Topping the Chop

Category: article

 Aug 28th, 2001 by OutdoorsFIRST 

Modified Aug 28th, 2001 at 12:00 AM

In all species of fish from muskies to bass, topwater baits are to most anglers the epitome of the presentation. There are many topwater baits to choose from, even in the small but important world of musky fishing. When you think of topwaters such as the Top Raider, Thunderhead, Topper Stoppers, and Tally Wacker, they share one common attribute. These baits are made to make noise. When I have a calm day on the water, my clients ask me which one of us is going to throw a topwater? and my response is always, maybe later when the wind blows . This usually puts me in a question and answer situation right away. But the fact of the matter is that I catch more muskies on topwater when the water is choppy compared to when the water is glass calm. Now, I have caught plenty of muskies on Hawg Wobblers and Creepers in calm water, but these baits are all slow moving with less sound. Most of these catches on the slow moving baits occur when there is low light or when the water temps cool in the fall. There seems to always be a window when they work great during the day.The wackers are a family of topwaters the are made to be loud and make muskies so mad they have to eat them. Well this is not always true. It does not take much sound to attract a muskie, in fact my favorite old globe topwaters that I have in my box barly make a sound at all, yet one globe has caught a pair of forty-fours. But when the wind blows the loud topwaters perform better because there noise is able to penetrate the sound made by the rolling waves. The main difference in my book is that when the wind blows on flats and on structure, muskies have more of atendency to be up and active on the structure, compared to when there is no wind. Now don t get me wrong you can catch muskies on slow moving topwaters baits on calm days, but usually when conditions are right. The wind on the other hand blows more often, so you don t have to wait for the perfect sunset to catch your muskie on top.Another question I get asked is, what speed should these loud topwaters be retrieved in the choppy water ? This question is a no-brainier; big muskies like a slower moving topwater bait. So the speed of the retrieve should be as slow as you can go without losing the rhythm of the blade popping the water. Slowly turning the reel as the bait pops and rolls over the waves is the my favorite presentation. The real key is not to retrieve the bait perpendicular to the boat but parallel to the boat. If the boat is floating between two islands in a saddle area and the wind is west to east into the saddle, my casts would be parallel to islands edges instead of right down the middle of the saddle. If you cast down the middle the lure would often jump out of the water at the top of the wave swells and when the bait reaches the boat you would have to turn the lure at a ninety degree angle while your boat is floating over the muskie.If you cast parallel the bait would sound much better and when the muskie follows you now have room work with the fish so he can smash the bait at the boat. I use this same concept when drifting a flat, always make sure you have room to work the fish, because Its been by experience the muskies dont like to turn sharp corners after a topwaterbait.Now that I have convinced you to start pitching topwaters while your friend is throwing bucktails on that wind swept reef. You might still be a little confused on which topwater to use. Well, they all have there time and place. The Topper Stopper is not a wacker, yet I still list it as one of my favorites. This bait has a very high pitched squeal with lots of metal to metal noise and I have seen mid forties fish smash this bait in two foot white caps. The new Top Raider is becoming one of my favorites, this bait is inline and when driven through waves this bait sounds great and was a producer in my boat last year. The Slammer Thunderhead with the front prop has put many a muskie in my net. This proven performer can be worked very slow and is the loudest I have ever used. Muskies most often goafter the splash of a topwater bait so having the prop in front helps hooking percentage also. The famous Tallywacker has had most every muskie in the chip flowage at one time or another take a swipe at it. These are all proven topwaters and when it comes to topwater fishing, confidence is half the battle. The muskie world has lots of topwater baits, some very good ones that I did not mention and some one of a kind bait that were made in my basement. The rods I use is usually longer because I want to be able to pick up slack line faster. The longer rod will pick up line faster and set the hook faster. I use a seven foot minimal on topwater. Lamiglas just came out with a eight six and that will be my topwater rod this season in my boat. A lot of musky anglers miss fish on topwater, the key is to wait until you feel the fish. If that doesn t work, look at your shoes while you retrieve your bait, by the time you realize it you will be ready to set the hook . This is not as fun but I have seen it work for a person who missed three in one day.Last season I started with a fish in my boat on topwater in the first week of May and the last one came the end of October. So the time of the season is not the issue, its the fact that the best time not always when the sun is rising on a foggy morning, Its when the wind blows in the afternoon from the southwest at ten to fifteen. You might want to try to keep a topwater bait on a rod all season. I think you might find out there more to musky fishing than a bucktail

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