their favorite top water baits away and start moving to some other form of deeper wa- ter presentations. This means any active fish that might at- tack a surface bait has not seen one since first thing in the morning. Admittedly, we get to fish shallow water here all day, all year but my best fish from Lake Berryessa was an eight pounder that totally an- nihilated a spook over a deep- water point in the main lake at 1 o’clock in the afternoon. An eleven pounder that I caught during a tournament hit just before we had to take off for the weigh in at 2:30 in the af- ternoon. If you want to catch some of the best fish you have ever caught on surface baits, don’t put them down after the initial flurry of morning activity.
My clients have had overall success with walking baits (spooks & Sammys), spitters (Ricos and Pop-R versions), and frogs (River2Sea and Snag Proof Bob- by’s Perfect frog). All of these baits in their various sizes are consistent pro- ducers for clients. Picking which one to use is really a matter of what type of water you choose to fish. In heavy cover or vegetation the frog is usually the first choice, when trying to cover a lot of water the walking baits get the nod, and when trying to keep an annoying bait in a spot for a while the spitters are my choice. On a day when the anglers in the boat are comfortable handling heavier baitcasting gear, then we will break out some of the specialty baits like the MS Slammer, Lunker Punker, or Wake Bait Jr.. These baits don’t necessar- ily catch a bigger fish but they present the bass a different look and overhead profile in areas getting pressure from the standard lure choices. Trust me on this one; just don’t throw them around an Osprey on the hunt. Yes, there are a ton of other baits out there that anglers are using and have great faith in. When I get cli- ents in the boat for a day of topwater fishing, I have to produce bites and this assortment of baits consistently catches fish for me.
WhiCh BaiTS To uSe?
If you are not already using braid for your top water baits, try it. It is of course, a must for frog fishing in heavy cover but it also has some other great quali- ties. Due to its composition, it floats, a very handy little characteristic for keep- ing the nose of the bait where it belongs, up in the air and not dragged down in the water. The minimal stretch of braid makes hook setting on long casts almost automatic as compared to the stretch of mono lines. Fifty pound is the standard for most applications although most frog pitchers use 65 pound test. I have exper-
imented with 20 and 30 pound braid for walkers and spitters and found it to work just fine and in fact, the smaller diam- eter makes it a little easier for anglers learning the subtleties of walking baits. Because you have very little stretch with braid, change out the split rings and hooks to make sure they don’t fail when you really lean into a better fish. I have found that Owner makes some real good split rings and their Stinger trebles have not failed me yet. Also, back off on the drag a tad, a little slip is o.k. Replace the feathered treble tail hook on a Rico when it starts to look a little ragged. I know that they are kind of expensive but so was the time, gas, and energy you put out to get on this bite in the first place.
I know I have left a lot of baits out, no disrespect, just looking in my tool box of confidence baits to hopefully give you some hard earned insight. Yes, during the summer there are structure bites with jigs and worms, swim bait bites, dock fishing, and swimming jigs. All of those bites are fine and good, they just aren’t as fun to me as watching a nice fish crush a top water bait on a cli- ent’s line! BW