With open water season here in the mid-west region, it is nice to be back in the boat and slingin’ some lures across the lake. I love fishing for multiple species with various presentations across the board, from bobber fishing, trolling, and jigging.

When it really gets down to the nitty gritty of it, I am a total freak when it comes to top water action, especially when I am guiding. There is nothing better than seeing a client’s reaction when they see the water explode.

Now, top water presentations take some practice. I am sure we have all fallen victim of setting the hook-on sight versus feel. Once you have the timing figured out, it is so much fun. There is something special about that thrill of a fish jumping out from underneath the lure and smacking it. I have a hard time passing up a bed of lily pads when I see them. The frog rod comes out, and the ploppin’ begins.

I have a wide array of top water lures in my arsenal. Of course, we all get “caught” at the local bait shop when we see the new hot lure, and we must have it! Will it work? More than likely. There are many different top water baits to choose from. Why? Well, there are several species we can target almost any time during the open water season that will get fish fired up. From Sunfish, Crappies, Bass, Pike and of course the illusive Muskie.

Here are some pointers for species specific top water tactics:


I love getting crappie and bluegill to go on top water lures. When I can find these fish up in the shallows or in the pencil reeds, I will throw little poppers. Some may be familiar with the old hula poppers, they are tried and true. I normally find these fish feeding in the shallows in the evening in calm waters.

I try to keep the boat positioned far enough away to cast into the targeted area. Normally you can find these fish feeding on the surface around dusk. Little ripples of gills and crappies will be cruising the top of the water feeding on bugs. If you find this, then you can anticipate catching them.

Now, to the most common of species for top water fishing.

The Largemouth Bass 

There is a wide array of lures that make some erratic splashing across the water to make bass go crazy. Bass have that distinct lateral line that helps them sense intrusion. They don’t necessarily see the frog swimming or popping across the pads, they can feel the vibration of the pads moving.

In some cases, therefore they may overshoot their prey, or even jump right over it. It’s kind of stereotypical that bass are always going to be in the lily pads. In most cases you may find one or two in a stand of pads. Sometimes you may strike out.

For me, I can’t take the chance on watching the water explode. When it comes to top water lures for bass, there are several different ones to choose from. Retail stores are flooded with all kinds of different baits. Not only that, but the technology has come a long ways with realistic actions and moving parts. With synthetic materials, these baits are just shy of being the real deal.

There is an abundance of frogs on the market, along with poppers, and prop baits. Using the prop baits and other floating stick baits, you’ll want to target areas that are shallow, yet less weedy. Weeds will more than likely get caught up in the hooks, or props and cause the bait to foul up. Most times, I will seek out shallow stands of cabbage, or coon tail, even the edges of lily pads when throwing these types of baits.

My favorite top water fishing comes into play chasing toothy predator fish. When it comes to pike and muskies, there is nothing better than seeing those giants make a wake behind the wake of a top water.


For Pike, I like to throw a lot of buzz baits. Basically, they look like a spinnerbait with a different type of blade. The blade is designed like a prop, and skims across the top of the water creating a wake with bubbles along with making a unique noise. One of my favorite buzz baits is the Northland Tackle Buzzard Buzzer. It is built well, and they are affordable. Northland tackle has a variety of weights and colors to choose from.

Another great bait for northern pike is a prop bait called a Wounded Zara Spook. This bait has a unique action in the water and will certainly get a pike’s interest to eat.


When it comes to the Muskie, they can be the most frustrating to most people. I absolutely love throwing top waters for these monsters. Again, there are hundreds of different lures of choice. They cast a wide variety of sizes shapes and colors. Once you can get one of these monsters to roll, I promise you, that you will be hooked!

Do yourself a favor, and pick up some top water baits this summer and go have some fun.