Top-Water Bass Fishing –exciting and addictive
By Paul Prentiss


One of the most enjoyable forms of fishing on a summer evening is using bass bugs or poppers on the surface of a farm pond or lake.  This form of fishing, popularly known as ‘Bass Bugging’, got started in the early 1900's.  Between 1910-1930 the sport really boomed with lots of assorted bugs offered for sale in magazines and tackle shops. After the 1940's the sport lost ground due to the growing popularity of spin fishing.  But in the late 1970's, as fly fishermen began tying flies for warm water, Bass Bugging regained its popularity.

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 T.K. Conner with a 7-pound Largemouth Bass taken on a red & white and popper while fishing a lake east of Longmont in July of this year.

As the sun is setting and the sounds of night fill the air, the water temperature starts to drop and bass begin to get active.  This is Bass Bugging time.

The core diet of these fish includes a wide range of foods including bluegill, sunfish, a variety of minnows, crayfish, frogs, and so on.  Bass are aggressive and opportunistic predators that may eat whatever creature they can ambush. The limiting factor in prey is size because bass swallow food whole.

Therefore, the range of bass flies covers just about everything under the sun.  Some patterns swim only on the surface while others are designed to dive and return to the surface depending on the retrieve.  Many patterns are designed entirely for subsurface presentation at any level in the water column.  Stop by a fly shop and ask to take a look at their selection - you’ll be amazed at the range of possibilities.

xFishing with top-water bass bugs made from  deer hair, cork, foam or plastic that are designed to make noise (a popping or gurgling sound as they are retrieved across the water) is a favorite way to fish for many fly fishermen.   Some flies are tied to imitate specific bass foods like mice, leeches or frogs, but others are 'attractors' that try to give the impression of something living and edible.
 
So, why do such flies work so well?  Bass always keep an eye on what is happening on the surface. Bass will eat just about anything that looks like fair game.  Patterns that suggest a living and vulnerable creature struggling on the surface of the water are the most successful.  Bass primarily hunt by sound and sight. Even if the object does not look like anything it has seen before, if it moves and therefore alive, it is considered food.  They prefer to ambush a helpless or careless creature rather than engage in a tiring high-speed chase of a terrified prey.

Bass will often watch prey on the surface for a long time before striking.  My grandfather used to say that one should cast a bass bug to a likely looking spot, light a cigarette, and relax for a few minutes before giving it a slight little twitch.  I’ve done this (without the cigarette) and right after the slight twitch the bug is virtually sucked down in a swirl – an experience you’ll not soon forget.

You can fish your bass bug slowly, fast, erratically, or any combination thereof.  All will produce results depending on what the bass want to see.  I fished one night when we literally zipped our bugs across the surface of the lake – the faster the better.  These bass looked like sharks, as they nailed the flies.

I like a 9-foot 8-weight fast action rod coupled with a weight-forward floating line loaded on a single action fly reel.  The setup you choose needs to handle large, wind-resistant flies. I’ll use tapered and non-tapered leaders under 8 feet with a 3X or better tippet.  Keep in mind, these fish will head straight into heavy cover when hooked and you’ll need to put significant pressure on them.