Written by Dustin Schouest
I had heard about it many times. In magazines, in videos on Youtube, on tv shows. It always intimidated me, and I was worried I would never have any kind of success with it. But, once I got over the fear, it had become one of my most favorite ways to catch fish.
I am talking about the magic of topwater fishing. And if it is something you haven’t tried before, you do not know what you’re missing.
I had bought topwater lures before, but never really knew how to use them. The term “walk the dog” was thrown around a lot, but I never understood the technique of it. It wasn’t until I met one of my best fishing friends, Barrett Jones, that I was talked into the technique. We were standing around after the Bayou Coast Kayak Fishing Club’s PAC-Attack in 2012, not even a month after I discovered kayak fishing. I had come down to the weigh in to talk to the club members and look at making new friends. Barrett began talking at length about topwater fishing. “It’s a fantastic way to fish!” I remembered him saying. Barrett told me all about the techniques he used when it came to fishing with these lures, and I decided to put them to use.
A while after this conversation, I headed out earlier than normal into the heart of Pointe Aux Chenes, my home town waters. Something Barrett had told me was the prime time for using topwaters was right at sunrise and a few hours after, or at dusk. It made sense to me; the bait is silhouetted by the light of the sun, making it stand out to hungry fish. I had been told by him to check out a new brand of bait made by Texas Tackle Factory (TTF): the Gundog. The body is a thin metal, with three ball bearings in it that make a very distinct rattle while working it. Even more important to the lure is the split ring on it. Barrett had told me if you wanted to work the lure properly, you had two options: a loop knot, or a split ring. Tying directly to the lure would restrict the action of the lure’s nose, and wouldn’t give it the action required.
Because I never learned a loop knot, I was glad that the split ring was attached. I was fishing a spot I knew speckled trout liked. A cut in the marsh allowed flowing water to push bait into a little bay. This was the perfect ambush point for predatory fish. An even better sign was a large abundance of mullet schools around. Like fly fishing, using conventional tackle sometimes requires “matching the hatch”. While topwater can be considered an attracter bait instead of an imitation, if there are lots of mullet abound, it is most likely that trout are feeding on them.
I fan casted the cut, but, could not get a bite. I was getting frustrated, until I heard a *shloop* sound. I saw bubbles and swirls where my bait was once before , and the line came taunt. The sound was that of a large trout slamming the lure, and taking it into his mouth, the treble hooks going everywhere. My drag sang its sweet tune. Maybe it was the added drag of the lure, or the size of the fish, but the trout felt like a small redfish, fighting like mad. For a first topwater fish, a 14 inch trout was perfect!
Barrett had also told me to vary my retrieve. And it made sense; different cadences key in different fish. One fish may be more opportunistic than another, and want an easier meal. Instead of constantly working the bait, I tried a twitch twitch pause. And on the pause, my lure disappeared with s popping sound. This fish was only 12 inches, but, it was still a keeper.
I had heard about redfish liking topwater, but, I was always weary of these claims. Redfish have underslung mouths, and feed via foraging more often than not; why would one want a fish on top the water? As it turns out, the rattle of a topwater like the TTF Gundog can drive a redfish wild. I started blindcasting over a flat and saw it happen. The big bulbous head, copper colored, lifted out of the water like a mighty whale coming out to breath, its big mouth inhaling the lure, before its body fell back into the drink. The fight was long and fun, the fish giving me a Cajunized Nantucket Sleigh Ride. The hooks came out no problem, but, the fight wasn’t over. As I was getting my (now thrown away out of shear anger)measuring stick out, the redfish leapt from my hands and went right back into the drink. I was so awestruck and flabbergasted that I started laughing like a maniac.
It was a magical experience, throwing a topwater for the first time. Maybe it was the fact I had done my homework and talked to the resident topwater expert Barret Jones, or perhaps it was the confidence I now had in the lure. But, I had learned how to use a new lure, and I was ready to explore even more possibilities with what had fast become the most explosive way of fishing for me!