From a beginner’s perspective, bass fishing staples include worms, swimbaits, jerks, rattletraps, and similar bass lures that all float throughout the water column depending on how you present them. Those are staples, and they do work. They’ll make up 90% of your fishing experience if you’re an average angler.
However, there’s something else available for those who like to take a different approach - topwater fishing.
Topwater bass fishing implements all new strategies, baits, and “rules”, and while the core concept is the same as any other fishing, you’re missing out if you don’t try it. Especially since it’s the top method to use in a few scenarios.
So, whether you’re a seasoned pro who just wants to find some new topwater lures for bass fishing, or you’re a beginner looking to learn a few things and put together your first topwater kit, we’ve got a guide for you.
Let’s get started.
What is Topwater Fishing?
If you’re a seasoned pro, you can hop down to the product list. Beginners who haven’t fished the top water yet should stick around for a brief primer.
With most types of fishing strategies, you fish in the water column. Your lure is submerged, and unless you’re in very clear water, you don’t see much. You rely on your rod twitching, the line moving, and the vibrations of things hitting your lure to know what to do.
With topwater fishing, you fish right on top. Some topwater lures float directly on the top, and some are partially submerged but present themselves just an inch or two from the surface. We’ll be focusing on the lures that float on top for the purposes of this guide.
How Does Topwater Fishing Differ from Normal Bass Fishing?
At its core, you’re doing the same thing when you fish the top as you do when you work the water column. However, there are a few areas that will differ, and you might take some time to fully learn how they work with a hands-on activity.
First, your set will have to change a bit. With most topwater lures, bass will take them under and hold onto them a bit before they get them far enough in their mouths to expose the hooks. We’ll note lures that require this in the product section. Most of the time, you’ll need to count to two after the lure disappears to keep from ripping the lure out of their mouth.
Then, your understanding of the presentation will change. You’re not buzzing lures right in front of bass, and you’re not getting under them. The bass see them from the bottom, and water clarity along with the overcast are important factors to consider when selecting your lure colors.
Also in regards to presentation, topwater lures are typically “walked” across the surface. The exact pattern differs depending on the lure, but we’ll use a frog for example. You rarely want to pull it straight in, because you won’t engage the leg skirts. Luckily, since the lure floats, you can see it in action regardless of water clarity, and you can tweak your presentation as you go.
When to Fish for Bass on the Top
Finally, we’ll wrap up our primer with the best times to use topwater lures. Mostly, you’ll want to use them when bugs and wildlife are on the surface. So, the morning, right before a rainstorm, and the late afternoon right before sunset tend to be the best times. Topwater lures are not optimal in the colder months or during the middle of the day during prime fishing season.
The Best Topwater Lures on the Market for Bass
Now that we know everyone’s caught up and ready to fish, we’re going to list a large selection of our favorite topwater lures for bass. Some are classics that never go out of style, and some are new to the market but making big waves among anglers.
Let’s get started.
1: Booyah Pad Crasher JR
This is a topwater frog that has been around for quite a while, and while it’s fairly small, it packs a huge punch when it comes to attracting bass.
The Pad Crasher JR is Booyah’s smaller topwater frog offering. It weighs just a quarter ounce, and that makes it great for lighter medium-heavy setups, working through tighter areas, and leaving room for smaller bass to gulp it up instead of just targeting the big boys.
It features two skirt “legs” that contract as you walk it, and there’s a hole in the rear for you to insert rattles or scents that attract bass for extra presentation options.
The Pad Crasher JR comes in 7 different color combos, and we recommend getting a couple of each for your tackle box to match any weather and water conditions you come across.
With this lure, you’re going to want to slowly walk it with gentle pops of your rod tip and pauses. Pop it a couple of times, reel up the slack, and pause for a couple of seconds. If you pull it in straight, you’ll make it look like a stick getting dragged straight through the water instead of a frog.
If you squirt a bit of your favorite scent into the body of the frog, it’s designed to trickle it out the rear and leave a scent trail.
The strength of the Pad Crasher JR is its flexibility due to size, but it can fall short on heavier, stiffer, rods that many anglers like to use for topwater due to its lightweight.
2: Booyah Pad Crasher
This is the Pad Crasher JR’s big brother, and it’s the original part of the Pad Crasher lineup. You probably figured that out by the name. The Pad Crasher is twice the size, twice the weight, and aimed at targeting big lunkers hidden under surface flora and moss.
There’s not much to say about the main Pad Crasher, because it’s the exact same lure as the JR variant, but it’s twice as big. You can still put scents in it, add rattles, and more. You can even slip two small split shot weights into its cavity for a homemade rattle, but that will weigh the frog down slightly. Keep the weights as light as possible if you try that technique.
