Topwater Timing

Question:  How late into the mornings, or early into the evenings do you fish your topwater baits?  I live up in MA, but it still gets really hot n' sticky up here in the summer.  Do you still fish topwaters around 8-9am if the temps are heating up?  -Dave


Great question Dave!  

My short answer (drum roll please)…… depends.

I know, I know, that isn't the definitive answer anyone likes to hear, but fishing is a game of many changing variables, and all good answers for fishing questions discuss those different variables.  

Topwater fishing can be one of the trickiest styles of fishing because it is much more dependent on conditions than any other tactic.  A light breeze following a period of dead calm can be enough kill a topwater bite.  The sun peaking from behind a cloud can also have an adverse effect on topwater fishing.  

That being said, here are my thoughts on topwater timing.

Shallow Topwaters

Most of the time, when we are talking topwaters, we are talking about shallow water topwater presentations like Pop-R's, Frogs, Buzzbaits, and Prop-Baits.  These four lure categories are some of my favorites for targeting fish that are between 1-5 feet of water.  

These shallow topwaters are highly dependent on current conditions, but the time of year dictates when they will be effective.  

During the summer, I traditionally will only fish shallow topwaters during low light conditions when the fish are feeding around shallow cover.  Usually fish will retreat to deeper water once the sun starts heating up the already hot shallows and the topwater bite will quickly taper off.  However, if you have heavy cover available, especially vegetation, then you can enjoy a good bite as the day rolls on, fishing a hollow bodied frog, or a weedless lure like a Zman Pop-ShadZ .  

Conversely, during the spring, my other favorite topwater time of the year, the action can be the exact opposite.  During the spring, when the fish are seeking out the warmest water to spawn in, the fish will actually move shallower as the sun gets higher, and you can use these tactics to target them.  My favorite time is when it is sunny and calm during the spring.  

The Fall can be a mixture of the Summer and Spring, and should be approached on a case by case basis, but be sure to give topwaters a good shot, because the Fall can be outstanding.

So, overall, I would say that I don't put an exact time on when I start or stop, but it is dependent on light conditions.  When the water is hot- sun is your foe.  When the water is cold- sun is your friend.  

Fishing topwaters around shallow cover is highly dependent on light conditions.

Fishing topwaters around shallow cover is highly dependent on light conditions.

Offshore Topwater

The other category of topwater baits are walking-style lures, like the old school Spooks, or chugging style lures.  These lures create a large commotion on the surface that are great for pulling fish from deep water.  

These lures are great for targeting summertime schooling fish that are relating to shallow to moderate depth (5-15') structure, and fish that are following bait schools over deep water.  In these situations I will fish topwaters all day long, in a variety of conditions as long as I see fish feeding on the surface.  The best conditions are often when you have bright sunny skies and a glass calm surface, but I have also had luck with Smallmouth when it is windy.  

So, as you can see, there are a lot of different variables to look at, but if you follow these general guidelines you should have great success on top!

CLICK HERE to watch one of our topwater episodes in Season 1

PS- Be sure to check out the new 4" version of the Zman Pop-ShadZ that is being introduced at this year's ICAST!  This bait is going to be awesome for situations that require a smaller profile but also demand a weedless offering.  This thing is going to be legit!