The first day of the fishing season is one that I, like all other dedicated fishermen, wait for with impatience. After a long wait (4 months in France) it is at last time to pay our best fishing spots a visit. It is also time to use one of my favorite fishing techniques: topwater lures! Even though I live in Brittany (north-west of France, on the bit that sticks out into the Atlantic Ocean) I fish top water techniques almost all through the season until the end of October, beginning of November. We often tend to wrongly categorize fishing techniques: vertical for winter, top water for summer…for me, you need to think more along the lines of where the fish are and if they are active or not. In a nutshell, if the fish are close to the surface and active, I will be able to fish them topwater style. If they are not very active but positioned near the surface I will have a good chance at catching them just as I will have if they are deeper down but active.
In those conditions, I will chose to use topwater techniques. Well there is also the fact that this style of fishing is just so addictive! Jokingly, I often advise people against fishing this way during demos or shows if they have heart problems! Although I must admit that every time a pike explodes through the surface, jumps its whole length out of the water, crashes back in with my lure in its mouth and my reel starts to sing, my heart skips a beat or two!
There are 3 types of lures that I regularly use for this type of fishing: Frogs, top water hard baits and chatterbaits
My favorite topwater soft bait, and at last I have one in the Gunki range, the 7 and 12cm Grubby Frog. Based on the now legendary Grubby Gun, it has been designed with precise technical and esthetical specifications. Looking like a frog is only half the job, the most important is being able to fish it correctly. I use this type of lure to fish any depth of water, which means more or less weighted, and the more you reduce the weight the more you reduce the lures stability. The shape of the Grubby Frog naturally counters the spinning effect induced when using weightless techniques. I love to use this lure when fishing really weedy margins and the 2 slits, one on its belly and one on its back, are perfect to rig it with a Texan style hook.
Topwater hard baits:
There are two families, stickbaits and poppers, easy to tell apart, the stickbaits doesn’t have a bill and the popper has a concave “mouth” that produces a sound that has given its name to this lure. In the Gunki range there is the Megalon 105 and 75 stickbait (respectively 10.5 and 7.5cm) and the Hedora 55 popper (5.5cm). If the fish are responding well to noise (rattling) I will start will the Megalon 75, but if they need a bit more “incentive” I will swap to the 105 size.
Some days, size doesn’t matter but rather the pitch of the lures rattle. The 75s is higher pitched that 105s’. If the Megalon is not the flavor of the day, enter the Hedora with its insane “pops”, water projections and tale-tale trail of bubbles that get even the laziest of fish interested.
There are also times when you have to go just below the surface, and for that the Gunki Gamera is the lure for the job. I cast it just next to where the fish are hiding; with the rod tip up I give it 3 or 4 hard jerks and then wait keeping a slight tension on the braid. Sometimes bites happen up to 15-20 after you’ve stopped; the movement of the rattles and the inertia created in the jerking phase create micro vibrations and deadly life like movements. The 128 size has a double advantage, big enough to interest big pike or worth while giving a bite to chase away from guarded territory.
Now that is a lure that I really love, the Pezon & Michel Chatter Impact, has caught me some of my biggest pike. A chatterbait is a jig head with a plastic skirt and a blade mounted in front which creates major vibration on retrieve. I find it even more “all-terrain” than a spinnerbait especially when fishing weedy zones which tend to hinder the blades rotation. It can be used to fish at any depth of water, but I use it most just sub-surface. The fact that pikes eyes are set on the top of its head and looking upwards makes it the ultimate ambushed killer ready to smash my lure as it passes above it! Some times you need a bit more volume or vibration, for that nothing better than rigging a Grubby shad, Grubby Gun or Grubby Frog as a trailer on the chatterbait.
I hope that these few lines have made you want to use a top water lure next time you are on the water!
Fishing Guide and Instructor in Brittany, France