topwater fishing cloudy

Let’s start with the obvious: topwater fishing is the most fun and enjoyable type of fishing you can find! Fishing topwater lures are often associated with bass fishing but it catches other fish species as well. Pike and perch in particular will bite a topwater lure as well if not better than bass. Here are a few fishing tips to catch more fish on top!

Topwater fishing is efficient for a couple of reasons: from a game fish perspective, a prey on the surfaced is already trapped, instead of pursuit in 3 dimensions, it’s shrunk down to only 2. The surface mirror tends to blend the lure details, hooks, line, and other details that could otherwise spook wary fish. Finally, surface lures are easy to find and target for fish as they leave an arrow-shaped ripple pointing to the bait.

Topwater fishing timing

Many people think of topwater fishing early morning and late evening on hot summer days. And indeed that’s a good time, a great time to fish a topwater plug. But the range of opportunities for topwater fishing is much wider.

topwater fishing pike

Topwater fishing is productive as soon as the water reaches about 15 degrees. That means from about April to mid-November. It is possible to catch fish mid-winter, especially perch but it’s a bit of a rare occurrence.

The best topwater time is on cloudy or overcast weather. In late summer and autumn, I will be fishing a topwater lure only on rainy days. There’s magic happening with September rain, the calm warm rain that leaves bubbles on the water. It’s time to throw a buzzbait for pike and bass or a popper for perch and bass.

topwater fishing perch

Some windy conditions are good too, but not all winds are created equal. South and west winds that come with lower pressure and cloud cover are better than cold north and east wind. Do you catch the drift? weather turning to rain and low pressure are good while north wind high pressure isn’t.

Even though I have a good bit of experience, in topwater fishing I’m always surprised, that’s why I often give it a try, sometimes it works and sometimes not. It’s hard to predict but it produces more often than most fishermen would think.

Topwater fishing location

The short answer is anywhere fish are close to the surface. It can mean shallow water, it can mean around grass or near overhanging vegetation, or in case of open water schooling. Perch often relate to bridge pilings and will hit a popper worked alongside the concrete wall.

There’s no real wrong place to fish a topwater lure providing the fish are not too deep. It is a variable of water clarity. If the water is very clear, I will not hesitate to fish deeper water, either for suspended fish or because I know they will see it from further away. If the water is muddy stick to fishing shallow water.

The right lure

There’s an abundance of surface fishing lures. Let’s just run a quick list of the most common lures: stickbait walkers, poppers, prop baits, buzzbaits, frogs, and wakebaits. The latter is nothing more than a crankbait with a short vertical bill designed to swim just on the surface.

Each one is a tool designed for a specific job and has a place and time. For example, frogs are designed for fishing in heavy cover such as grass and pads. It will get bit just as well in open water but the poor hooked up ratio means another lure with exposed hooks would be better employed.

The lure itself doesn’t matter to the fish all that much, but having the right fishing gear will mean more opportunities and more fish in the boat. A walking stick bait is great for covering wide expanses of water. A big shallow flat, a long grass line; stick baits are great when it’s hard to tell precisely where the fish are going the be or roaming around like perch.

topwater fishing grass line
glide dog walking bait

A popper can be worked 2 ways, with a fast-paced retrieve or with short snaps of the rod that keep the bait in place, creating commotions with minimal forward movement. The former retrieve is essentially similar to fishing a stick bait, very good for roaming perch, while the latter is better to pull bass from covers such as a submerged brush or boat dock.

Buzzbait and wakebait

The buzzbait is a great lure for triggering bites from big bass but big pike as well. It’s better in stained water around shallow vegetation or wood stick-ups. I usually fish it as slow as I can without getting it underwater. Much like you would do with a spinnerbait do your best effort to hit every wood, grass, post, or anything else that’s on the way. A good buzzbait doesn’t go straight, due to the prop spinning it will veer to the left or the right. If the shore is on your left, fish a buzzbait that veer to the left and vice versa.

buzzbait secret

Wake baits are great when the water is totally calm without a ripple. They are also great for covering wide areas and will catch bass, pike, and perch. Make long casts and retrieve just at the right speed to get a good wake without diving under the surface. Keep your rod tip high at the beginning of the retrieve and lower it as the bait gets closer to you.

wakebait tyran crankbait


Topwater fishing success lies as much in choosing the right time as having the right fishing tackle. But it will not catch fish if the lure doesn’t get some water time! I think many people assume boring techniques are more efficient as catching fish than fun lures. I guess there’s maybe some truth to that. Isn’t that a common life trope; the tasty food is unhealthy, there’s a price tag to every fun activity. But topwater fishing isn’t like that, it’s often the most effective but still super fun!