By Larry Ellis
Pilot staff writer
With longer, warmer days of summer, the water is warming up and largemouth bass are starting to settle into their summertime pattern, and that means one thing to a dyed-in-the-wool bass warrior: It's time to start throwing topwater lures.
There is nothing more exciting than actually seeing a bass bust through the water to attack a surface plug on the end of your line.
One of my fondest memories has to do with fly-fishing for bass. When I was about 11, a friend and I used to watch a show on T.V. every Saturday called Gadabout Gaddis, the Flying Fisherman. It was probably the first actual television series that elevated fishing to a sport.
Gad's philosophy was to steer away from expensive lodges and use equipment that the average Joe. B. Bass Fisherman could afford. And he didn't edit out his mistakes either like they do on today's shows.
If Gadabout got a backlash, you saw it. If he got his fly-line stuck in the bushes on his back-cast, you saw that too.
Because these kinds of natural mistakes made him look human, his shows always left you feeling empowered that you could do anything he did.
On one of his episodes, he was fly-fishing for largemouth bass. He used the most inexpensive fly rods, reels and fly-line, and he was scoring bass using little topwater plugs called Hula Poppers.
That's when John and I saved our bucks and got outfitted with the same stuff Gaddis was using, even down to the exact size and color Hula Popper.
At sun-up we took our new outfits to a waterbody in southern California called Puddingstone Reservoir and proceeded to learn on our own how to fly fish from what we learned on T.V.
It didn't take long to get the hang of casting and, before long, we were scoring bass about 8 inches long as fast as we could get the last one off our lure.
It was such a blast we ended up doing this almost every week. Who cared that the fish were dinks. We were doing what Old Gad did, and we were catching bass on top water plugs that's all that mattered.
Out here in the Pacific Northwest you can do the same thing. You don't have to fly-fish unless you want to, but you can certainly throw topwater plugs alongside lily pads, weedlines and tules.
As a matter of fact, a friend of mine, Todd Pietsch, was scoring largemouth at South Tenmile Lake last week using a topwater frog bait.
Todd was tossing the frog up onto a lily pad and letting it slide off the huge leaf into open water. At one time he said bass were crashing through the edges of the pad trying to get to the frog. You cannot go wrong using a frog-type lure.
You don't have to be an expert bass fisherman to catch fish on topwater lures. It just requires making a cast to an object or just paralleling the bank. The quieter you can make the lure land, the better.
Great topwater lures are Zara Spooks, Lucky 13s, Lucky Craft Sammies, Bonnie 95s, Rebel Pop-Rs, Jitterbugs, Hula Poppers and one called a Banana Boat. There are also soft plastic twitchbaits that drive bass wild, the best being a 3-inch Bass Assassin shad in the colors alewife or crystal shad.
The best time to throw topwater is from sunup to about 10 a.m. If it's overcast outside topwater will work all day long.
The second best time to throw surface plugs is one hour before sundown till about 10 p.m. Most lakes allow bass fishing at night, which is great for bass-somniacs.
Making long casts and slow retrieves are critical. Often you will get what's called a blow-up. Blow-ups are caused when a bass tries to whack the lure with its tail in an attempt to kill or stun it.
If you get a blow-up and you don't get a hook up, stop retrieving the lure for a few seconds then very slowly start retrieving the lure. Often the fish will circle around and come in for the kill.
Another method that works wonders when you get a blow-up is to reel in the lure rapidly and then throw a weightless 5-inch Senko in the color green pumpkin in the exact location where the bass came out of the water. You want to dead-stick the bait, or, let it sink down by its own weight with no retrieve.
If the topwater bite slows down during the day, then start throwing Brush Hogs or Senkos in any open space between a patch of lily pads and let it sink to the bottom. Do nothing for about a minute but watch your line. If it twitches, set the hook.
If nothing happens after a minute, then start shaking the slack in the line so it barely makes tension. Repeat the pausing procedure until you're worn out the spot for about 15 minutes.
Tenmile Lakes are actually two waterbodies, North and South Tenmile Lakes. Each lake is separated by, and connected to each other by, a narrow channel.
Tenmile is loaded with largemouth bass averaging between 2 1/2 to 4 pounds and is only two hours away from Brookings, just a few minutes north of North Bend.
Another great lake to throw topwater lures is Emigrant Lake. The same topwater baits that work at Tenmile will work at Emigrant. Emigrant is located near Ashland.
The great thing about Emigrant is that it is flat out loaded with smallmouth bass and they happen to be biting right now. The odds of your kid catching a bass at Emigrant is much higher than at Tenmile, mainly because of their sheer numbers.
The best place to fish Emigrant is where the inlet forms a bay at the western armnear the south end, but any place you find rock structure, you'll find smallies.