Late spring in North Carolina is a time when you will still find a few river bass on beds, but most are in the post-spawn stage and quickly moving toward the summer bite. Lately I have been sneaking out for a couple of hours in the early morning and hitting the river before work. I have been fishing topwater baits exclusively and have a “system” that has been very productive. And let’s face it, nothing beats a massive topwater blow-up!
When focusing on fishing topwaters, I like to have my bases covered. So, I rig 4 rods with 4 baits that will excel in various river situations. The bread and butter topwater bait for most river bassers is a buzzbait. I almost always have a buzzbait tied on a rod and use it to target areas with chutes, current seams, and also areas with wood cover. My favorite buzzbaits are the Chatterbuzz from R&S Baits and the Counter Attack from S.O.B. Lures in sizes of 1/4 oz up to 3/4 oz. My favorite colors, by a long shot, are white, chartreuse, and black or some combination of those three. When it comes to buzzbaits, a lot of the time you want to be able to fish the bait as slowly as possible. So, using a longer rod and high speed reel can be very beneficial. Also, don’t forget your trailer hooks, which will help improve your hook-up rate.
This chunky largemouth feel for an R&S Baits Chatterbuzz
I also rig a more subtle bait that I can walk at different speeds. Lately, this has become the Lucky Craft Gunfish. However, another very effective (and much cheaper) bait is the Storm Chug Bug. The Gunfish is very versatile because you can walk it, pop it, or slash it. I use it to fish calmer areas, eddys, and slow moving pools – however as with any bait, don’t ignore current seams. At times when the Gunfish may be too aggressive, I switch to a Lucky Craft Sammy and fish it very slowly back to the boat. You will be shocked at how many bites occur after the fish has followed the bait a significant distance – particularly during the post-spawn stage.
This gorgeous Susquehanna River smallie blasted a Lucky Craft Gunfish
My third rod may be either have a Sammy tied on or be a fly rod with a big bass bug or frog immitator attached. Lately, it has been the fly rod, armed with a frog immitation. Fished over wood, around weeds, or in film, it has been lights-out this spring. Be sure to use a heavy rod (7 weight or heavier) and a sufficient leader. A fly rod allows for yet another different presentation and one that very few other anglers use- making it very effective on pressured fish. Fish your topwater bugs at different cadences – fast, slow, twitching, pausing, and popping. Also, don’t be afraid to use a big fly. They may be hard to cast, but bigger flies equate to bigger bass.
My fourth, and final, rod is a weightless soft plastic worm. I know what you are thinking – that is not a topwater bait. Although you are correct, I know you probably like catching fish as much as I do. So, if you are like me, you will want to maximize your chances of hooking up with those fish that blow-up on your bait, but don’t quite get the hook. Typically, if that happens, I give my bait one or two more twitches, deadstick it and wait. If nothing happens, I reel it in, pick up my weightless bait, and immediately throw back to where the blow-up occurred. Much of the time, the bass will still be aggressive and inhale the bait on the fall. I like to rig my weightless baits “wacky style”, but nose hooked, Texas-rigged, or any other method will also work. It is a great way to put a few more fish in your yak.
So, if you are looking for a fun-filled, adrenaline packed morning of blow-ups and aerobatics, grab your topwater gear (and weightless worms) and hit your favorite local flow. Tight lines!