Catching bass with topwater lures is, arguably, one of the most exciting ways to catch fish there is. There’s simply nothing like the anticipation associated with working a lure along the water’s surface as the adrenaline builds while waiting for something to explode on your bait.
Bass become more active and start to hit topwater baits aggressively during times of the year when the water temperature exceeds 60 degrees and continues to work well throughout warmer seasons. The topwater bite is particularly good for special annual situations like the shad spawn and mayfly hatch.
If you’re looking to have the best opportunity to catch bass on a surface lure, paying attention to a few key details to understand the best times of year to catch fish. The big question is: does the time of year really matter?
Does Topwater Work for Bass in Hot Weather?
Conventional wisdom says that fish go to cover when it’s extremely hot and that topwater is not the best option, however, many try topwater to tease fish and pull the fish out from cover with an enticing meal.
Topwater does work for bass in hot weather. Big bass like to use the shade of cover as a holding spot to ambush prey. Targeting those kinds of areas with topwater can pay off in big ways on hot, sunny days because the lure entices them to leave their hideouts for prey.
During the hotter times of the year, the topwater bite seems to be better closer to sunrise and sunset before and after the high sun heats up the day.
However, my experience is that the topwater bite can be a tremendous way to catch bigger fish during the hottest part of the day. I’ve noticed that I may not catch as many during high heat times but the quality is usually much better.
Does Water Temperature Matter for Bass Fishing?
How ‘bout some science?!
Bass are cold-blooded creatures meaning that colder water lowers the body temperature of bass. Simply put, bass assume the temperature of their environment. Lower body temperature means a lower metabolism leading to slower and less aggressive fish. As the water temperature rises, so does the body temperature and metabolism of a bass.
Generally speaking, bass become more active as the water warms up … as long as it doesn’t get too hot. When water becomes too hot, the oxygen levels in the water diminish which means bass are not as active and slow down.
Side note: This is one of the precise reasons that you should keep your livewells cool during hot summer months. When the water becomes too hot, oxygen in the water may become depleted. Take precautions to maintain oxygen levels in your livewell during hot days.
Water temperature does matter for bass fishing. Bass have enzymes that help them to digest food. As the water temperature cools, the enzymes are slower to affect digestion so bass don’t use their food as quickly and, thus, do not need to feed as often. Conversely, as the water temperature rises, the digestion rate increases so bass use food faster and need to consume prey more often.
Insider Tip Different water temperatures cause bass to react differently to baits. In general, as the water cools off, so should the tempo of your lure retrieval; speed up as the water warms up.
When you are trying to understand how to catch bass in cold water, consider working baits using a slower cadence. Bass feed less often during colder times of the year and will be slower to attack fast-moving baits.
When trying to figure out how to catch bass in warm water, it’s best to move your lure through the water at a faster pace. In warm water, bass tend to feed a bit more aggressively and may react better to a bait they can pursue at a faster rate.
Another Great Insider Tip When the topwater bite is just beginning to heat up (water approaching or exceeding 60 degrees), opt for baits that walk or glide along the water surface. However, as the water gets hotter and hotter, the more bass appear willing to move from farther away to attack prey. I’ve had great experience in very hot water in Florida on Florida lakes fishing topwater during hot weather when no one else thinks they will work. Bigger bass seem to detect the bait from their resting spot and can’t resist.
Although there are a number of unique scenarios that afford bass anglers a great opportunity to catch bass using topwater lures, two situations warrant special mention.
- Shad spawn
The shad spawn is a well-known time of year for bass fishing. After bass spawn, the shad spawn is sure to follow, providing a good food source for bass to replenish after their time of spawning.
Topwater baits excel as bass seek to stock up one of their favorite meals: SHAD. Shad typically move in large schools offering plentiful food to hungry bass. Shad are most active in low light situations so early in the morning and/or late in the evening just before dark are ideal times. Astute anglers will use baits that mimic shad during this special time of year to grab the attention of hungry bass.
Shad are known to frequent shallow waters, grass lines, and riprap. Shad are particularly attracted to hard bottom areas. Topwater lures are an essential tool when fishing the shad spawn and include lures such as a popping lure, buzzbaits, and walking baits. This is the time of year to work topwater baits a bit faster as bass are active and ready to chase down prey.
- Mayfly Hatch
The mayfly hatch is a special time of year ripe with opportunity for fish to eat and anglers to catch. It’s a simple cycle of life situation. Bluegill (bream) love mayflies, Bass love bluegills. Find the mayfly and you find the bass.
Popping baits are a common lure used during the mayfly hatch. The thought is that the popping sound mimics the sound that a bream makes when approaching the surface of the water and sucking to “inhale” a mayfly. Bass are, needless to say, attracted to that sound because they are looking for prey (the bluegill).
The mayfly hatch can happen in May (hence the name) but most often occurs throughout the summer and into fall. A popping frog is a great choice for mayfly hatch fishing. To check out a great popping frog by Booyah, click here to visit Amazon. Poppers are another great option. To see Berkley’s Bullet Pop Popper, click here (Amazon).
When Do Bass Stop Hitting Topwater Lures?
The topwater bite probably never completely shuts down but your odds go down as the water temperature decreases. Wintertime is a season where the efficacy of topwater fishing diminishes. That’s not to say that you won’t catch fish on top. There are times when pros have used topwater tactics in tournaments to catch fish with techniques that no one was thinking about. However, your chances of getting a bite on topwater versus other baits is likely lower because the bass are not as active in colder water.
How to Match Bait Size to Temperature
Although bass may hit topwater all year long, the most active topwater times seem to be as the water temperature begins to exceed about 60 degrees and all the way to the 90s. As the water temperature changes and moves from cold to hot, anglers may want to consider their lure size.
Smaller profile lures are likely more suitable for colder temperatures because bass are still a bit sluggish and may not be quite ready for a big meal. Smaller baits like Berkley’s Surge Shad (Amazon) may be a good fit for bass that are a bit more finicky early on in the topwater season.
As the water warms, I like to throw larger profile lures like a popper, walking bait, or prop bait to grab the attention of a bass with a “not so subtle” approach. Check out one of my favorite prop baits that has been around a long time by clicking here to see the Devil’s Horse carried by Amazon. Prop baits are popular all over the country. I’ve seen them pay off big in Florida in many situations.
Time to grab your favorite topwater bait, hit the lake, and make some memories!