By Jim Mize
Most topwater lures for largemouth bass can be fished with a jerk and a pause afterward. Over the years, I’ve concluded that the length of the pause should be determined by how far the fish have to travel to take the lure.
One of the lakes I have fished for largemouth is deep and clear, nestled back in the Blue Ridge Mountains. Some of the banks drop very sharply, so you could be casting to two feet of water at the bank while your boat sits over water thirty feet deep.
In the evening, one of my favorite topwater lures is a Devil’s Horse. This lure seems to produce better than most I have tried and the topwater strikes get the adrenaline pumping. The challenge with such a lure in deep water is that the strikes mostly come close to the bank even though many fish lay off the bank along structure.
One day I was easing along the bank with the trolling motor and looking down at the structure below. When I passed over a sunken tree, I noticed a large tail protruding from under the trunk. In the clear water, I could easily see the fish and he could see me. The section in front of his tail looked the size of my wrist, so I made a mental note to come back and see if he might come out from under the tree to feed.
A few days later, I came back with a fly fisherman who was testing some bass bugs. He tossed one over the tree where I pointed and just let his fly rest still on the water. He waited, not moving the bug an inch for what seemed like eternity.
In the clear water, we could see the largemouth rise and slowly angle up to the fly. It was in no hurry, but slowly opened that cavernous mouth and inhaled the bug. My friend set the hook and quickly realized he was outmatched and under-tackled. Once the hook was set, the bass created brief havoc with a splash of its tail. Then it turned back toward the tree, took all the line it wanted, and managed to weave a tangle in the limbs below. It broke off and left my friend a shaking mess with a freshwater case of buck fever.
What struck me at the time was how slowly the bass rose to take the bait. Perhaps the fish got big by inspecting its food from a distance and taking its time. In any event, it was a lesson I remembered and something I put in my arsenal when fishing topwater lures.
Now when I toss that Devil’s Horse, I think about the structure and depth of the water below the lure. Close to the bank, quick jerks and shorter pauses work because the fish there are feeding already and don’t have far to travel to hit the lure. As the lure leaves the bank, the bass may be inclined to bite, but take their time to come up.
So when you fish over good structure that is deeper, such as ledges with sharp drops and long points that slowly fall into the lake, you may want to give the fish time to come to your topwater bait. Fish holding on the deeper spots often will be some of your best.