Summer is the perfect time to hone in your night fishing skills. Consistent hot weather temperatures throughout the day keeps the water nice and warm in the evening. The rocky banks along the side of your favorite lakes retain the most of this heat, causing bass to move closer to shore in order absorb warmth while feeding. What this means for you is that the bass are now only a few feet away from you, and it’s an opportunity for you to put a bend on that topwater rod you’ve been waiting to set hook with. Break out the topwater lures and head out for a nighttime adventure!
Walking Baits,Wakebaits & More: Choose Your Poison
The term “topwater” does not refer to just one type of lure. Topwater can include buzzbaits, wakebaits, walking baits, frogs, and a whole other range of items to throw. To make it nice and easy for you to understand, I’ll go ahead and break down each lure that I use for night fishing and the situation they fit into.
- Wakebait: My all-time favorite night lure. Most wakebaits consist of a 1-2 joints and a bill on the front (some are lipless, too). I’ll use these to work right along the bank when there is no surface vegetation in the way. They allow me to cover water effectively while fishing slower yet making a subtle noise at the same time. Fish can’t resist it.
- Walking Bait: Another topwater staple. I use a walking bait to draw fish up from more open water anywhere from 20-30+yds off the bank where there is no surface vegetation. The walk-the-dog capabilities allow me to create more commotion as well as dead-stick the lure in a sweet spot, effectively covering all water.
- Popper: I use a popper when I want an even longer pause than a walking-style bait. Poppers are known for their bubbly “pop” noise when twitched, and I’ll fish them both in open water and right up against the bank, often letting it sit still for a solid few seconds before the next twitch.
- Frog: An absolute must when there is thick surface vegetation. If the summer grass has grown nice and high in the lake and thick mats are also present, toss a frog! I work a frog right over the mat and make long pauses at each gap in the vegetation.
- Buzzbait: The loudest and fastest topwater presentation. I work a buzzbait in either open water or right along the bank when I know the fish are aggressive and are looking for that faster movement.
These are just a few of the lures that I’ve been using, but always feel free to explore for yourself!
- Wakebait: Black Dog Bait Co. G2 Shellcracker, Black Dog Bait Co Original Shellcracker (Wooden, lipless), M.S. Slammer (Any size), Deps Buzzjet Jr., Jackall Mikey Jr.
- Walking Bait: Heddon Super Spook, Reaction Innovations Vixen, Lucky Craft Sammy, Megabass Xpod Jr. Paycheck Baits Repo Man, River2Sea Rover
- Popper: Megabass Popmax, River2Sea Bubble Walker 80, Koppers LIVETARGET Baitball Popper
- Frog: Jackall Iobee Frog, Snag Proof Bobby Barrack’s Perfect Frog, River2Sea Spittin’ Wa, Koppers LIVETARGET Hollow Body Field Mouse
- Buzzbait: D&M Customs Double Hammer, Revenge Buzzbait
A Proper Topwater Rod
There are many different types of rods for topwater baits depending on what kind of lure you decide to throw. For most of my smaller topwater presentations such as my walking baits, poppers, and buzzbaits, I’ll use a shorter, Medium-Heavy to Heavy action rod. Anything around 7’3″ is perfect. For my heavier wakebaits that are 2 ounces or more, I found that a designated swimbait rod or any Heavy action rod is crucial. The stiffness of these larger rods helps provide a solid hookset while keeping you from feeling underpowered during a cast. There are definitely other rods you can use but these are the ones I’ve felt the most comfortable with.
- Powell 735 Frog Rod: The stiffness and shorter length are perfect for my frog applications.
- Powell 765 Swimbait/Wakebait Rod: The longer length and broomstick feel makes this rod perfect for throwing my larger wakebaits.
- Powell 764 Jig/Spinnerbait Rod: This rod is a bit softer than the 765, which I love for my lighter wakebaits, walking baits, poppers, and just about any other small-medium topwater lure.
- Powell 734 : By now you can see that I love Powell… Anyways, the 734 has been a staple in my life for throwing absolutely everything. The shorter length and Heavy action as opposed to Medium on the 765 allows me to go a bit heavier on the topwater lures, ultimately widening my arsenal.
- Dobyns Champion 795 Mike Long Signature Swimbait Rod: The beast of the swimbait rod family (along with the Champion 806). I’ll use this rod when I want to throw the heavy stuff, primarily bigger walking baits and wakebaits.
A “Reel” Good Setup
Choices of reels for nighttime topwater fishing for bass can be rather simple. First you want to determine whether or not you want to use braided line or monofilament. With braid I recommend 50-60lb test, and mono I’d recommend no less than 15lb. Use any low-profile casting reel in the 6:1-7:1 gear ratios for all of your smaller topwater applications, and a larger round reel to hold heavier line. Here are a few reel recommendations depending on what kind of line, how heavy, and how much you need.
- Lew’s BB2Z: A smaller profile reel that still offers a ton of line capacity.
- Shimano Curado 200/201E: This is one of the best low-profile, high line-capacity reels that I’ve ever used. The ergonomic feel of the Curado allows you to palm it comfortably yet holds plenty of line. Anything from 65lb braid to 25lb mono can fit on the spool, and plenty of it!
- Shimano Cardiff 200-300A: A much cheaper round reel for your topwater and swimbait applications. Holds enough line and is solid enough to get the job done. I beat mine up in the salt as well.
Topwater Night Fishing For Summer Bass
Once you’re all set up, it’s time to wait until sundown and visit your favorite local lake (if accessible, of course).
- Wait for the ripples to subside after you’ve made your cast. Let the ripples span out about 10ft from your lure before you even begin your retrieve. Often times bass will hit it during this long pause.
- When retrieving a wakebait, cadence is key. Keep your rod pointed at the lure and retrieve until you see it barely waking across the surface. If done correctly you should hear a consistent knocking sound from the bait even from far away.
- Removing a soft plastic tail from rat-style wakebaits actually make them clack louder. Try it for yourself!
- With walking baits, frogs, and poppers, the pause is the most important part of your retrieve. Work the bait a few inches to a foot and pause, letting the ripples subside for a few seconds. Change the number of twitches you use after each pause, creative a random, erratic pattern to entice the bass.
- Cover as much water as possible. Don’t get stuck on one spot. After making a few casts move a few yards down the bank and cast again. This keeps you from wasting time in an area that may not have a single fish on it.
- Do not shine your flashlight/headlamp at the water! I always try to keep any light source as far away from the water as possible, as this may spook any potential bass dwelling a few feet off shore.
- Walk quietly. Since the fish are typically close to the bank, I try to move along as stealthily as possible in order to increase my chances.
- Bring bug repellent if necessary. You’re out to play at night, but the mosquitoes are too. Nobody likes going home scratching their body all over!