface of Old Hickory Lake.

Likewise, I don’t know if the big bass that lunged out of the weed-bed was trying to eat the thing or run it out of the neighborhood.

Whatever the motivation, the bass smacked into the lure with a big “ker-chug!”

The calm water exploded as the fish thrashed on the surface, bore deep, then rocketed out of the water. It danced on its tail, shook its head twice, and sent the dislodged lure zinging back at the boat.

It took my fishing buddy a couple of minutes to get the lure untangled and resume casting. He was suffering from the top-water trembles.

There’s no more exciting fishing than top-water fishing, especially for bass. Granted, it can be frustrating because you generally miss more strikes than you hook – no matter how ready you think you are, you’re never ready when one explodes on the surface.

If you jerk too fast you may jerk the lure out of the fish’s mouth.

If you don’t jerk fast enough, it’ll spit out the lure.

Even if you jerk exactly when you’re supposed to jerk, it’s still hard to set the hook on a top-water strike, and if there’s the least bit of slack in the line the fish will often throw the lure But for pulse-pumping action, it can’t be beat.

As kids we had a couple of favorite top-water lures, the Jitterbug and the Hula Popper. It was exciting to fish a Jitterbug on a dark night, casting out into the blackness and listening to the “glub-glub-glub” as the Jitterbug jitterbugged across the surface.

Suddenly its progress would be interrupted by a “chug!” somewhere out in the dark, and you’d feel a fish surge on the end of the line.

With a Hula Popper, you’d cast it near structure, like dead trees or stumps or a reedy shore line. Let it sit until the ripples subsided, then give it a slight twitch. Alternate between twitches and pops – the Hula Popper has a wide, caved mouth – until a bass couldn’t stand it any longer.

Nowadays top-water baits have evolved, like all other fishing lures. In addition to old favorites like the Jitterbug and Hula Popper, there is a wide variety of similar lures on the market.

Although different, all share the same basic characteristic: they create a disturbance on the surface that attracts a predator’s attention and entices it to attack.

Certain lures, like the Hula Popper, imitate a frog on the surface. Others simulate the erratic movements of an injured minnow skittering across the water. Some have internal rattles and some come with propeller blades on the front, back or both, to increase the surface action.

During the summer the best time to fish surface lures is from dawn until 8:30 or so, and late afternoon until nightfall and through the night. During the mid-day, the glaring sun tends to put the fish down.

But when conditions are right and the fish are on the prowl, there’s no thrill like the thrill of getting a top-water lure torpedoed. Don’t forget your nerve pills.

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