There’s nothing quite like topwater fishing and seeing a bass explode out of the water to devour your lure. To be a true expert angler when it comes to topwater fishing, you must have a quality topwater rod to get the right action and to set the hook.
If you’re seeking the best topwater rod in today’s fishing industry, we have compiled our top 8 picks in this article to help you find the one that’s right for you.
Best Topwater Rod in 2023 Reviewed: Quick Picks
The Shimano Zodias has the ideal characteristics for topwater poppers. It's made of Hi-Power X construction and comes in a shorter size that lets anglers point the rod tip up or down.
The Daiwa Tatula XT is a longer high-modulus graphite rod that's made with a fast-action tip. It gives you the perfect action for topwater frogs.
Best Topwater Rod: Full Reviews
If you're looking for the absolute best topwater rod in today's market, the St Croix Avid casting rod is the clear-cut favorite. The Avid casting rod is made with high-modulus graphite material that's super lightweight but still capable of giving you plenty of backbone to handle big bass.
The St Croix Avid is a compact 6'6" in length, which means it's capable of delivering a variety of different topwater retrieval methods with your rod top in the up or down position. It's more expensive than most other topwater rods, but the Avid is made with the same superior quality that anglers have come to expect out of St Croix.
- High-modulus graphite blank
- Great length for any topwater technique
- 15-year warranty
The Daiwa Tatula XT casting rod is a great alternative for those who don't want to spend a small fortune to get the best topwater rods. It's a 7' model that's ideal for techniques that require you to point your rod tip up and produce the action you want out of a variety of topwater lures.
The Daiwa Tatula XT comes in medium light, medium, and medium-heavy power that allows you to select the one you need based on the weight of the topwater lures you typically use.
- Premium-quality Fuji FazLite guides
- High-modulus graphite blank
- Varying power models and fast or extra-fast action
The Dobyns Fury is an outstanding quality casting rod that doesn't have the hefty price tag like some of the others among our list of the best topwater rods. This one is made with the high-modulus graphite that you need to handle trophy-sized bass, as well as other premium components like a Fuji reel seat.
Dobyns makes the Fury in a longer 7'3" that's good for topwater lures that require a high rod tip position or a shorter 6'6" version that's perfect for walking baits in the classic 'back and forth' motion that bass finds irresistible.
- Excellent for 'walking the dog' with lures
- Cork split handle
- Medium-heavy power and fast-action
Lew's is a brand that is known for specially designing certain gear items to give anglers the best possible advantage on the water. The Lew's Mach Topwater casting rod is another great example of this, as the rod comes with a number of outstanding features but at a price that most anglers can afford.
It's made with a multi-layered IM7 graphite blank that delivers superior strength yet is still sensitive enough to be used with small, lightweight lures.
- Split EVA handle
- Multi-layered IM7 graphite is strong and sensitive
- 2-year warranty
Sometimes, a casting rod creates too many problems as it's susceptible to being backlashed when fishing in strong winds. The St Croix Mojo Inshore spinning rod is the ideal answer for anglers who want the capability to fish with a huge variety of different topwater lures but also need the reliable nature of a great spinning rod.
The Mojo is one of the only spinning rods that's capable of producing the action you need in walking baits, yet still able to deliver the backbone required to handle anything from monster bass to bull reds and other giant inshore fish species. It's also made with the same superior standards that anglers have come to expect from St Croix.
- Classic and elegant cork grip handle
- SCII graphite blank made with medium-heavy power and fast action
- 5-year warranty
The Dobyns Champion is one of the more expensive topwater rods on our list, but there's no denying that it's a worthy investment for serious anglers who want to have the best bass fishing gear. The Champion is made with a high-modulus graphite blank that's wrapped with Kevlar to provide incredible toughness and flexibility.
This rod is made with premium components and comes in a 6'8" length that's versatile enough to be used for walking baits with the tip pointed downward or with bigger, heavier topwater lures. Dobyns offers a Limited Lifetime Warranty with the Champion, making it one of the premier topwater rods on the market right now.
- High-modulus graphite with Kevlar wrapping
- Split cork handle and Fuji reel seat
- Limited Lifetime Warranty
The Shimano SLX is a great casting rod for topwater fishing that comes in at a reasonable price. The SLX casting rod is made with 24-ton carbon blanks and comes in a wide variety of different lengths, power, and action.
This rod is made with titanium oxide guides and a high-density EVA handle, as well as a sensitive carbon foregrip.
- Comes in a wide variety of lengths and power selections (medium light, medium, medium heavy, heavy)
- Titanium oxide guides and a comfortable EVA handle
- Budget-friendly price for a topwater rod
Our list of the best topwater rod models wouldn't be complete without mentioning the Shimano Zodias casting rod. This one comes in a wide variety of power and action models and is made with Shimano's distinct Hi-Power X construction that features durable carbon wrapping, which is designed to give anglers pinpoint accuracy in casting.
The Zodias is a lightweight casting rod that's perfect for topwater fishing as it features a Ci4+ reel seat, Carbon Monocoque Grip, Fuji alconite guides, and lots of other premium components.
