Mark Davis finished 3rd at the recent Lake Hamilton BASSMASTER fishing a pattern that's productive all over the U.S. for post-spawn bass. But it's also one that many anglers either don't fish or give up on too easily, namely topwaters for suspended fish.
In the following, Davis gives a few killer tips on making the most of this pattern.
First a Little Context
"When bass get through spawning on a lot of our lakes and waters, especially in clear water, they don't all do the same thing," he says. "Some stay in shallow water, but a lot of those fish – like at Hamilton – go right back out to the main lake and suspend.
"Suspended fish are hard to catch, to say the least, because it's not an exact since as far as presenting a lure to them. So the easiest way to catch them is to make them come to the surface and hit a topwater."
Think Deep Structure
"A lot of us don't understand why bass suspended over specific spots, but it all goes back to structure fishing," he says. "Usually when you're catching suspended fish on a topwater or any lure, you're talking about catching fish suspended over deep water. Not 10 feet of water, but suspended over 20 feet of water or deeper. I catch a lot suspended out in water 30-60 feet or even deeper.
"There's usually a reason they're there. They don't just swim out there into no- man's land and say, 'I will suspended right here.' Usually it's the presence of a river channel or major creek channel, a point or hump, or a standing tree or some other type of cover or object they can suspend around. But more times than not it's a bottom-contour change – a ledge, point, hump or other structure – that causes them to suspend.
"That was the exact case on Hamilton. Two or three of my best areas, where bigger fish were holding, were where you had a bit of bottom contour change in 15 to 35-40 feet. Those fish were relating to the main Ouachita River channel.
"I think a lot of people miss out on some really good post-spawn fishing because they don't think about suspended fish, and when they do, they don't think about fishing deep enough," he adds. "You need to look at that real deep water because that's where a lot of bass go to start feeding up for the summer."
Anglers have many topwater choices these days, but Davis helps narrow it down – and then some.
"A walking-type bait will be best," he says. "A Spook, Sammy, Bow-Howdy – you have a whole host of them. That's not to say you can't catch them on popping- type baits like the Strike King Spit-N-King – I caught some fish on that bait at Hamilton – but if you do use one of those, you want one that will spit and pop, and walk."
He notes that "different topwaters are better under certain conditions and certain types of water. For instance, you can catch fish with a big prop bait out over open water, but it's not nearly as good as a walking bait. The same thing goes for a popper. It's a lot better around some type of cover, like grass or wood up in shallow water.
"But when you get out into that deeper water and want to catch those fish, walking is key. You want that silhouette over them walking back and forth.
"Here's my set-up. I use 4 baits, and choose which one to fish based on the wind. If the wind blows hard, you want a big walking bait – at least 5 inches long – with a rattle in it. If there's just a mild ripple on the water, drop back to medium-sized lures like a Sammy, Spook Jr. or Spit-N-King.
"When the water goes slick, a few old lures are out there that really work well," he says. "One is the old Boy Howdy. The ones built back in the '70s had a weight in the tail so the bait stood up in water. It doesn't walk – the nose darts under and bobs back up. And it darts straight ahead. So when it' slick, use that lure or one like it.
"Another way I catch a lot of fish is with a minnow-type lure. The Redfin is the best because it's more buoyant. It sets up a little higher. The way you fish that is to cast it out and wind it really slowly, keeping it right on the surface. It makes a V coming across the water, and when the water is slick and calm that's probably the deadliest of them all. It's used a lot in the Ozarks, but it works everywhere. Big smallmouths just love it.
"The Redfin is the 6-inch Redfin, not the small one," he notes.
> 6' 6" Falcon Cara 5-power (medium-heavy) rod, Pflueger Trion reel, 12- or 15- pound Ande mono.
> "As far as color goes, I'll use shads, chromes and clear. It depends on the baitfish. If the baitfish are small, I'll go with clear. If it's a bright, sunny day, I'll use chrome. Shad is kind of the staple. Sometimes on Spook-type baits I'll use black, especially on dark days. I'll also sometimes throw bullfrog, with the yellow belly, especially if I'm around smallmouths."