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Bass on Top

The various fishing seasons are all pretty much underway, and you know summer has arrived when you have to cut the grass twice a week, and you can pursue some serious bass fishing.

April 13 through June 7, bass fishing is catch and release only, and from June 8 through September 30, you are allowed to keep a total of four bass of at least 12 inches.

Also, be aware that you are not permitted to target bass spawning beds. There are some special regulation areas, including one on the Susquehanna River and some other locations, so check your regulation booklet before going out. I personally don’t ever keep any bass — I’d rather catch them than eat them.

Speaking of catching bass, one of my favorite bass-catching tactics is to fish surface lures, and that’s for both smallmouths and largemouths.

If I’m after smallmouths around here, I’ll tend to target the Susquehanna River and our larger streams since smallmouths prefer slightly cooler temperatures and are more prevalent in moving water. Smallmouths prefer temperatures in the upper 60s, while largemouths prefer slightly warmer water with temps in the mid-70s, and they are more likely to be in lakes or ponds.

Smallmouths tend to relate more to clear water, while largemouths seem to be quite comfortable in discolored or even brown water in lakes and ponds.

Whichever one you’re after, you will very likely find, however, that a topwater presentation will often put a bend in your rod. That’s not to say that other presentations won’t produce — they will, but fishing top water lures is an exciting way to hook a bass. Seeing that big splash on the surface and then setting the hook and feeling that heavy throb in your rod puts a smile on your face in a hurry.

You can successfully fish for bass on the surface using a variety of lures and all three rod and reel combinations, including open-faced spinning outfits, bait-casting rigs, and even fly rods.

If I’m on a lake fishing for largemouths, I often go to a bait-casting outfit since it will handle heavier lines better, and if I’m fishing near lily pads, weeds, or wood, I want that stronger line. Any number of artificial plugs will be produced, including a Jitterbug and other crawler-type lures.

Other good choices are chuggers, stick baits, and prop-baits. Prop-baits with the little prop at the back and sometimes in the front as well are some of my favorite surface lures. I also like “walking the dog” with a stick bait; you impart a zigzag action to the lure by twitching it in opposite directions.

If I’m on the river for smallmouths, I often go with an open-faced spinning rig with about a six to eight-pound test line. There is usually less cover to deal with, so the lighter outfit usually suffices.

All the same surface lures I use for largemouths I will also use for my smallmouth fishing.

One additional lure I like for smallmouths is the floating minnow plug like the Rebel or Rapala. I will cast the plug and then let it sit until the disturbance dissipates, and then I will retrieve it with a little wiggle first like a dying, struggling minnow, and then a short retrieve.

Don’t neglect your flyrod when it comes to taking bass; it works for both largemouths and smallmouths. I like using poppers; white has been one of my most successful patterns.

If I’m fishing a lake or pond for largemouths, I sometimes go to a weedless lure.

If I’m on a stream or river after smallmouths, I’ll fish the lower flats of a pool and along shaded shorelines with deeper water, but don’t neglect the moving water either.

Some of my best actions on a flyrod and popper are working a popper with short bursts of water in front of it as I bring it through moving water. This can be especially effective if you bring the lure past some sort of structure that creates a lull in the water.

Well, if the surface approach doesn’t produce, there are a whole lot of other options that we will look at in the days to come.