Most of our fishing for largemouth bass is done in the Northeast, Delaware, Maryland, and New York in particular, but I have caught huge bass all over the country on noisy topwater baits. Noisy topwaters can produce some enormous explosions from big bass. It irritates them into striking, by provoking an aggressive and immediate killing response more than other lures. The key to catching big bass all over the country on topwaters is to match your tackle, bait, and presentations to different conditions. The reason I believe we catch so many big bass on topwater baits is because most people throw spinnerbaits, worms, and crankbaits. The bass learn to avoid these baits when they get larger. The topwater baits we throw haven't been used for years in some cases, and the bass aren't used to seeing them. Even in places where people throw topwaters such as poppers, they are more inclined to throw whatever topwaters they use only at certain times of the day, usually in the morning or in the late afternoon, or evening. We throw different noisy topwaters all day in different locations for some tremendous strikes.
Almost all the bass I have caught that are over five pounds, are loners, holding on a particular piece of structure in the lake. I won't say that you never see some large bass schooling up, but it is a rare occurrence. Smallmouth bass are different though, they do school up in certain areas, and there can be many large fish all together at one time. I have had this happen all over, from New York to Missouri, but big largemouth's are generally alone. I use most topwater baits when the water temperature is sixty degrees or above, but I have caught bass on topwaters when the water temperature was in the high fifty's. Whenever I see a stump, rock, or maybe a bush, further away from other structure, I throw a topwater right to it. The best way to provoke a reaction strike from a big largemouth is to cast the bait right to the cover, not beyond it. If you cast past the target, the bass will be alert before the bait gets there. You may have seen them boil or swirl when you do this instead of smashing it. They are tentative when you work the bait up to the cover, and then they just swirl at it, or miss. To provoke a big bass into exploding on the bait you must cast right to the cover!
Some of the best baits for this are The Zara Spook, a buzzbait, a prop bait, a minnow bait, a popper, and a Crazy Crawler. The Zara Spook is a proven bait all over the country for this. It is really effective on main lake structures like humps and points, and has always taken big smallmouth bass. I use a Rattling Zara Spook, and it really increases the effectiveness of the bait. The walk-the-dog style of the bait, along with the rattles, produces some giant bass. Big smallmouth bass will come from a great distance to smash this bait.
The prop bait is a noisy surface bait that has to be used just right or it will spook the bass. I always use it when a front is approaching, and on stained to muddy bodies of water. It is the ultimate reaction bait, and definitely needs to be cast right to the cover, whatever it may be.
The popper is one of my favorite baits to use in places that have a lot of grass or milfoil that is holding bass. I recently started using a popper by Viva lures, that was recommended to me by Carolina Fish and Fur. It has produced some great largemouth bass in the last few years. It is called a Bug Eye Popper. It doesn't really make as much noise as some of my other poppers, like the Pop-R, but it spits out all kinds of water. It is a fairly expensive bait, but I believe it has accounted for several big largemouth bass that I wouldn't have gotten on another bait. This coming year, we will be using a new custom bait by Bob Popp, called a Bob Popper. It was designed by Bob himself, and produced with the highest quality hooks, Daiichi, after years of research and development. This will be an S&K and Delaware Tackle exclusive, and can not be purchased anywhere else. Keep an eye on this bait for 2005.
The Crazy Crawler is a bait that is similar to the Jitterbug. I use this and the buzzbait a lot at night. I also use a real big size Jitterbug that they use for Northerns or Muskies, they have never seen it here in the Northeast, and really smash it at night. The buzzbait also produces some really big bass for us here in Delaware when used at night. We have caught some bass in the seven and eight pound range on many occasions with a B&D Klacker buzz, a Yamamoto buzzbait in 5.5 inches, and a Terminator Ball Buster. This year we have been using a new buzzbait made by B & D lures, and it has worked very well so far.
The floating minnow is another good bait in post spawn, when big bass are around some shallow cover but they aren't particularly aggressive yet. I use baits with rattles for this also. I've caught a lot of big bass on it in prespawn also, on really warm days early in the year, it produces well. I just cast it to the structure, let it sit, twitch it one time, and they usually just suck it in!
The other bait that a lot of anglers forget about is the Bass Rat by Southern Lures, a Sumo frog, and the Tournament Frog by Snag Proof. I insert rattles in these baits also, and they produce tremendous strikes through the pads and other vegetation in bodies of water from small ponds here in Delaware to bigger bodies of water like Lake Champlain in New York. I use a 7 foot, S-Glass St.Croix rod for them, with Spiderline Super Mono, in seventeen pound test, or I use twenty-eight pound test Fusion. I fish the lighter baits with a spinning rod such as a G.Loomis, in 6 1/2 foot lengths, with twelve pound test P-Line. I use all the rods in a medium heavy to heavy action for these baits. This year in 2004/05, we are using some rods made by Kistler, and are excited about them. They are very well made and have a variety of actions that we need for these situations here in the northeast.
Although most of our really big bass have come from shallow water, they were always in a place that was near deep water, where one or more grasses came together, and near the main creek channel. They always had some kind of deep water escape route nearby. I feel that in larger bodies of water the big bass spend much of their time in deeper water, and just move in out of the shallows as the opportunities arise, when hunting for food. As I mentioned previously, most anglers use these baits at sunrise or sunset, but I use them all times of the day. Big bass are always on the shady side of cover once the sun rises. They can be enticed into striking a buzzbait or other topwater, at all times of the day when presented properly. Bigger bass feed more frequently due to their body size, and when they do feed, they want a bigger meal if at all possible. They have to expend a great deal of energy to catch their prey, and want to make sure the size is sufficient to meet their needs. I grew up fishing small ponds and lakes here in the Northeast. This is a great place to learn how to catch big bass and practice the techniques you need to catch them in larger bodies of water. These small ponds and lakes have plenty of big fish left in them, you just have to present the right baits at the right time.