Topwater Smallmouth Bass Part 2

In my neck of the woods, I’m looking for broken rocks and boulders in about 3-6 feet of water. Island points are also productive, especially when steep underwater drop offs occur near the point. Docks, weed beds and the edges of Lilypads are also a favorite of mine. I know a nice sized bass who lives by a big boulder in about 5 feet of water. The boulder stands alone in about eight feet of water, roughly 30 yards from the shoreline.  The boulder is large and is about 6 feet across and depending on water levels that year, the boulder is often just under the waterline. I say I know the bass because I’ve caught him three years in a row. And each time on the exact same fly. Look for structural anomalies that provide cover and you will usually find bass nearby!        

The explosion of gobies in the Great Lakes has added a new protein rich food source for smallies and the result of this Goby invasion is that bass are now growing much larger in the Great Lakes than they ever have. I’ve been fishing my home waters for 50 years and as a kid growing up, a big smallie was 3 pounds. Now I’m regularly catching bass in the 3-5 pound range, with the odd 6 pounder certainly seen and occasionally landed.       

One of the keys to catching more bass on a topwater bass bug, is patience. When you make a cast, try to leave the fly where it lands, for a least a minute. Don’t strip it in. Don’t twitch it. Don’t move it! Just let it sit. This is a lot easier to say than do, but learning this exercise in patience will reward you with more fish. I’ve seen smallies come up to within an inch of the fly, hanging vertically in the water column, to get a good look at the fly. They will just stare at it and you can almost see the hamster wheel spinning inside the bass’s brain as it decides whether or not to eat the fly. It’s at this point that I will give the fly a very gentle pop and this action will almost always trigger an explosive eat.

Because smallie fishing with a surface popper is so visual, it’s very easy to set to set the hook too soon. You have to let the bass go down with the fly before you left the rod tip up.

  • Always use a net
  • Wet both your hands before handling a bass
  • Have a variety of poppers with different colors and sizes
  • Only use barbless hooks. Better for the fish and better for you!
  • Be prepared to switch up if surface flies aren’t working
  • Figure out what the bass in your areas’ primary food source is and then try to replicate it with the fly you use
  • Always have a secondary rod ready to go with a fly that covers a different level in the water column than the one you will be principally fishing.