Summer is upon us, and topwater season is in full swing, with big blow-ups in store! Here’s a unique approach from TFO Ambassador Jeremy Francis, to tackling three topwater techniques, and getting the most out of your rods for the topwater bite (and more)!
1). Hollow Body Frogs.
There’s not much in the world of bass fishing that yields heart-pumping topwater blow-ups like a bass crashing in on a topwater frog. While there are different frogs to consider (walking, popping, buzzing), the gear and set-up you should use are mostly the same. For starters, you need line that will float, and not stretch. Hollow Body Frogs are equipped with 2 very strong heavy gauge hooks, therefore you need strong line and a heavy rod to match. Consider 50-60 braid, especially if you like fishing a frog in and around heavy cover. The braid will give you very responsive action with zero stretch, while also cutting through any grass and vegetation a fish may try to dive into after the hookset.
For the rod, the Tactical Elite 7’4 XH (TLE SC 747-1) gets the job done. While this rod is labeled as “Moderate,” the XH power gives it a strong backbone which makes for great hooksets. The moderate action and softer tip also allows for super accurate casts when you’re trying to pick apart holes in grass mats or lily pads. For the reel, consider a model with heavier drag to pull those fish out of the thick stuff, with a high gear speed. Since you’re working the frog with the rod and not the reel, the reel speed will only come into play once you set the hook, and you’ll need and want that higher speed to keep the fish from running into the cover you just brought her out of.
Unfortunately, the frog bite can sometimes die off in mid-day with a high, bright sun. For those times, I’ll use the same 7’4 TLE SC rod, but turn to a jig, Texas rig, or big shaky head worm instead. This rod blank still gives you the great sensitivity you love from the Tactical Elite line-up, which makes for a great bottom-contact rod for dragging baits around in deeper water. If you’re fishing stained water then you can still use braid. However, if the water is clearer, consider switching out reels to 17 lb fluorocarbon. It obviously doesn’t need to float (which flouro doesn’t), and flouro still gives you great feel and very little stretch for your hooksets. This is how I turn this rod into a 2 for 1, and we’ll discuss the same methodology for the next two topwater set-ups.
2.) Big Walking Baits and Ploppers
We’re going to lump a few baits into one, as we discuss the next topwater technique that is highly effective and a lot of fun to fish! Big topwater baits equipped with treble hooks (key component here) that include: Big walking baits, the good ‘ol Whopper Plopper, or the Berkley Choppo. While each of these baits come in a smaller version of themselves, we are currently talking about the big brothers here. These baits are highly effective on shallow flats, main lake points, or fishing parallel to the bank on long casts. To help you get the most out of your casts, hook-sets, and landing ratios, the rod and line you choose make all the difference in the world!
Let’s first discuss the line. You really have two options here, and many personal preferences come into play – monofilament or braid, or a combination of the two for a third option. Both mono and braid float, but depending on how much side to side walking action you are getting or wanting out of your walking baits, braided line can sometimes fall back into the treble hooks and kill the cast/action of the lure. Mono will help prevent this. For those die-hard braid fans out there, you can still use your favorite here, just consider a monofilament leader which is a little stiffer and stays out of the way of your hooks during the walking motion. For your Whopper Ploppers or Berkley Choppo, it really comes down to personal preference between braid and mono, but I’d go with braid IF you’re also using the right rod for this application.
For rod selection, if you’re not using the Tactical Glass 7’4 MH, you should really give it a try. I can’t speak highly enough about this new glass rod (TAC GB CB 745-1). The parabolic bend in this blank allows you to cast a country-mile, but more importantly, the rod is phenomenal for hooksets with these baits. The moderate action prevents you from ripping the bait away from a fish after it explodes on your bait. After the great hookset you bestow upon this fish, you are able to keep the fish pinned with a slower response rate compared to a fast action rod, which prevents fish from throwing your bait on head shakes and brings more fish in the boat. And once the sun gets high and the topwater bite dies off, this rod makes for a great bladed jig set-up. Switch to the reel/line of your choice, but you will still experience the same benefits mid-day with this rod and a bladed jig!
3. Smaller Spooks, Poppers, and Wake Baits
Now that we’ve covered the larger variety of these baits, let’s move to the smaller versions. As much as we all love big bass on big baits, there are times that we have to come to terms with the fact that bass are keyed in on smaller bait fish. For these moments, smaller spooks or walking baits, poppers, and even smaller wake baits can really excel, especially along grass lines or under overhanging trees.
Much like above, your line needs to float here. For the same reasons mentioned above, you can choose monofilament or braid. 20-30 lb braid seems to work well with these baits, except for super clear water when monofilament may work better on a slower retrieve and with pressured fish. Reel speed doesn’t matter much so I prefer the higher/faster ratios, unless it’s for a smaller wake bait, then a slower ratio reel helps me slow down the retrieve. For rod selection, we also like to step slightly down in size and power, and use the 7’2 Tactical Glass Bass (TAC GB CB 724-1). This is still a manageable rod length for imparting walking action on these baits, and the hook-up ratio is hard to beat with this rod’s action! Both the 7’2 and 7’4 Tactical Glass Bass rods are great for topwater treble hook style baits, and you won’t want to put them down.
Last thing to mention is that the 7’2 Tactical Glass Bass rod also makes for a great crankbait rod with your favorite squarebill or lipless crank. So in between the morning and evening topwater sessions when you’re slaying ‘em, switch over to a crankbait on this rod and keep sticking them mid-day!
These three topwater techniques and rods stay on the deck of my boat at all times during the Summer months. I now actually have 2 of each so I don’t have to switch reels, and can get the exact action I need and want out of the line and reel speed. You can’t go wrong with these rods, and you if haven’t tried the Tactical Glass series yet, you really need to. The quality, benefits, and price point all come together for high performance fishing to help you land more fish and get the most out of your time on the water!