Swinging for the Fence with Topwaters
It was obvious from his body language that the seven-year old was growing more frustrated with each empty swing, but he was unwavering in his conviction. After several changes in his stance failed to produce even a foul ball, I suggested that he might consider trying to just make contact on his first day out rather than swinging from the heels time after time.
Undaunted, he pushed his batting helmet back, wiped the sweat out of his eyes and announced, “Coach Dickie…if I am not going to hit the ball I’d rather not hit it by swinging hard. Then, if I ever do hit it…..I might hit a home run!”
How can you argue with that logic? That same school of thought is shared by a large contingent of coastal anglers willing to battle the worst of weather conditions in search of one big trout this time of the year. In their case, it is that same devotion to a topwater lure. If they are not going to get a bite, they are not going to get a bite with a surface lure.
Such devotion to a single technique is not the product of taking a narrow-minded approach. They live for that exhilarating explosion of saltwater at the end of their cast, but more importantly, they know they are serving up a proven commodity worth of the task.
Big ‘ol wide bodied female trout will hit a topwater lure year round, but mullet are the main course throughout the spring and any lure limping around in that top column of water is subject to getting mashed. Not surprisingly, the lure of choice is something at least four inches in length that will imitate a crippled baitfish when retrieved with a stop and go rhythm.
The size of the lure and the speed of retrieve are paramount when attempting to dupe a big trout with a topwater lure. The most popular retrieve is termed “Walking the Dog.” It involves swimming the lure in short side- to -side movements produced by constantly reeling while twitching the tip of your rod. It is not unlike rubbing your stomach with one hand and patting your head with the other.
One day the fish want the lure moved quickly while they may opt for long pauses following each twitch on other days. If you are confident that you are in fish, change retrieves and the size of the lure until you hit on the right combination or your arm wears out. I seldom find the color of the lure to be as critical as the size or the speed of retrieve!
Virtually every lure manufacturer includes at least two sizes in their most productive topwater lure. It is a rare occasion when both sizes will produce an equal number of strikes, thus the need for more than one size. To some degree, it is simply matching the hatch, but the more important issue is how much disturbance you are creating with the lure.
For years, most topwater lures were designed to accomplish one of two things. The lures sported either a concave face that would produce a chugging noise when retrieved or they had slender minnow-shaped bodies that would dip beneath the surface thanks to the addition of a small plastic lip.
The most significant improvement other than some incredible paint jobs in recent years was the addition of rattles inside the body cavity. The added noise is almost always an advantage when hunting trout with a topwater. Once again, however, it is important that you ascertain just how much noise to incorporate.
There is any number of deadly topwater lures available, but I do not think another company pays more attention to all of these issues than Mirrolure. Because size is so important, they make their Top Dog in three different lengths. Each size incorporates an internal rattle that produces a softer yet audible click when twitched.
Because they are aware of the value of a noisier lure on certain days, they also produce all three body styles with yet another set of much higher pitched rattles. The most popular of the three for Sabine Lake fishermen is the She Dog, but they also make a larger He Dog and a smaller She Pup.
Easily the most overlooked lure in their topwater stable is a 4 1/2 inch jerk bait tabbed the Mirrolip. Capt. Chuck stoked my interest in this style lure several years ago and it has salvaged some tough outings. It is as deadly on bass and stripers as it is on trout and redfish and is at its best when the fish are just swirling at other topwater lures. It includes an internal rattle and dives 2 to 5 feet deep.
The Mirrolip has been our “go to” bait on Big Lake lately. It is the only topwater lure that I do not fish with braid as the braided line floats, thus hindering the diving capability of the lure. While magnum sized trout will crush this lure on the surface as well, most of our strikes occur just as the lure starts to re-surface.
I have also found that replacing the split ring attached to the tie-eye with a #10 Norton’s Quick Twist clip provides just enough additional weight at the nose to slow the lure’s ascent. The clip with the swivel also makes it much easier to pull the Mirrolip down with shorter more seductive twitches.
While I am convinced that the largest trout in the lake will eat a topwater plug, careful attention to the size of your lure and speed of retrieve should never be overlooked. Once you have taken covered all the bases…go ahead and swing for the fence!