1. Large Walking Style Topwater
Baits like the Zara Spook, Lucky Craft Sammy, and Strike King Sexy Dawg have long been used by anglers around the world to trick bass into thinking they’ve found an easy meal swimming along the surface. The “walking style” nomenclature comes from how these baits are fished. They are walked, side-to-side, along the surface to create the illusion of a baitfish moving left and right. Some models are silent, some with a sharp rattle, and still others with one large and loud knock, creating a wide variety of baits to be used in various conditions.
2. Hollow Body Frog
Another bait category that has been around for decades, the hollow body frog is a staple in almost every anglers’ tackle bag. One of the more weedless topwaters of all times, a frog, like the Z-Man Leap FrogZ pictured here, is designed to be thrown into the thickest cover imaginable. Even with its all-terrain capabilities though, a frog still works well in sparse cover and even open water scenarios. With two big, bold hooks ready to plant themselves into a fish’s jaw as soon as the soft plastic body collapses from a bite, it’s no wonder the hollow body frog is considered one of the best big bass catchers of all time.
An old-school favorite that still catches lots of fish today, the buzzbait is perhaps the best topwater of all-time in overall fish catches. A simple bait to fish, it can be easily reeled along the surface by an angler of any skill level. But that doesn’t mean buzzbaits are just for beginners either, they are still used by some of the best anglers of all time to catch tournament-winning fish in sparse cover and open water alike. Longevity, ease of use, and effectiveness certainly put buzzbaits near the top of the list when ranking the best topwaters of all time.
Popper style topwaters range from larger baits like a Chug Bug down to finesse poppers like the bait pictured here. Excellent for fishing in the summer and fall months, a popper does a good job of mimicking both shad and bluegill. Throwing a popper in the summer around shallow bluegill beds is a great way to catch big bass. Moving into the fall, taking a popper to creeks in search of shad hanging around shallow flats is another great way to put bass, and some big ones, in the boat.
5. Plopper Style Topwaters
A few years ago, when it seemed like every bait category possible had already been thought up, the River2Sea Whopper Plopper came on the scene. With a solid body and a large spinning prop for a tail, this bait truly revolutionized topwater fishing, spawning what eventually became a whole new genre of topwaters. Though the buzz around this style of fishing died down a little as every angler and their brother started to throw a Plopper style topwater, these are still some of the most effective baits at drawing strikes along the surface. They are particularly effective fishing techniques where long bomb casts and a lot of drawing power are helpful, as these baits can be thrown a long way and the loud plop of the tail churning water is capable of drawing a fish to it from a long-distance or from deeper water.
6. Small Walking Style Topwaters
Similar to the larger walking style topwaters, small walking topwaters like the Monster Bass Patriot 3.0 pictured here, are excellent baits to throw throughout most of the year. With a similar but tighter side-to-side action, the smaller walking style topwaters work great when fish won’t quite commit to the larger ones like a Zara Spook. Fish these baits in fairly clear water, on calm days, or around schooling fish and you’ll quickly find there are few baits better equipped for those conditions.
7. Reeling Toad
Baits like the Stanley Ribbit, Zoom Horny Toad and Strike King Rage Toad (pictured here) make up the genre of baits often referred to as a toad or reeling toad. Like the hollow body frog, these baits are also weedless and effective in pretty thick cover. Though toads do work best when the cover is at least sparse enough for the legs to kick. By reeling toads like this in sparse cover or even open water, you generate a continuous action that bass can use to track the bait down and unload on it. Also great baits for skipping, toads give you an option for areas other topwaters can’t go.
Though some would argue wakebaits aren’t truly topwaters, they certainly can be. True, some wakebaits can be reeled a foot or two under the surface, but when reeled right along the surface, wakebaits are essentially topwaters and some of the most fun ones you can fish. Creating a wake as the bait rocks to and fro on a steady retrieve, wake baits have a subtle action but ample drawing power. What seems to be an easy meal to big bass, a wakebait creates an irresistible offering as it lumbers along the surface.
9. Prop Bait
This type of topwater is largely associated with the Devil’s Horse and fishing in Florida, though there are many variations of the bait now thrown throughout the country. One of the staples of the sunshine state around the spawn, the beauty of this bait is that it can be twitched and paused to work slowly through a spawning area. Consisting of something similar to a jerkbait body with a small prop on each end, this topwater is perfect for drawing spawners up off the bed to investigate. When they do, they can hardly resist and will either eat the bait or reveal themselves by swirling on it, in which case you can move in and pick the fish off with a follow-up bait.
10. Pencil Poppers
A mix between a popper and a walking style topwater, pencil popper style baits are extremely effective on lakes with blue back herring in particular. These baitfish roam in open, sometimes very deep water, and the large profile of a pencil popper along with the chug of the bait’s mouth creates an appealing representation of a herring that is able to draw bass to the surface from a long way off. Though pencil poppers are extremely effective in particular scenarios, they aren’t as widely used and therefore round out the top 10.