By Bill Cooper
There is nothing in the fishing world that compares to the thrill of seeing a big largemouth bass crash a topwater bait. That time of year is here. Water temperatures are up, and so is bass metabolism. Their appetites are ravenous, and they will attack anything that will fit into their big bucket mouths.
My 9-year-old grandson, Ronnie, and I traveled to a 12-acre lake recently to test my theory. When we saw a few bass crashing the top, picking off frogs and insects, we knew we in for a good time.
After launching the boat, we each selected one of several rods I already had rigged. Ronnie chose one of his favorite baits, a YUM Tip Toad. I picked up a road rigged with a Zara Spook. We began casting along a willow covered bank, casting our offerings up under the shade of the overhanging limbs.
I yelled with excitement when the water exploded around my Spook on my second cast. The bass missed on the first strike. I popped the Spook one more time, creating a gurgle on the surface. The bass simply could not resist the thought of the bait getting away and rolled on the bait once more. I connected and slid the healthy looking 14-inch bass into the boat. Ronnie released it and laughed as the fish flipped water with its tail and sped back to the cover of the willow trees.
Ten yards down the bank Ronnie got his first strike on his Tip Toad. The bass missed its target. Ronnie laughed aloud as he quickly reeled in his lure to get ready for another cast in hopes of enticing the bass to strike again.
“Look what that bass did to my frog,” he giggled. The plastic frog was all wadded up in the bend of the big hook. I straightened the frog quickly and he went back to casting.
At the southeast corner of the dam, I turned the boat to head north up a steep, rocky bank. Buckbrush and willows lined the bank. Ronnie and I both switched rods. He chose a black and blue YUM Dinger worm, which he had enjoyed much success with on previous trips. I selected a pearl colored fluke, one of favorite summertime bass baits.
Both soft plastic baits sink slowly, keeping them in the strike zone for several seconds before we started slow retrieves. Ronnie’e worm was all crunched up on the hook when he reeled it in. “I thought I had a hit he said.” I fixed his bait once again and he went right back to fishing.
Ronnie shouted on his next cast as soon as the worm hit the water. “I got a fish, papa he yelled, as he rapidly turned the handle of his reel, trying to get the bass to the boat. His face fell when the scrappy bass got off.
I didn’t have to tell him to throw the bait back into the bank side buck brush. His enthusiasm caused a little too much line release and he tangled the worm in the brush. A broad grin swept across his face when he flipped his line and the worm came flying out of the brush. “I got it, papa,” he said proudly. “I got my bait out of the tree all by myself.”
As I made my next cast, I was congratulating Ronnie on his nearly found prowess with a bass rod. I twitched my Fluke as it floated on the surface and it disappeared in a swirl of water. “Ooooh, this one feels heavy,” I told Ronnie.
The thrashing head of a big female bass vibrated up the rod. Gripping my rod tighter, I applied a bit more pressure to keep the fish from becoming tangled in the willow brush. My rod bent double under the pressure. I feared my line would snap.
I managed to wrestle the big bass away from the brush and into open water. It came up quickly and rolled on the surface, flashing a broad green side and bright red gills. I hung on with a tight grip as the bass made a power run under the boat. I applied more pressure and moved the bass into open water again.
Seconds later I knelt in the boat and grasped the big maw of my prize and swung it into the boat. After taking a few pictures of the four pound fish, Ronnie grasped it by its big open mouth and slowly released the fish back into the water and watched it slowly swim away.
Ronnie switched to a YUM Dinger with a paddle tail. The added action increased his catch rate dramatically. He began putting bass in the boat at a quick pace. He learned rather quickly that the bait could be fished topwater when pulling it though weeds and Lilly pads.
We continued slowly around the lake, catching bass both against the shoreline and in open water. Ronnie discovered a pocket of open water with subsurface structure that was loaded with bass. He boasted a bit as he caught bass on several consecutive casts. “I’m catching more fish than you, papa,” he said.
As the evening began to wind down, bass were still crashing our baits. We had made a lap around the lake and closed in on the takeout. “I thought you said we were going to stay until 10 o’clock,” Ronnie said.
I had said that, but that was when he whined about the heat earlier in the day. I never figured he would change his tune, but the bass were clobbering our topwater baits and real fisherman never want to quit.