- Carbon Monocoque Grip for outstanding sensitivity
- Hi-Power X construction
- Wide range of power and action selections
Topwater Rod Buyer’s Guide:
Spinning or Casting?
When it comes to deciding whether a spinning or casting rod is best for topwater fishing, there are a few things you should consider before selecting one over the other. Most anglers prefer to go with a casting rod when using topwater bass fishing lures. This is mostly because they provide better accuracy and increased distance when casting lightweight or bigger, heavier lures.
Having the best possible accuracy might not matter as much in open water, but if you’re fishing around heavy cover and structure, it’s crucial. A great quality baitcasting rod lets you make casts into tight windows around trees, branches, weeds, and other types of cover that bass like to hide in.
A spinning rod might be more suitable for fishing in windy conditions. This is usually the case for saltwater anglers who are casting topwater lures around coastal flats and inlets where they can catch redfish, mackerel, striped bass, and many other species.
Sometimes, the choice between a spinning vs casting rod might come down to the angler’s own personal preference and what they feel more confident using.
Longer is not always better as it relates to rods used for topwater bass fishing or other species. In many cases, anglers will opt for a shorter rod that will allow them to point the rod tip down when they want to. A shorter rod allows an angler can produce the ‘walk the dog’ technique that is often used when fishing with baits like poppers (click here to purchase a good one), jitterbugs, and other topwater lures.
A shorter rod lets you make short, quick twitching movements that produce an erratic movement in your lure that bass typically can’t resist. Shorter rods that are no more than about 7′ in length are often ideal for a versatile approach to topwater baits, but they do come with certain limitations.
Longer rods, however, give you a much greater casting distance and are better for making long casts on open water. Being able to have longer casting distance comes in handy when you’re trying to fish a large section of water or in an area where you want to thoroughly fish around a point or flat.
Having a shorter handle is one of the more important and overlooked characteristics regarding a good quality topwater rod. A short handle lets you make quick twitching movements more easily, including the ‘walk the dog’ and other key techniques used to fish with topwater lures.
You can use a rod that might have a longer handle, but it’s going to be hard to get optimal action out of your lure, especially if the rod is longer than the 7-foot range.
The rod’s power rating describes how much the rod will bend, as well as how much pressure it takes on the end of the rod to cause it to bend. Power is not the same as action, which we will explain in the next section. Rod power usually ranges anywhere from ultra-light to extra heavy, but the ideal power for a topwater setup is usually going to be a medium-heavy power rod.
Some anglers like to use a medium power rod as it will be a bit lighter and can provide more action in the lure, but you want to make sure the rod is strong enough to allow you to set the hook properly. If you’re fishing in heavy cover, it’s good to have a heavier power rod that will let you crank a fish out of vegetation or brush piles.
Action describes the specific area of the rod where the bend occurs when pressure is applied to the tip. Most heavy power rods will have slow action, which means the rod bends throughout the entire length from the handle to the tip. A faster action rod will remain stiff in the bottom and middle tiers and will bend to a great degree in the upper third.
It’s recommended that anglers use a rod that has anywhere from moderate to fast action for topwater lure fishing. This is mostly because you want to have the ability to quickly set the hook when a fish bites. Having a medium-heavy power rod with fast action is usually considered to be the sweet spot for topwater fishing.
Graphite vs Fiberglass?
When fishing topwater lures, you can usually expect to get quite a workout in your shoulders, forearms, and wrists. Professional bass anglers usually prefer a lighter rod and reel setup for topwater fishing in order to avoid fatigue over the course of the day.
Rods that are made of graphite material are always going to be more lightweight than fiberglass. All of the rods we’ve included in our top 8 selections have some type of graphite or carbon blank material for this reason. However, there are some anglers that opt for fiberglass rods when fishing with topwater lures because it gives them a slower bend, which helps in setting the hook with some kinds of bait.
Rod Line Weight Rating
Topwater fishing is best done with monofilament line as it is capable of floating and stretching and giving you the best possible action in your lure. It’s good to have a rod line weight rating of at least an 8-pound test when fishing with a topwater lure, but no higher than a 14-pound test.
If you’re planning to fish around heavy cover, you’ll need a line that’s strong enough to allow you to pull your lure or a fish out of it. In these instances, it’s usually better to use braided line that’s around 20-pound test.
Rod Lure Weight Rating
Many anglers tend to ignore a rod’s lure weight rating, or they might be unaware that such a rating exists. You can find these rating recommendations by looking at the rod’s specs, and it’s usually best to stay with a rod lure weight rating of no more than 3/4 ounces. For most instances where you are fishing with anything under 1/8 ounces, it’s probably better to have a spinning rod and reel.
Bottom Line: Best Topwater Rod
If you’re only going to use topwater lures a few times each year, you can probably get by with the same rod you might use for any other type of lure presentation. However, if you really want to maximize your efforts and get the best possible results out of the topwater lures in your tackle box, having one of the 8 rods on our list will give you the best advantage.