Topwater fishing is one of the most exciting ways to fish for smallmouth bass. As water temperatures warm into the 60s, you can have a lot of success by fishing with topwater lures. The peak topwater bite typically occurs when water temperatures rise into the 70s during the summer months. You can catch plenty of smallmouth bass on topwater lures in the shallows around rocks, wood, weeds and other types of shallow water cover.
Late Spring / Early Summer
At times you can catch some smallmouth with a topwater lure during cold water conditions, but for the most part, you’re going to be looking for water temperatures above 60 degrees. As water temperatures first get up to the low 60s in the spring, there are many places where you can start catching smallmouth bass on topwater lures. On some bodies of water, the topwater bite won’t be as good due to the primary food sources for them being found along the bottoms. However, on many of the lakes that offer lots of baitfish and a lack of crayfish, you can usually catch some nice bass that are feeding up towards the surface.
Low Light Conditions are Best
There are exceptions, but for the most part, the better topwater bite is almost always during low light conditions. Early morning, evening and the night time are best.
Fish at Night
In the late spring, summer and early fall, there is usually a very good topwater bite at night as well on most bodies of water.
Twitch, Twitch, Pause
If you want to consistently catch smallmouth bass with a topwater lure, learn how to twitch the bait a couple of times and then pause the bait. This technique is by far the best technique for consistently catching bass on the surface.
Schooling Smallmouth Bass Over Deeper Water
At times, smallmouth bass can be seen feeding in large schools on the surface over deeper water. The smallmouth bass will push schools of bait fish up to the surface and if you are at the right place at the right time, you could see dozens of smallmouth bass feeding on the surface. It could be over 10, 20 even 50 feet of water. This usually occurs in the summer or fall.
There are a Variety of Topwater Lures That Work
Take a look at our topwater lures section to see all of the different types of topwater lures that can be effective for targeting smallmouth bass.
Buzzbaits are one of the most exciting topwater lures to use because the explosions can be absolutely incredible. This is a lure that attracts aggressive bass and it works very well during the early morning and evening hours.
Chuggers (Poppers) are very popular among topwater bass anglers. These lures can be retrieved with a quick twitch and stop motion when bass are aggressive. When bass are not as aggressive, but still willing to hit a topwater lure, a stop and go retrieve with longer pauses will do the trick to call smallmouth bass up to the surface.
Floating soft plastic baits, such as the Biffle O’ Lizard featured above, can work well as topwater lures for smallmouth bass fishing. We recommend using the baits that are a little larger because it allows you to cast them farther. The baits that have some tails and/or legs are great because they create a swimming action as you slowly retrieve them across the surface.
Crawlers can be very productive during daytime hours, but this is one of the best topwater lures for night fishing. Smallmouth Bass can easily follow this lure’s steady but slow retrieve at night better than they can follow some of the other topwater lures. When using this lure at night, expect to get some bites right next to the boat or the shoreline.
Stickbaits provide an exciting walk-the-dog motion along the top of the water. This retrieve mixed in with a pause will draw aggressive bass from far to see what is causing all of the commotion. Bass will attack stickbaits very aggressively.
Soft Plastic Frogs work great for fishing over lily pads or a variety of different weeds. The morning and evenings are great times to fish topwater frogs, but you can go into some heavy cover during the middle of the day and get some bass to come up for these lures.
Soft Plastic Mice work great for fishing over lily pads or a variety of different weeds. The morning and evenings are great times to fish topwater mice, but you can go into some heavy cover during the middle of the day and get some bass to come up for these lures. Because largemouth bass are usually more populated in the heavily weeded areas, you will probably catch more largemouth bass and smallmouth bass, but it is not uncommon to catch some smallmouth bass with a soft plastic mouse in heavily weeded areas.