Topwater Trophy Time!
By Glenn Walker

For many anglers there is nothing more enjoyable than to see a big bass fly up out of the water and take down the offering put before it. For some anglers topwater lures are all they rely on, but these lures have a very specific place come late summer and early fall. This is when bass begin their annual fall feeding binge to put on some much needed weight for winter, and fishing topwaters is a great way to coax big bass into biting.

From lakes to rivers, there are a variety of topwater baits that can work, and finding your favorite and seeing what the bass want that day is key. Here are some my favorite topwater baits to try this year.

Walk-The-Dog baits – This simple, but effective topwater bait has a very effective and proven fish-catching action…walking the dog. This retrieve is mesmerizing to bass and will bring them to the surface when other topwaters fail. I found this out firsthand last summer when my schooling bass would no longer hit my Chug Bug, so I tied up a bait that walked the dog, and boom, I was back in the game!

A bait like this just sways back and forth across the water’s surface, and in situations where there is current you can stop the retrieve and let it float right into the sweet spot where the bass are sitting, waiting for an easy meal. Several of my favorite plugs that walk-the-dog include, the original Heddon Zara Spook and the Yo-Zuri Sashimi Pencil.

Poppers – Chug, chug, chug…SPLASH! That is the noise of a topwater popper in action, and this is one of my favorite ways to target when they are putting on the feed bag. The Chug Bug and Pop-R are my two favorite popper baits to use. These baits can be fished in numerous ways, which make them extremely versatile because as the bass’s mood changes, you can speed up or slow down your retrieve.

My two top retrieves for a popper include a constant, fast reel and jerk approach. This works well when the bass are extremely active and you want to cover a large amount of water quickly.

In the other retrieve, after I give the popper a jerk, I let the bait sit still for several seconds. Bass, especially smallmouth hate it when the bait is just sitting there making a noise.

The majority of time, I use a black or blue back with chrome body popper to help give off some extra flash. Other colors that are popular choices include shad imitators, but some off-the-wall colors excel in muddy water situations.

Anytime I fish a walk-the-dog style bait or popper, I’ll spool my Wright & McGill Victory High Speed baitcast reel with 15pound Seaguar Senshi mono, as this line has some stretch to it, so the treble hooks won’t rip the bass’s mouth.

It is also very vital to use a rod that has a soft tip and good bend in the backbone. Your rod needs to give when the bass hits and makes a surge to deepwater, as you don’t want the hooks to pull free. I use the Wright & McGill Tessera Series 6’8” Topwater rod.

Frogs – The topwater frog has gone through quite the metamorphosis through the years, and the end result today is frogs that are truly high performance lures! This topwater bait is a prime and obvious choice when targeting bass in heavily matted vegetation, floating vegetation and lily pad fields. But as numerous pro anglers have revealed, the topwater frog works well over open water. Making long casts to the vegetation and retrieving it all the way back past the edge of the vegetation and over the open water is a great way to coax bass out.

The new Snag Proof Ish’s Phat Frog has taken frog technology to a new level with its ITT (Inner Tube Technology) which makes sure that your frog doesn’t take on any water or sink. The Ish’s Phat Frog also has a flatter profile so it will track more smoothly through the vegetation. The key action of walking the dog with a frog is easy with the Phat Frog; just take it out of the box and you are ready to go!

Varying your retrieve will bring the bass in and it will tell you how the bass want the frog. Sometimes a smooth and steady retrieve works best, while other times you have bring the frog to open water pockets or the edge of the vegetation and just let it sit there. When it comes to color selection for frogs, I will commonly use a white, black and now the Sexy Ish. The color you choose depends on the water clarity, how dense the vegetation is and if it is sun or cloudy.

Buzzbait – A buzzbait is a great topwater choice when fishing around submerged and emergent vegetation. By speeding up and slowing down your retrieve you can change the action of your buzzbait. My favorite way to use a buzzbait is as a search lure to determine where the bass are positioned on the cover. Making parallel casts to the cover will keep your bait in the strike zone longer and increase the number of strikes you will get. 

I’ll either use a 3/8- or 1/2-ounce buzzbait depending on the wind, but one thing is for sure, all of my buzzbaits have a clacker because it puts out the maximum amount of noise possible and really calls in big bass from far away. That is why I choose an RC Tackle buzzbait that has a clacker. This buzzbait also features a unique head design to keep the bait running true, plus it helps get the bait on top of the water quickly.

When I’m fishing topwaters, my goal is to cover as much water as possible so I can find active bass that are willing to come to the surface. What allows me to do this in an efficient manner is to wear an Onyx inflatable life jacket. By wearing this life vest, it eliminates the time of putting on and taking off a life jacket when fishing. The Onyx vest is comfortable and low profile so it will not get in the way or have an adverse effect on my fishing ability.

Now that I have your blood boiling and your pulse racing, grab your favorite topwater baits and go take part of some exciting topwater bass action as they start to feed up this fall!

Glenn has been fishing tournaments for 10 years, spreading his passion and knowledge of the sport via articles and videos. He keeps busy fishing events across Minnesota and on the Mississippi River. Glenn's sponsors include: Humminbird, Jeff Belzer Chevrolet, LakeMaster, Mercury Marine, Minn Kota, Onyx, Plano, Rayjus, RC Tackle, Seaguar, Snag Proof, The Rod Glove, Trokar and Wright & McGill. For more information check out