Bass attacks topwater baits with explosive strikes, and that makes this one of the most exciting ways to fish for America’s favorite sportfish.
But as our resident guide and bass expert, Shawn Chapin, explains, it is vital to use the BEST topwater lures to tempt bass, especially in hard-fished waters.
In this article, Shawn lists the five best topwater lures for bass, including some trusted baits that have stood the test of time for decades to the most innovative new lures.
The Five Best Topwater Lures for Bass Reviewed:
If you go back in time and ask a young 12-year-old me what I thought the best lure for topwater bass fishing was, the Hula Popper would most likely be my answer.
This topwater popper has truly stood the test for more than 60 years! The cup-shaped head on the Hula Popper displaces a lot of water with just the smallest jerk of your rod and gives out a loud “bloop” as it does so.
This “bloop” noise is a real trigger for bass to attack and the strikes are vicious.
Like many old-school topwater bass lures, it features two treble hooks, which means it can get fouled by weed, but it certainly helps convert more strikes to hookups – maximizing this ratio is certainly a factor in fishing with topwater poppers.
The Hula Popper also has a skirt, which bulks out its profile and adds some fish-attracting flair. The bait can also be found in a wide variety of color patterns as well.
When it comes to “walk the dog” style baits (long and thin hard-bodied lures that zig-zag on the retrieve), the Heddon Zara Spook has been at the top of many serious anglers lists for decades, and not just bass anglers – musky and pike anglers love the giant version of this bait too.
Heddon literally invented the “walk the dog” action when they created this bait, and that was more than 75 years ago. That kind of product longevity, especially in the “hot today but not tomorrow” fishing lure world we live in today, should speak volumes to you. It just goes to show if it ain’t broke, don’t mend it.
While many companies have created “walking the dog” baits over the years, the Zara Spook still remains one of the best topwater lures for bass.
Throw this bait near areas where bass is likely sitting in ambush positions and give it soft taps while introducing a little slack after each one to allow it to walk and hang on. Some days you have to work the bait fast to generate a topwater bite, while other days, the bass prefer a very slow movement. Don’t be afraid to vary the speed. It’s up to you to figure that part out when on the water.
The Whopper Plopper is the brainchild of Fishing Hall of Fame inductee, master lure builder, and the host of The Hunt For Big Fish fishing series Larry Dahlberg, who is personally one of my favorite fishing icons that I have looked up to for years.
The Whopper Plopper is a topwater lure that has gained massive popularity in the bass world. The lure’s fish-catching power is a testament to its popularity. With a flexible and cupped tail, the lure creates a splutter and plopping noise on the water’s surface as well as erratic movements and splashes that drive predatory fish crazy.
Larry put countless hours of research and development into the tail to create that perfect plopping sound while keeping it flexible and allowing it to always stay perfectly in tune. This lure has been responsible for countless numbers of trophy fish.
It is available in 11 eye-catching colors and three different sizes, including a shad-shaped design. Tie this thing on and prepare your nerves for some massive topwater explosions.
When the original Snag Proof Frog first hit the bass fishing world, it was game-changing, to say the least.
You would be hard-pressed to find a hardcore bass angler around who hasn’t at one time owned (or still owns) the Snag Proof Frog.
This was one of the first surface frogs that were able to be worked in the thickest cover without fouling up or snagging, with lily pads and other forms of shallow cover being the top target areas to fish it for many anglers.
With its upturned double hook that runs across the top of the lure, and a life-like frog body, this thing still fools fish to this day, and it’s a bait that is hard to beat.
Throw this topwater frog in the slop or lily pads, give it some pops and pauses, and hang on for dear life. It remains one of the best topwater lures for bass.
We are going from golden oldies to a relatively new topwater lure – the SPRO Rat.
This is a big-fish bait and is designed to target the largest and baddest bass in the pond. Think of a bass that is large enough to eat a rat, and you get the picture.
You will see this is a lipped bait, and as a result, it swims like a crankbait, but it remains on the surface. The jointed body makes the SPRO BBZ-1 Rat roll and slithers on the surface, imitating a swimming mammal.
You can wake, bulge, and pop this bait depending on what you want and, more importantly, what the fish want.
Be aware that this bait has bottom-mounted treble hooks, so you don’t want to fish the rat in heavy slop-type cover, and you want to keep it towards the edges of cover or fish it in lanes, cuts, and around clumps where the vegetation would foul your hooks.
Don’t overlook this bait for night fishing. This thing can crush fish in the evening after the sun goes down, and it comes in some pretty wild colors as well. If you're a bass angler that dabbles in other species, such as pike and musky, be sure to use it for those species as well.
How to Use Topwater Lures
Let’s take a look at some frequently asked questions on topwater fishing. If you’re new to topwater fishing, this section can give you some insight into common questions.
Can You Use Topwater Tactics During the Day?
A: Heck, Yes!
Topwater fishing can be done at any time of the day. Typically you won’t get as good results on a bright hot sunny day, but there are no hard and fast rules. Even at these times, in certain situations and locations, you can still find good topwater action.
The best daylight situations for topwater fans are generally in overcast conditions or when there is an approaching front, such as a summer thunderstorm. In these situations, the changes in barometric pressure can spark a feeding frenzy.
Typically your best chances on a stable weather day like a sunny summer day will be in the first couple hours of daylight in the early morning and the last couple hours of daylight through to dusk, and if conditions are right, they could work all night long.
Where Should You Use Topwater Lures?
Generally speaking, topwater tactics are best for ultra-shallow water conditions. Areas with heavy covers, like thick weeds, brush, stumps, docks and lily pads, trees, heavy timber structures, and even areas of deep shade, are great areas to use topwater frogs, poppers, and other lures.
These lures will make enough surface commotion to bring the fish out of the structure if you can cast it within an acceptable range.
What Are the Various Types of Topwater Lures?
A: The most common are frogs, WTD style, poppers, and tail baits.
But that doesn’t mean there isn’t a wide variety of topwater baits out there. For instance, many have small props on the rear and front of the bait, like the Smithwick Devil Horse or the Heddon Torpedo. These are very popular old-school-style baits that create a fish-arousing disturbance on the surface.
Others types include creepers, which are more popular among the musky crowd but are also a design used by bass lure companies. An example is the Savage Gear 3-D Bat.
And we must not forget the buzzbait. Buzzbaits are one of the most popular bass topwaters out there as well and work well as search baits; they are incredibly easy to throw, create a lot of surface chatter and ripples, and are very similar to spinnerbaits.
What Colors Do Bass Prefer?
That depends, and it very much depends on anglers’ preferences and prejudices. I personally don’t get into a lot of the color hype like some anglers, but for bass, it certainly can matter. Bass definitely seem to prefer certain colors on certain bodies of water.
When in doubt about what color to throw, I would recommend something dark in color. Heck, black is my go-to in most cases. This is because it silhouettes the best against the sky in any water clarity and light conditions.
You really can’t go wrong using frog color patterns or matching the hatch if you fishing a shad-based system or a lake with a lot of bluegills.
Most anglers know the excitement of topwater fishing, and for many, this has become a method of fishing they will employ at any opportunity. If you’re new to fishing or haven’t explored topwater fishing, the lures on the list are the five best topwater lures for bass, and you can fish them with total confidence.