My bass-fishing friends are very easy to please. All they want is to catch a lot of great big fish, preferably exploding on topwater baits and then jumping the whole way while being reeled in. Most days, I’d ask them if they wanted a unicorn to deliver them an ice cream cone as well to cap their unrealistic fantasy. For a month or so each year, this dream scenario becomes a reality, and it is the favorite time of the year for many veteran anglers. Best of all, it’s pretty simple and works on most lakes and rivers, so read on to find out how.
Immediately after spawning, bass are tired and very hungry. On most lakes, bass will spawn when the surface temperatures in the lake remain above 60 degrees overnight. By the time the water temps are starting to measure in the 70s overnight, many bass have finished and the good topwater bite begins. After the bass spawn, most of the baitfish that they eat will spawn in the shallows, normally close to the bank in 4 feet of water or less. Bluegill and other sunfish make beds in shallow areas around aquatic weeds, flooded trees or hard-bottomed areas like clay and gravel. Shad, a plentiful small baitfish that bass love to eat, come to the banks to spawn in huge schools, especially early and late in the day. With so much food near the bank at this time, hungry bass go on an all-day feeding spree to regain their strength after the spawn.
Rigging and fishing poppers is simple, with a good selection at any tackle store. I normally start with one that is about 2 inches long and weighs around ¼ to ⅜ ounce. A couple of examples would be a Lucky Craft G-Splash or a Lake Fork Trophy Lures Magic Popper. (You can do a quick Web search for these to get an idea of the type of bait I’m talking about.) These baits cast well on all types of gear, and I’ll rig them on 10-pound monofilament or copolymer line on a spinning or spincasting reel, or 15-pound test of the same line for baitcasters. Poppers float and their cupped mouths “pop” on the surface each time you twitch them, spitting water and making a popping sound with each move. Don’t reel them in; rather, just give a small twitch or two with a bit of slack in your line to make them spit and pop, then let the lure sit still for about 5 seconds before twitching again. The splashes and pops attract hungry fish, but most will hit the bait when it is just sitting still. Basically, you’re trying to make your lure look like a weak, injured fish that is an easy meal for the bass.
You can fish poppers from the shore or from a boat with equal success. If there are weeds, docks or trees in the water, throw around these targets in 4 feet of water and less. If the water is more open, then just cast along the bank. I move quickly from spot to spot until I get a bite. Once you catch one, you’ll likely find a lot more nearby, so slow down and really work it over.
Happy topwater time, everyone! Don’t miss the fun, because it happens only once a year. Unicorns and ice cream cones sold separately.