The only real issue with this one is that it’s pretty large. Smaller bass will bite it, but you’re more likely to nab the big guys. It’s also not quite as sensitive to your rod movements due to the added weight.
3: Booyah Poppin’ Pad Crasher JR
This is the last Booyah frog we’re putting on the list, but it’s a solid twist on the classic topwater frog. Everything about it is the same as the previously mentioned lures except the “head”.
The head of this frog is cupped and hardened to give it the same action as a “popper” lure. We’ll cover a couple of those later on, but when you pop the tip of your rod, the mouth of the frog cups the water and splashes it. This creates a lot of commotion, and it attracts bass like crazy if you pace out your pops right.
This is based on the Pad Crasher JR, and it’s roughly the same size in terms of its dimensions, but it’s 3/8-ounce due to the hardened portion at the head of the lure. That makes it a little heavier, which will let you cast further a bit easier, and it’ll work better on slightly heavier rods.
4: Arbogast Hula Popper
Since we just told you about Booyah’s take on a traditional popper lure, we’ll go ahead and show you one of the most popular poppers on the market. The Arbogast Hula Popper is 3/8-ounce in weight, and while it’s not huge, it certainly creates a lot of action in the water.
This is because of its popper-style head and hard body with an extra-wide mouth to create big pops on the water’s surface, but unlike traditional poppers, it has a long hula skirt at the end. The skirt matches the pops perfectly because it adds a more natural presentation to the rear of it that can mimic a fishtail moving in the water or frog legs.
The Arbogast Hula Popper comes in a staggering 13 color variations, too. So, you never have to worry about not having a Hula Popper for the water conditions you’re fishing in.
5: Arbogast Jitterbug
The Arbogast Jitterbug is, as the name suggests, a jitterbug lure. However, it’s extremely well made, best known for its dark colors that work wonderfully in darker conditions such as early morning, rain, or night fishing endeavors, and it uses some of the best trebles on the market to ensure your hook set snags the lip of every bass that comes after it.
One neat feature of the Jitterbug is that it features two “lips”. These pop the water just like a traditional popper, but since there are two cupped blades instead of just a cupped portion at the tip of the lure, it tends to slap the water and create a lot more noise. Whether or not that much action is a good thing depends on what the bass want, but it does great when you really need a bit more extra action and the bass aren’t finicky.
The Jitterbug comes in a variety of sizes to match any setup, but it’s not weedless. The treble hooks are exposed. With other lures on this list, it’s possible to attach a weed guard, there is a weed guard included, or the tips of the hooks are flush with the lure as is the case with all the Booyah frogs we mentioned. Since you will usually fish the top water in areas with moss and aquatic flora, exposed hooks can be annoying to deal with. Keep that in mind and use this for clearer waters.
6: Booyah Buzz Bait
This is another lure by Booyah, and like their other lures, it’s a classic. The Booyah Buzz Bait is extremely similar to spinnerbait, but it’s fished differently, and the spinning blade is designed differently.
Instead of spinning and flashing, the metallic blade wobbles, and there’s a rigid piece of metal next to it. This causes it to both flash and slap. When reeled fast and buzzed across the surface, it slaps water like crazy with the blades, and the skirted jig head presented itself like a fast-moving fish.
These are inexpensive lures, and they do great when you want to rowel up the bass on a slow day when it’s too hot and the bass aren’t willing to bite anything else. It’s also a half-ounce. So, it’ll work with the most popular medium-heavy setups.
Unfortunately, this is another lure that is not weedless. However, unlike the Jitterbug, you can make or buy a weed guard sized for the Buzz Bait’s hook and add it to the lure yourself. This isn’t optimal since weed guards are pretty standard now, and you shouldn’t have to add one to a lure meant to go around surface flora. It is an easy fix due to the straight hook, though. It also only comes in black. So, you don’t have a lot of color options.
7: Heddon Super Spook
Finally, we’re going to wrap this list up with the Heddon Super Spook. The Super Spook is designed to limp its way across the top of the water like an injured fish, and you can find it in various weights between half an ounce and one ounce.
This is a larger lure, and it’s meant for saltwater fishing. So, it’s great for going after bass species found in tributaries and coastal ocean waters. However, it performs just as well in freshwater if you match up its color to a local bait fish.
We recommend buying a color pattern with some red in it to mimic blood, but if you can’t find it, feel free to add some red on your own.
Get More Topwater Tips with BassForecast
If you buy the topwater lures for bass we talked about above, you’ll get a good start on your topwater lure collection, and you’ll have a little bit of everything to make sure you’re ready for anything.
However, topwater fishing, and the sport of bass fishing in general, are complicated. Head over to BassForecast fishing app for more bass fishing tips and the best companion app available.