Fishin’ with Capt. Gus

Capt. Gus Gustafson is an outdoor columnist and

a full-time professional fishing guide.

Visit or call 704-617-6812 for more information or to book a trip.



Topwater Lures

What are they biting? That’s a question bass fishermen ask over and over again. Due to diverse habitat and water conditions, the list of productive lures is lengthy.


Lures that buzz, swish, gurgle and pop across the surface are categorized as topwater lures. While very few replicate any particular creature, the disturbance they create while moving across the water’s surface draws the attention of bass and other predator species. Depending on conditions, the same lure can be twitched slowly to create only a slight ripple, or quickly to create a violent commotion. Usually somewhere in between produces the most strikes.


Bass primarily depend on the senses of sight and sound to snare their prey. Topwater lures are a good choice in the spring when insects, snakes, birds and other animals swim the shorelines. Since bass are already nearby breeding, any surface disturbance can prompt a strike. Interestingly, bass don’t have to be hungry to hit. Often times, they strike out of meanness.


Conditions dictate the type of lure, its color, size and the technique required to produce a top water bite. As a rule, when the water is very calm or very shallow, a small lure fished with a slow stop and go action fits the bill. On the contrary, when bass are holding in deeper water, a quick and noisy presentation works best.


There are a variety of lure types to choose from:


* Stick baits and darters are pencil or cigar shaped lures with or without propellers on either end.


* Poppers have a concaved nose which produces a popping sound when fished with a stop and go action.


* Buzz baits are V-shaped wire baits with a jig head fitted with a skirt covering its hook on one end and a propeller which lifts it to the surface, on the other.


* Jerk baits are buoyant minnow-like lures that dart, dive and return to the surface when using a twitch, stop-go technique.


* Floating worms and flukes resemble snakes or wounded baitfish.


* Frogs and mice resemble aquatic critters. Mouse look-a-likes are used in boat basins frequented by muskrats.


Tip from Capt. Gus:

A common mistake when fishing topwater lures is to initiate the hook-set immediately upon seeing the fish swirl at the lure. To improve your strike-to-hook-up ratio, don’t set the hook until you feel the bite at the rod.




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