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Driftwood Outdoors: Search the surface for summer bass

Driftwood Outdoors: Search the surface for summer bass

August 13th, 2017 by Brandon Butler in Sports
Giant bass like this one Brad Wiegmann caught can be taken on the surface in summer. (Contributed photo)

The temperature was pushing 80 degrees. Not bad for an August afternoon, but this was at 4 a.m. It was going to be hot, and I was questioning myself for rising so early to chase bass in such extreme heat.

My good friend Josh Lantz and I were headed to a small private lake. The order of the day was to arrive early enough to be on the water before sunrise. We made it, and the effort proved worthy.

We were fly fishing, and our oversized top-water poppers were chugging across cabbage grass a half-hour before the first rays of sunshine topped the eastern tree line. Surface explosions were periodically disrupting the morning silence, as I fell into a rhythm of casting, popping my fly back to the boat and casting again.

The first fish of the morning brought the 2-pounder to hand. I unhooked my fly, and released the little bucket mouth back in the water. During the course of the next few hours, I repeated this scenario a dozen times. On lakes, reservoirs, rivers and ponds all across Missouri, now is a prime time for targeting bass on the surface.

Bass fishing is one of the most popular outdoor activities in southern Indiana. Anglers who fish for bass year-round and have developed countless methods for catching these hard fighting brutes. What I venture to assume is the same of countless others, is few if any methods for catching bass are as exciting as top-water. Witnessing the crash of a bass both visually and audibly is outdoor excitement at its best.

Fly fishing with surface flies like deer hair or foam poppers is a great way to take surface bass, but using conventional rods and reels with common top-water baits, such as buzz baits, zara spooks, hula-poppers and jitter bugs is more common.

The surface bite is good at dawn and dusk, but it can be really great at night. Bass come out of deeper water to chase prey in the shallows. They feed on baitfish, frogs, mice, snakes and more. Any bait resembling a surface prey can fool a bass into executing a ferocious top-water predation.

Fishing for surface bass is fun for more reasons than the aggressive strikes. Targeting visible structures is enjoyable and exciting. Cast your lure or fly next to obvious structure. Natural structure like logs, lily pads, patches of weeds, and cattails, as well as manmade structure like piers, sea walls, rip rap and dams are top producing areas. It's exhilarating when you think, there should be a bass right there, and then you cast to the spot and actually catch one.

Anglers fishing from a boat usually have the advantage of positioning themselves in front of structure and casting from deep to swallow water. Bank fishermen get a bonus, though. They can wet-wade in shorts or a bathing suit along the shore enjoying the sensation of fishing in the water. Beaches are a great place to do this early in the morning.

Top-water fishing for summer bass is a great way to take advantage of the summer months. The action can be hot and heavy, but even if you get only one strike, the energy created from a bass busting your offering on the surface is intense, and worth the effort of early or late.

See you down the trail.


Brandon Butler, the executive director of the Conservation Federation of Missouri, is an outdoors columnist for Central Missouri Newspapers Inc. Contact him at