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The Boatless Angler – Chapter 11.3 - Shoreline Bass Fishing with Artificial Lures

This next hard-bodied bait is another common and effective lure for bass fishing; the topwater lure (Be sure to check out Chapter 11.1 as it discusses the type, size and colour of topwater lure that works best from shore). Topwater baits provide a combination of aggressive and finesse fishing and require a degree of technique. In this article we will go over some of the basics and of course the tips and tricks to catch you more bass!

With topwater fishing, the boatless angler fishing from shore will actually have an advantage on bass fishermen in a boat. You may be thinking, how this could be, a shore fisherman has to walk around the shoreline over rocks, trees, humps and hills and the boat fisherman just needs to drive to the spot.

That fact is true, the boatless angler does need to fight Mother Nature to get to the spots, but when using topwater baits the shore fisherman has a leg up. In nature, when something alive falls into the water, like insects, mice, frogs, snakes etc… it is an instinct for them to swim towards shore. With this fact, bass are programmed to eating topwater creatures swimming towards shore and know there is a sense of urgency because once at shore their meal is gone.

Therefore when fishing topwater from shore, this fact of nature is better mimicked and produces more strikes. In contrast, when fishing from a boat your topwater bait usually is starting closer to shore and is travelling towards deeper water. This produces fewer strikes and in turn less fish.

Now knowing instinct is on our side, topwater fishing can be very effective if you try these few techniques. Firstly, when you cast out your topwater lure and it hits the water don’t do anything, pause for 3-5 seconds as fish will often strike bait that has just fallen into the water. If you don’t get a strike on the first pause, then you can begin working your lure back. One of the most effective methods to retrieving a topwater lure is combining aggressive and finesse techniques. First begin retrieving with quick bursts and rod flicks causing as much noise and splashing as possible.

This quick burst can be as fast across the top as you like but you can’t really accomplish the noise and splashing if you do it too slowly. You will know however if you’re going too fast when your lure begins spinning or diving. The quick bursts are best over a distance of 5-10 feet. Once you’ve completed the burst you need to pause. The pause between quick bursts is when you’re going to catch your fish. Your pause can be 2-6 seconds long, if you get no strike, then follow with another quick burst and pause.

If you find that you are seeing delayed bites behind your lure, you may want to slow the presentation down and pause for a longer period of time. When your lure is getting closer to shore you want to bring it in quickly then stop about 5 feet from shore and pause. Then proceed to follow with a series of small flicks and pauses. The pauses here near shore should only be 0.5- 1 second long. You want the fish to feel the urge to strike before its meal gets to safety! Below is an illustrative example of this retrieving method discussed.


This retrieving method is meant to be used as a guide. In some instances you will not be able to retrieve exactly in this manor based on the structures you are fishing. In these cases you may need to shorten up on the aggressive bursts if there is structure impeding and sometimes if the shoreline isn’t clear you may need to skip the short flicks near shore. However you will always need to pause; every pause point is an opportunity for a strike.

We went over the casting and retrieving for topwater baits, now we will cover some tips on the hookset. More often than not, fishermen will repeatedly miss strikes when fishing a topwater bait, you just can’t seem to lay in those hooks. A trick of the trade is when you get a bite wait a couple seconds before setting the hook. Too many anglers will watch the fish bite, see the splash and pull instantly. What happens in this situation is you are actually pulling the lure away from the fish before it has taken it.

There is a delay when a bass sucks in bait from the surface, therefore, once you see the splash or bite, wait a couple seconds and this will compensate for the delay and allow the time for the bass to take the lure. After 2 seconds set the hook good and hard and you will see that this time, it’s all fish on the other end!

Stayed tuned for the next Boatless Angler article as we discuss Soft-Bodied bait for shoreline bass!

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