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How to Rig and Fish a Topwater Lure: A Guide for New Anglers

Written by: Pete D
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Topwater lures are effective from spring through to fall, triggering strikes from sluggish as well as aggressive fish.

They’re also exciting to fish because when they get hit, they get hit hard!

New anglers need to learn all they can about topwater lure options and techniques, and it’s worth taking a deep dive into the subject.

So if you want to know more about how to choose, rig, and fish topwater lures, keep reading!

Related:

What are Topwater Lures?

Heddon Baby Torpedo

All topwater lures float on the surface of the water, and they’re all designed to make a lot of noise and splash. Beyond that, specific designs vary, as does just how much of a ruckus they create.

While there are many kinds of topwater lures, three styles dominate: torpedoes, spooks, and poppers.

Torpedoes

Torpedoes like those from Heddon are typically short and fat, sporting a propellor-like blade at the tail and wearing two sets of sharp treble hooks.

Heddon Tiny Torpedo (Bullfrog, 1 7/8-Inch) 1/4 oz

Amazon 

When ripped quickly with a pop of your rod tip, that pop creates a loud thump underwater and sends vibrations racing toward bass’s sensitive lateral lines. And since they have the general shape of prey items like shad, frogs, and minnows, one quick look is all it takes to trigger a reaction strike.

Spooks

Another Heddon design is the legendary Super Spook.

Heddon Super Spook Topwater Fishing Lure for Saltwater and Freshwater, Black Shiner, Super Spook Jr (1/2 oz)

Amazon 

A long, fat cylinder with carefully designed tapers at each end, these lures also wear two sets of sharp treble hooks.

And whether you rip them like a torpedo or “walk the dog” with them - more on that in a moment - they create an enticing pop and splash that sends bass wild.

Poppers

Lures like Rebel Lures Pop-R Topwater Popper have a large, cavernous “mouth” on the head that creates a distinctive pop and splash when ripped through the water. They often come dressed with a short skirt near the tail and almost always wear two sets of treble hooks.

Rebel Lures Pop-R Topwater Popper Fishing Lure, Silver/Black, Magnum Pop-R (1/2 oz), One Size

Amazon 

How to Rig a Topwater Lure

Some anglers like to attach a small clip to the end of their line, allowing them to switch topwater lures quickly until they find the right size and color. The obvious advantage here is speed, but I’m not a big fan of this technique, as I find that the weight of the clip affects the action of my lure too much.

Instead, I tie one of two styles of knot: a snug knot or a loop knot.

My favorite snug knot is the Uni. It’s easy to tie, very fast, and exceptionally secure in all line types. And as an added bonus, it takes shocks - like a leaping strike from a large bass - without breaking or pulling free.

We’ve discussed the spectacular Uni knot before, and if you want to learn to tie it well, check out this article:

One Knot to Rule Them All - How to Tie the Uni Knot

If I want the best possible action from my topwater lure, though, I’m going with a loop knot like the Kreh. Absent a split ring and clip, and with room to maneuver, topwater lures are at their very best with loop knots.

But don’t take my word for it. Mark Rose, a pro bass fisherman, explains why he prefers loop knots to anything else:

The Kreh knot is my go-to loop knot because it’s easy to learn to tie well, pretty fast on the water, and plenty strong in all line types.

If you want to learn this excellent knot, read all about it here:

How to Tie the Non-Slip Loop Knot or Kreh Knot

How to Fish a Topwater Lure

All topwater lures have the same basic logic to their best techniques.

First off, you want to look for cover like lily pads, overhanging vegetation, or stumps or pilings. 

Accuracy is key: you want to pitch that topwater lure right where you think a bass is waiting to ambush prey.

Then, pause and let the ripples die down.

Now you’ve got a choice. You can either offer a steady retrieve punctuated by pops of your rod tip or you can “walk the dog” to keep that topwater lure more or less in place while splashing it around.

If you go with the retrieve, vary your speed and popping cadence until you find what’s working that day. Sometimes, the bass will hit a topwater lure that’s zipping across the surface as fast as you can reel it; but at other times, you’ll need a slow, steady pause and pop to get them interested.

Experiment and you’ll get it right!

To “walk the dog,” you twitch your rod tip to send the topwater lure dancing back and forth. It should creep forward, but the idea is to stay put right in the strike zone. You want to keep some slack in your line, which allows the “head” to slap left and right.

For an excellent tutorial, check out this video from Bass Pro Scott Martin:

Choosing Topwater Lures

When you’re looking for a new topwater lure, you always want to think natural color. While bright hues can help, I tend to avoid neons and fluorescents with this style bait.

The second things to consider are size and subtlety. The bigger the topwater lure, the more noise and action it’ll produce, and of course, additions like props are only going to increase that potential.

Sometimes, lots of action is awesome, and when the bass are aggressive, they’ll nail your topwater lure. But at other times, especially when they’ve been pressured by a lot of fishermen, subtle and small is the way to go.

When I want to go big and loud, one of my favorite options is a 2 1/2-inch Heddon Torpedo. “Fluorescent Green Crawdad,” pictured below, and “Clear” are real winners, and I’ve probably hooked more big, aggressive bass with a clear torpedo than any other topwater lure.

Heddon Tiny Torpedo (Fluorescent Green Crawdad, 1 7/8-Inch)

Amazon 

A 5-inch “Bone” Super Spook is no joke, either, especially when the water’s a bit stained or murky. It’s sized just right for aggressive fish, and with three sets of sharp treble hooks and a tail that makes walking the dog easy, it’s a fantastic choice for topwater excitement.

Heddon - Super Spook Bone 5 inch

Amazon 

Not to be outdone, Strike King’s KVD Sexy Dawg is 4 ½ inches of bass-catching magic, and I love the realism of “Chart Shad” for enticing strikes. But don’t forget about “Sexy Ghost Minnow” or “Sugar Daddy” for when minnows or perch are the prey of choice.

Strike King Lures KVD Sexy Dawg Topwater Hard Bait Lure, 4 1/2' Body Length, 3/4 oz, Chartreuse Shad, per 1, One Size

Amazon 

Hula poppers like Arbogast’s are awesome when frogs are swimming and you’ve got lots of floating vegetation offering cover to big bass. One look at “Cricket Frog” is all it takes to trigger a strike after a few pops and pauses.

Arbogast Hula Popper Topwater Fishing Lure, Bass, G770 (1 3/4 in, 1/4 oz)

Amazon 

And don’t forget to check out Rapala’s Skitter Pop in “Chrome.” 3 ½ inches of popping madness, this little guy draws out wary bass for a closer look.

Rapala Skitter Pop 09 Fishing lure, 3.5-Inch, Chrome

Amazon 

Final Thoughts

Topwater lures provide what many anglers consider to be the most exciting bass fishing out there, and every fisherman needs a solid selection in his tackle box.

We hope that you’ve learned something useful from this article today, and as always, we’re here to answer any questions you might have.

Please leave us a comment below, and we’ll be in touch!

About The Author
Pete D
Born and raised in Cleveland, Ohio, Pete grew up fishing on the Great Lakes. When he’s not out on the water, you can find him reading his favorite books, and spending time with his family.
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