Zell Tells: Topwater Tips From The Master
This blog update comes from longtime writer, editor and communications specialist Lawrence Taylor.
B.A.S.S. Elite pro Zell Rowland is known throughout the bass-fishing world as the king of topwater fishing – a moniker he first earned in the late-1970s by winning and placing in many tournaments using a Rebel Pop-R. In fact, it was Rowland and a few other tournament guys who brought the Pop-R lure back from the dead (it was discontinued in the late 1970s). When it returned to the Rebel catalog, more than a million were sold the first year.
The Pop-R's a versatile topwater that provides two different actions, depending on how the angler holds the rod. With rod held high, the bait will spit and skip across the surface; holding the rod downward creates more of a traditional "chugging" action. What many anglers don't realize, however, is that the lure may be at its most effective when reeled fast across the surface like a fleeing baitfish. It's one of the best reaction baits when fish are shallow.
While Rowland is known best for his Pop-R prowess, it's certainly not the only topwater bait he throws. Here are some tips for topwater bass fishing Zell provided one day while he visited Rebel headquarters.
1. "It's my job as a professional fisherman to know every bait, and there's not one we've made that I haven't had the hooks off. I put larger hooks on, smaller hooks on, I'll fish it on four or five line sizes to see how that affects the action."
2. "The lighter the line you use on any bait, the better action you get. The moment you go two line sizes up, say from 10-pound to 14, the action difference is phenomenal. People say that with topwater baits line size doesn't matter, but that's not true. The lighter the line, the more movement I get out of the bait, and only a fish is going to tell me if it wants a Spook turning 90-degrees or if it wants the bait turning 30-degrees."
3. "Eighty percent of the strikes you get on topwater are from the sound of the bait. A bass only eats something for one of four reasons – sight, sound, smell or vibration. Topwater baits don't produce vibration underwater because they're on top, and they normally don't smell the bait. They're attracted by the sound before they see the bait."
4. "The biggest question I get is 'When do I throw a certain topwater?' I tell them that's why I've got a bunch of different topwater baits, because I throw one for 40 minutes to an hour, and if I don't get a bite I'm not going to keep throwing it. I'll change the size, the color, the cover I'm throwing it at until something happens that I can expand on."
5. "A rule of thumb I go by is: The clearer the water, the faster I move the bait. In clear water I don't want them to get a good look at it."
6. "I like a feather on the back treble of all my topwater baits. When a fish boils on a topwater and misses, a lot of times I'll kill the bait, because I know where that bass is. Now the bait is sitting there dead in the water, and if I just touch the reel handle the bait doesn't move, but those feathers flare out and move like a something that's been wounded and is just barely quivering on the water. Nine times out of 10 I'll get that bass to hit again because of those feathers."
Lawrence Taylor was a longtime editor of Bassin' magazine who now helps promote Yum and other Pradco Fishing brands. He'd love to hear from you. Click here to send him an email.
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