When targeting Bass on surface there is a few key elements that must be studied before a great top water session can be achieved. Over the years I’ve learnt the things that are required for a good bite and experienced changes that can fire the fish up, shut them down, or not hit surface at all. Below I will explain what I’ve learnt.
In my experience over the years fishing surface lures there is some favourable weather conditions that I look for and scenarios that suit the presentation best. From hot afternoons to freezing cold mornings, Bass don’t mind coming up and smacking a lure off the top. When fishing surface it’s always favourable to have little or no wind so that your lure is displaying its full effect on the water surface. There are many types of surface lures on the market but they will only work to their full potential when the water is at it’s calmest. Likewise for low light conditions, early morning and late afternoon is always the best time to be successful. When the light is low the fish are out hunting and are less timid, even fishing shaded areas during full sun is likely to produce fish.
As stated before there are more favourable conditions than others. I always love fishing surface in the early mornings than any other time. At this time the fish are generally cruising the shallows or the edges looking for an easy meal. If the water is dead calm you have to be sure to make your entry onto a bank with great stealth. Shallow fish are hyper sensitive to everything going on around them, so any unnatural noise or movement could ruin your chances. In these conditions, I like to throw a quiet, subtle; ‘walk the dog’ type lure. These are the perfect presentation for this type of situation. They are designed to glide across the surface with minimal water disturbance and are great imitations of a wounded or fleeing bait fish. ‘Insect’ type surface lures are also a great presentation to throw. Personally I like the cicada or small frog patterns as they tend to land softly and imitate the bait species perfectly. Small subtle movements are the best as the fish lay waiting in ambush, and will move fast and strike hard if presented correctly.
In a scenario where the wind has put a ripple on the water I’d lean more towards a lure that has a cupped face (popper), as this lure displaces water and pops quite well to make the fish aware of it’s presence and give them a target when the surface isn’t dead still. These types of lures can be used when it’s calm or rippled so it does help to experiment and get a feel for what’s working for you. Seasonal changes do come into play as well. In summer I like to target steeper banks where the water is deeper. Rock walls with over hanging branches are a great one to target when it’s warm. In winter I’ll target shallow, grassy banks or banks with a sufficient amount of weed. Fish tend to sit shallow in winter and this is a prime area to start on a cold morning.
Weather events can trigger a surface bite as well. When there is a storm build up, and the air is still and humid this can really trigger the Bass to stir and head up to see what the storm may push into the water. So many times I have heard a storm rumbling in the distance and had the fish switch to surface in a big way. Particular in areas where there are large tree’s overhanging the bank. Water influx into a dam can also be a major trigger for a surface bite. A dam that has had significant rainfall and a rise in water levels can see bait or insects washed into the dam and float on the surface. Many times after rain, throwing a cicada or popper has produced some good fish.
The general consensus between bass anglers is, that if a dam has bony bream or the fish feed heavily on Bonies they won’t bite surface. This isn’t entirely true, but I’ve noticed it does have an effect on how the fish will feed. Bass are ambush predators and are opportunistic feeders, if they see your surface lure as a potential easy meal they will hit it. Bass are also wired to hunt prey that is readily available to them. If a dam has Bonies you’re more likely to catch fish throwing a Bonie imitation. In this case if you want to catch a fish on a surface lure I’d be throwing it shallow, in winter as you’re more likely to have a reaction as they don’t have to move far. The most successful dams to target fish on surface are dams that hold gudgeon or smelt. The fish in these dams tend to feed more often as the bait is much smaller and more elusive. That being said a surface lure is generally easy pickings for a fish feeding up shallow on smelt. These are the general rules that I abide by when targeting fish on surface. The opportunity doesn’t always present itself but if you’re aware of your surroundings and mindful of the right situation you could be in for a very memorable session.
Written by Matthew Langford