How to Top Water Fish

Topwater fishing is a type of casting and retrieval skill used in shallow water with a lure that floats on the surface. These lures are cast in such a way that they imitate the sounds and shape of the prey of bass, such as insects or other small fish.

Different lures work best for different types of fish. And depending on water conditions, you’ll need to present your lure in different ways: aggressively on choppy water, or quietly and softly on smooth water. If a strong winds calls up chop on a surface that was previously smooth, you may even need to switch from one tactic to the other. The best topwater fishing happens when you learn enough about the different lures to experiment with them in each situation.

Topwater Fishing Techniques

Surface poppers are a popular topwater lure with a concave face. When they receive a strong tug or jerk on the line, their curved face results in a large splash. When using poppers your retrieval will imitate a prey—either a small fish or an insect.

One particular topwater retrieval technique that is fun and effective is known as “walking the dog.” If you learn one retrieve, learn this one. To walk the dog, you’ll use the rod to bring the lure back towards you in a zig-zag pattern. To do this, angle the end of the rod down a little and reel in just enough line to gather up slack. Keeping the line fairly loose instead of tight will let the lure hop and bob in the water. Use twitching motions side to side to keep the lure active as you retrieve.

Popular Topwater Lures

Like all lures, which topwater you will use depends on water conditions and fish species. Here’s three of the most commonly used:


The buzzbait features plastic or metal that blades that lift the lure up to the surface, where they also create a gargling sound and a noticeable wake as the bait is moved by the line. Below this on a thin metal wire dangles a skirted hook where the fish will strike.

With buzzbaits, you’ll need to start retrieving the lure as soon as it hits to water in order to generate the “buzz” off the blades.

Prop Baits

Prop baits create an even bigger splash than buzzbaits. The lure itself is a long cylinder with one or two propellers attached to the front and/or back. As the cylinder moves across the surface during retrieval, the propellers kick up large, noisy splashes that are easy for a fish to key in on.

Plastic Frog and Creature Baits

Frog baits are very useful in water with thick cover, thanks to their upturned, weedless hooks that rarely snag, and to their buoyant bodies. The hook is hidden inside the body, so that when a fish strikes the body it immediately deflates so that the hook can snag the jaw.

Topwater Fishing Tips

Up your game and land more catches this season with these quick tips:

  • Use chemically sharpened, high-quality hooks on every single bait. It’ll be worth it.
  • Don’t limit yourself to using fishing with topwater lures during “prime times.” Experiment with using them at different points during the whole day.
  • Try out new and different moves with your retrieve to see what the fish are drawn to.
  • If water conditions are stained or murky, try using a bait with rattles.
  • In clear water, bait with a natural color will likely be effective.
  • Midnight is a good hour for using topwater lures to land a big catch.
  • To be best prepared for anything out on the water, become proficient with many or all of the topwater lures.
  • No-stretch superlines work really well with topwaters, enabling much easier hook sets on long casts.
  • Figure out where the cover is, and you’ll probably find plenty of fish hanging out close by.