Use these fishing techniques and your odds will improve, even in heavy vegetation where the big ones await the right lure.
Plop. Pause. Plop. Pause. As my fire-tiger devil’s horse eases past a lily pad, I can’t help but enjoy the sound of that peaceful plop. It’s a steamy June morning and my partner and I have just eased up to some bass-appealing vegetation in our john boat. Dark-thirty came early this morning, but the thoughts and hopes of a big largemouth crashing the surface was all the caffeine we needed. We amused ourselves with small talk, all the while awaiting that adrenaline-pumping strike. Would today be the day we landed a big one?
Summertime is the best time for early morning or late evening top-water pond action. The heat of the day pushes pond bass deep in search of cooler water, so the fish feed heavily in the low light conditions. It’s no secret big bass want a big meal, and what better way of getting it than an easy, slow-moving target struggling on top? Let’s focus in on a few of the best ways to draw surface strikes during June.
“Low and steady wins the race.”
I’ve already mentioned a prop bait classic; the devil’s horse, but other examples include the popular tiny torpedo and similar lures that use propellers to sputter and spatter their way through the water. When I was younger, my grandfather Julian, had a pond on the hill above his home we called “The Old Pond.” It was the first of four ponds he built on his property in rural southwest Mississippi, and it was known for its abundance of weeds and for housing some big, yet wise, fish. Dad’s go-to bait was and still is a soft plastic Culprit worm, but right before dark he would tie on a devil’s horse and cast it out as far as he could. He would then wait for the ripples to clear before starting a methodically retrieve; one tug of the rod tip and a pause before repeating the process again and again. I watched him pull in enough bass over five pounds to easily warrant adding prop bait or two to my tackle bag. The key to these baits lies in the retrieve. Low and steady wins the race. They excel in shallow, open water situations or on bodies of water that have scattered vegetation, so as to not get the props hung up.
So what do you do if your pond is just loaded with plant growth? I’ve fished ponds that were covered in duck weed so thick you couldn’t even see the water. While this is obviously not ideal, I’ve found ways to effectively fish these situations on top. Some baits are made specifically for heavy weeds, such as the Scum Frog but I prefer a weightless soft plastic eased across the top. This presentation simulates a small water snake slithering through the grass and can result in some big surface explosions. My friend Allen and I went on a fishing trip in Florida recently. We faced tough windy conditions and some stubborn clear-water fish. For an entire day we looked for patterns, with the only constant being plastics dragged over weed beds. I prefer a 7 to 10-inch ribbon tail worm in black or brown. Another benefit to a weightless plastic on top is the occasional chance to let it sink down in the holes found in the vegetation. Nothing is more appetizing than an easy meal dropping off a lily pad and slowly sinking into the home of a largemouth. Weightless plastics present a problem in distance casting, however. The use of a kayak can help alleviate this, by putting the angler “amongst” the fish instead of sitting on the outside looking in. I also like to adjust the spool speed on my bait-casting reel to allow for an easier, more distanced cast.
If I’m facing finicky fish, I might downsize my presentation to a Popper. Poppers use a curved face to create surface disturbance while making a distinct sound. These lures are ideal under overhanging trees and near structure. They are noisy enough to get the fish’s attention, yet small enough to not represent a threat to nearby wary bass. They are available in many colors and sizes, but the ones that imitate shiny minnows or a smaller bluegill seem to be very effective. These lures are also effective in area creeks and streams. The beauty of the popper in current is the ability to let it drift to fishy locations before popping it. When wading with poppers, I look for areas of structure near current. A submerged stump in the water creates enough current-break to hold a hungry fish. I advise one modification to this lure that I have found very helpful. Most poppers come with thin, lightweight, wire treble hooks. In my opinion, these should be changed to a heavier, more durable treble. Modify the bait and it will result in a much better hook-to-catch ratio. I was fishing in northwest Alabama last year and the only thing catching the smallmouth’s attention was an orange and blue popper. I hit gold when I found some boulders in six feet of water where current was rushing over them. Every time I cast and brought the popper back, a beautiful brown bass would rise up to explode on my offering. Unfortunately, I lost the largest smallmouth that afternoon because I had failed to change hooks. After a short, thrilling fight, my popper came back flying toward my shoulders. The back treble hook was mangled and bent well beyond ninety degrees, allowing my trophy to escape. Lesson learned the hard way.
If your pond is overfished and you feel as if the bass have seen everything in the box, a good change-of- pace lure would be the Zara spook or smaller Zara Puppy. These lures have a unique action most anglers label as “walk the dog.” The bait zigzags back and forth. This action is created by holding the rod down toward the water and continuously jerking the rod tip while reeling slowly. Again, this is a baitfish- mimicking lure and needs to be presented as such. Vary speeds of retrieve and let the fish tell you what they are looking for. Soft plastics such as the Zoom super fluke follow this pattern as well.
“During your search for big bass, add a few surface options to your tackle box and you won’t be disappointed.”
I saved one of my favorites for last because you just can’t say enough kind words about a buzzbait. Akin to the spinner bait, but modified to stay on top, the buzzbait is one of the most intense lures for top- water action. When fishing this lure, it’s best to use a bait-casting reel because the bait will only stay on top if reeled at a respectable speed. This bait is ideal for situations of scarce lily pads or underwater eel grass. It’s a reaction strike bait. But therein is the fun. Some people claim white is best whereas others throw black. I’ve done well on both as well as other colors, with the only unvarying key adding a trailer hook. Since the bait is mostly reaction, you may miss catching the fish on the first swipe. Adding a trailer hook doubles the odds of getting the fish the first time around.
Whether your pond is big or small, weedy or clear, top-water is a very viable option this June. During your search for big bass, add a few surface options to your tackle box and you won’t be disappointed. Remember that next big strike is only a trip away.