The big reservoir has a slight ripple on the surface as the sun tints the eastern sky. Shad flicker on the surface. Your Zara Spook flies long and fast to the far side of a shallow gravel point. As soon as it touches the water you start twitching your rod tip, making it flip from side to side, walking the dog. A huge swirl makes it disappear and the fight is on.
The shallow grassy flat in the back of a creek on a lake is still. Your buzz bait lands near the bank and you start reeling it fast enough to keep it on the surface, churning along making a nice wake. A shower of water interrupts it track and your rod bows as you set the hook.
These kinds of events are the reason topwater fishing is so fantastic. You can see your bait and the hit of the bass, making it even more thrilling than other kinds of strikes. And bass seem to hate topwater baits, annihilating them with gusto.
I got my introduction to topwater fishing in the 1950's when I sculled the wooden boat for my father and uncles while they cast wooden plugs. I wanted to fish but knew I had to put in my time on the paddle.
One of my most exciting topwater bites came when I was about 12 years old. Three of us young boys were with our fathers at Clark's Hill. We pulled a jon boat with an old wooden runabout to a cove and they left us at the mouth, paddling the jon boat to the back to fish for bass. They told us we were too loud and would scare the fish so we had to stay well away from them.
Shouts told us they were getting bites. I had a Devil's Horse topwater plug, a thin wooden plug with spinners on both ends, tied to the line on my Mitchell 300 spinning outfit. As we tried to move the big, heavy boat around with paddles and cast I threw it toward a button bush near the bank.
My cast was way off target so I cranked it back for another cast as fast as I could turn the reel handle. The plug was buzzing across the surface when the water exploded. I hooked and fought a huge bass, the biggest by far that I had ever hooked, to the boat.
That bass weighed just over seven pounds at the store on their meat scales, and we talked for days about how crazy that bass was, hitting a plug moving way too fast over open water. Everyone knew you were supposed to fish topwater baits very slowly by cover in the water. If I had just realized it, I had come up with the idea for buzzbaits at a very young age!
A much more recent topwater memory was in a club tournament at West Point a couple of years ago. I looked at my watch as I put my trolling motor in the water and it was exactly 7:00 AM, our first stop. Five minutes later I looked at my watch again as I put my fifth keeper in the live well.
I had made seven casts, got hits on a Sammy on every cast, lost two bass and landed five. My partner had stopped fishing and was just netting my fish, unhooking them and putting them in the livewell for me.
I told him he needed to be casting but he said he was having too much fun watching me. I know I get excited when I catch a fish, but I would never have too much fun to not cast when the fish are biting!
For the next few months bass will give you a thrill on top no matter where you fish. Tie on an old reliable topwater plug or try one of the newer, fancier ones. They will all get hit and give you a thrill!