STORIES OUT THERE FISHING By: Keith ''Catfish'' Sutton Bass Topwater Tips for Fall Turnover Time As the weather begins to cool, the bass get hungrier, meaning more fish at the end of your line Topwater lures like buzzbaits can be used to entice explosive strikes from fall largemouths. (Keith Sutton photo) When autumn begins, cool weather lowers the surface water temperature in our favorite lakes. As the upper layer cools, it becomes heavier and sinks. This action forces the warmer, lighter water below back to the surface, where it, too cools and descends. This mixing or “turnover” continues several weeks until all water in the lake is roughly the same temperature, and bass can roam freely between deep water and shallow, feeding voraciously. Topwater lures shine for catching these ravenous, nomadic bucketmouths, but only if you use them in ways that convince bass to strike. The tips can help. Jab and Weave a Buzzbait The big blade or blades on a buzzbait churn the water as the lure is retrieved across the surface, creating a “come-get-me” racket fall bass find irresistible. Additional hardware adds clacks, purrs and other lunker-attracting sounds. A bass often will stalk beneath a buzzbait and suddenly explode in your face when you lift the lure out of the water. When this happens, react quickly. Jab your rod tip in the water and weave the buzzbait in a figure-eight pattern. Frequently, a mean old largemouth will turn right around and smash the lure. When it happens, it’s like hooking a whale in the tail. Hop a Frog Floating artificial frogs closely resemble the amphibians bass crave. Some are hard baits, but most are soft plastic with wiggly legs. Most also have weedless hooks to allow fishing dense beds of aquatic vegetation without snagging. Cast one into the worst tangle and you can maneuver it back out if a bass doesn’t clobber it first. Frog baits are unexcelled lily-pad lures, especially on clear days when the sun is high. Cast the lure on top of a pad. Let it sit a few seconds, then hop it an inch. Repeat. Bass under the pads see the frog’s silhouette and may bust the lure before the first hop. If there’s no quick strike, however, the fish lurking underneath may be waiting for the frog to jump off. That’s what happens next. Hop the lure into the water, give it a jiggle, then keep it still. Hold your rod tip low and prepare for a smashing strike because this usually produces one. Dawdle and Twitch a Minnow Slim-minnow plugs like Rapala’s Original Floating Minnow are not technically topwater lures because they have varying size lips to make them run from shallow to deep. But many fall bass are caught by fishing them on top like a dying baitfish. Control the urge to retrieve the lure too quickly. Cast the plug near cover and let it soak at least a minute. Then dawdle, twitch, coax, nudge or urge it along just half an inch at a time. Any nearby bass will notice shock waves from a potential food item barely moving on the surface, and being a predator, it’s sure to investigate. Nab it when it does. Float a Worm Plastic worms usually aren’t considered topwater lures, either but floating models are great for coaxing big fall hawgs from hidey-holes in dense cover. Rig the offering Texas-style for weedless fishing but use no sinker. You need a big worm – 10 to 12 inches – for this bit of trickery. Add just enough split shot to the line ahead of the hook to sink only the worm’s head. Then slither the lure very slowly over the top of vegetation and low-hanging branches so it looks like a snake, a popular menu choice for big bass. The unusual profile of this rig differs considerably from other topwater lures and may be what you need to draw strikes when bass seem lethargic. Jerk a Jerkbait In 1989, Herb Reed of Meriden, Connecticut, introduced a new lure, a soft-plastic jerkbait called the Slug-Go. The lure looks like a plump plastic worm with one flat side and a gently tapering tail. Today, there are many popular variations, and when rigged weightless, they make great surface lures. Bass gorging on surface-schooling shad are suckers for a light-colored jerkbait worked with a “jumping” retrieve instead of the short twitches, flips and jerks you use elsewhere. Rig the hook farther back than normal, cast to rising fish and let the lure sink just below the surface. Then snap your rod tip upward so the lure jumps from the water like a frightened shad. Pause a couple of seconds, allowing the jerkbait to descend like a shad suffering death throes. Then jump the bait again. Your rod is sure to bend before jump three!