Denis Peirce: The ‘Top Water Bite’ is on!
May 10, 2018
The biggest thrill in angling is watching a fish come to the surface to take your lure. The visual is sometimes a great splash, at other times, and often with bigger fish, there is a swirl on the surface as your offering is sucked below the surface and disappears. This is the "Top Water Bite."
Anticipation is a major factor as you watch your presentation move across the surface. You are continually envisioning a head breaking through the surface crushing your bait.
In the cold weather months the food chain is not as active. The fish are looking for their food on the bottom or suspended in the middle of the water column.
Rarely do you see active feeding at the surface. Then as the season changes and the water warms, there is food in abundance from the bottom to the top. With the right conditions you will be on the water for the top water bite.
Early this week I heard of a rare midday surface bite on Collins Lake. The bass had corralled a school of shad in the narrow confines of the upper end of Collins where the creek flows in.
A favorite tactic of predator fish is to force the bait fish school to the surface to limit their escape options. Some of the predators will surround the ball of bait as others charge through the cornered bait and eat. This can last only moments or can go on for a half hour or more. If you are present when this happens the fishing can be great.
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More commonly it is the evening as the shadows grow long across the water that the bass look up for food. Low light conditions early and late are the prime top water times.
It's easier for me to be on the water at dusk than it is at dawn.
Out on the lake
A Wednesday evening trip was on. Ed Everhart, Colin and I met up at 3 p.m. and headed for Collins Lake.
Collins Lake is full. The water has flooded around the bushes and trees creating a host of hiding places for both predator and prey.
During the day a consistent pattern is to find bass in the shadow of these bushes. Dropping a soft plastic bait into a pocket and letting it fall to the bottom will put fish in the boat. This is how we hooked up the first good fish of the day.
I did not say land, just hooked up. The fish took the plastic worm. Its first reaction was to come to the surface when it felt the hook. Then it dove to the bottom and straight into the most dense part of the brush pile. We were lucky to get the rig back, let alone land the fish.
Colin is a persistent caster, especially if he can watch the bait work on the surface. I was fishing the brush piles while Ed worked through a variety of floating and diving rigs.
Colin had the first surface bite of the afternoon with full sun on the water. This was earlier than I would have predicted but it was the signal that the time had arrived for all of us to concentrate on fishing the surface.
I switched to a fly rod with a popper, trying to imitate something that just fell off a branch. Colin continued with a "Pop-R" plug chugging across the water.
Ed spent the evening throwing surface baits that put off a wake. Ed could throw the big heavy waking baits as much as 100 feet and swim it back between the flooded trees. Some of these baits like the "Whopper Plopper" have blades than sound like a mini motorboat buzzing across the water.
Ed caught the heaviest fish of the trip casting up into the water flowing from the creek. The lake surface was 72 degrees and the incoming creek water was 62 degrees. At the transition was a debris line and that is where the four pound bass hit the lure with a splash.
Fishing the fringe
We spent most of the trip above the bridge at the back end of the lake. The Wednesday evening bite was not "wide open" but the action was regular enough to keep your attention.
We saw many more bass than we hooked among the flooded vegetation. The bass were on the prowl but not feeding heavily.
As the sun was getting low in the sky we headed back down the lake to the flooded flats that were now totally in the shadows on the west side of the lake. Here the water was waist deep as much as 100 feet from shore with an occasional bush sticking up above the surface.
With the sunset reflected on the water you can throw a heavy top water lure a country mile and watch it push a wake on the water as you reel it back. The whole time believing that you could be seconds away from the bite of a big fish. This evening there were mostly smaller fish prowling the flats.
We got off the lake just before 9 p.m. The sky was still lit although the shoreline was dark. The air was a balmy 72 degrees.
Those of you that were indoors watching TV, you missed out. There will be another chance for you this evening.
The top water bite has begun!
Denis Peirce writes a fishing column for The Union's Outdoors section and is host of "The KNCO Fishing & Outdoor Report," which airs 6-7 p.m. Fridays and 5-6 a.m. Saturdays on 830-AM radio. Contact him via his website at http://www.trollingflies.com.