Chuggers and Poppers
Chuggers and poppers have a concave face and will pop or gurgle when you twitch them. Some of them will also spit water when popped, making a spray that looks like water being thrown by feeding fish. The Hula Popper (compare prices) is one of the oldest around and will still catch fish. More modern versions include the Pop-R,(compare prices) Rico, Chug Bug (compare prices) and the Grande SK Pop.
These types of topwater baits work best in fairly open water since they have sets of exposed treble hooks. Cast them around shoreline cover like stumps and let them sit for a few seconds, then twitch your rod tip with a short pull. The lure will pop and gurgle.
Work slowly near the cover and try different strengths of pops. Also try different cadences, with a pop and pause then a pop, pop, pause. When bass are schooling on top chasing baitfish a fast, constant popping with small jerks of your rod tip makes the bait look like a fish chasing bait and will draw strikes. You can't move the bait too fast under these conditions.
These baits have a propeller on one end or both. When you pull the rod tip they sputter on top, sounding like a feeding fish. The Devil Horse (compare prices) and Tiny Torpedo (compare prices) are two early baits of this type. Newer models include the Crazy Shad and X-Rap Prop. (compare prices)
Fishing around cover like shoreline stumps and brush is where these lures excel. Cast near the cover, let the bait sit as long as you can stand it, then twitch your rod top, making the propeller churn. Move the lure just a few inches at the time and fish them very slowly to attract a fish that is inactive or fish them faster for actively feeding fish.
A floater/diver is a long minnow shaped bait with a lip at the front. It floats but when you pull it it dives, but usually not too deep. At rest if floats back to the surface. These baits look like an injured baitfish struggling to get back down deeper. The Rapala Minnow and Rebel are two early kinds but there are many similar baits now with different size lips to make them dive to different depths.
You can fish these baits over grass, around cover and even over slick banks. They will work on schooling fish, too. Around cover, let the bait sit then pull your rod tip several inches to a foot to make the bait dive. Pause and let it float to the surface then repeat. Try different speeds. The bait can also be worked like a jerkbait, with a pull to get it underwater then constant twitches of the rod tip to make it dart.
Buzzbaits are safety pin spinnerbait type lures with a lead head and skirt on one wire arm with a big propeller like blade with cups on the ends on the other. The head is often flat to make the lure come to and stay on the surface better. When you reel the bait constantly it runs along the surface, churning the water. The older lures were usually in-line with the propeller and hook on one shaft. Now most are shaped like a spinnerbait.
Cast the buzzbait over grass even if it is only inches below the surface and it will stay over it. Other shallow cover can be fished with buzzbaits without tangling, too. They also work well around any kind of cover or over slick banks or open water.
Long torpedo shaped baits with rounded ends don't look like they would catch a fish but they are one of the best topwater baits made for schooling fish. They have no action of their own but when you twitch the rod tip then move it back the lure jumps from side to side in a "walk the dog" action. They look just like a smaller fish feeding on baitfish and will attract hits from big bass and other predators. One of the earliest is the Zara Spook (compare prices) and it is still a standard topwater bait.
When fish are schooling on top cast ahead and past the action and start walking the dog. Throwing slack in your line with each twitch is critical to allow the bait to walk back and forth. Jerk the rod tip forward then immediately move it back. The lure will almost stay in one place. These baits will catch fish over open water as well as over cover. They are especially effective on fish like spotted bass, largemouth bass, stripers and hybrids. Spots will often come up from cover 30 feet deep in clear water to smash one.
Frogs and Rats
Frogs and Rats have been around for a long time but are still effective. They are soft hollow plastic baits that look like a frog, with a single or double hook with the shaft through the body and the hook lying close to the body on top. They are very weedless so they are very good for fishing on top of grass mats and through emergent grass. Fishing lakes like Guntersville with extensive hydrilla mats often requires a frog or rat. Rats and Frogs were some of the first soft plastic baits on the market.
Some frogs have a cupped face to make them pop, like the Spro Popping frog. Most have rubber legs to look more realistic. Rats have a rubber tail. Both baits are effective when cast into cover. Work the slowly through holes in the grass and over it, too. Bass will smash through the grass to eat it. An effective trick is to cast either bait onto a lily pad, let it rest, then pull it off, like a frog or rat that has been resting.
All topwater baits are good at times and will often draw strikes, and from the biggest fish around, when nothing else seems to work.