"TOPWATER FISHING: EXPLOSIVE!" by Luke Clayton Luke Clayton Richland Chambers guide Cory Vinson loaded the 7 foot rod and heaved the bone colored Pencil Popper into the midst of a mixed school of white bass and hybrid stripers. The big plug hit the water a few yards past the mini explosions created by the surface feeding fish and Vinson began walking it back to the boat. It didnt go far until a big swirl erupted and the bait was knocked a couple feet out of the water. At times like this, its human nature to jerk the rod but, thats the wrong thing to do. Vinson, the veteran of many battles with stripers and hybrid stripers landed on top water plugs, instantly lowered his rod tip and allowed the lure to set motionless for a few seconds, thats all it took for the big hybrid to return! This time the fish took the bait and headed to the lakes bottom and, in hybrid striper fashion, made several line sizzling runs before coming to the waiting landing net. Regardless which lake you fish, chances are very good that the top water bite is underway. Ive often kidded folks that I am more than willing to get up well before the rooster crows and drive for hours, just to experience the thrill of thirty minutes of adrenaline packed top water action. Photo by Luke Clayton Top water fishing, whether its for stripers, white bass, black bass or even bream, is a thrill a second endeavor that keeps anglers wishing for more. In truth, veteran anglers know that the top water bite is a fleeting occurrence that sometimes only lasts a few minutes during early morning. On days with cloud cover, the fisherman is sometimes blessed with a top water bite that lasts through the day. Smart fishermen long for those thrill-a-second periods when their favored species will take a top water bait but they also have a plan B for when the fish abandon their reckless top water feeding and go sub-surface. When this occurs, they will usually continue to feed, just not on the surface. It has always seemed odd to me but the top water bite, regardless the species, is always one of the first dependable bites after the fish complete their spawn, usually beginning in late April and often continuing well into the summer. Water temperature has a great deal to do with when fish begin chasing bait on the surface. Early last week, before the trip with Vinson at Richland Chambers, I was bass fishing in some gravel pits close to my home. The water here is protected from springs warming winds by heavy vegetation and high banks and the top water bass bite always seems to begin a little later than on more open waters. With a water temperature in the high sixties, the bass were on an active bite on soft plastics. They were done with their spawn and staging around lay down logs and emerging lily pads at depths of six to ten feet. The water level had flooded a blow down tree, from which I have pulled some lunker bass in the past. I tied on a top water Chug Bug, cast the plug past the tree and pulled it back with a stop and go retrieve. Its a good idea to allow top water baits to remain motionless on the surface for a couple of seconds before continuing the retrieve. The instant my bait paused over the submerged limbs, I heard what sounded like someone tossing a bowling ball into the water. A big bass hit my bait hard, so hard in fact that it temporarily hooked itself and for a few seconds, put on quite a fight, much of which was visible as the fish made a couple of quick jumps before it shook the bait. Fish dont have to be big to thrill fishermen when they are enticed to the surface to strike a plug, popper or dry fly. Theres just something about the explosive way a fish takes a bait on the surface, almost as though it knows it has to be out of its element for a fleeting seconds to catch its dinner. Theres urgency to the strike; one second the waters surface is calm and still, the next theres a fish attempting to inhale the bait and drag it down into cover. Fly fishermen understand the thrill of top water fishing perfectly, especially dry fly purists that abandon easy catches made with sinking flys for that elusive moment when a trout or bass emerges from the cover of a nearby rock or submerged bush to suck the insect floating on the surface. If you only fish one time a year, by all means schedule a trip soon with a guide or friend that understands how to catch fish on top. Chances are very good that you will, like the rest of us that are hooked on the sight and sound of fish taking a top water bait, become a lifelong addict. The sport has one drawback, though. To date I have found no cure! To book a top water hybrid striper or white bass fishing trip, contact guide Cory Vinson (469-867-4299) or visit www.guaranteedguideservice.com Outdoor tip of the week: Now is a great time to enjoy a river float trip. The stretches of Brazos River below Possum Kingdom and below the Lake Whitney dam are great waters for a float of a few miles, or an overnight camping/fishing trip. Google Earth (www.googleearth.com) is an excellent source of information when planning a river trip. Keep in mind the imagery seen here might have been photographed during periods of low or high water and the conditions you encounter on a trip might not exactly reflect what you see on your computer. Be careful not to camp on private lands, as a general rule, the vegetation line on either side of the river is a good indicator for areas available for public use. I always pull GPS coordinates off the Google Earth imagery and download them into my hand held GPS unit. I input key spots such as river bends, launching ramps and camps and record these coordinates in a small notebook which I keep in a zip lock freezer bag during the trip. Want even more of Luke's hunting/fishing tips and tricks, wild game recipes etc? Listen to Outdoors With Luke Clayton for a new show each week at www.catfishradio.com and check out the new fishing videos at lukeshotspots.com Contact Luke at firstname.lastname@example.org The BOC has a virtual library of Luke's stories right here on the forums; just about anything you could want to read about the outdoors. Click here to see a boat load of information!