Lake Champlain bass are in full spawn mode for the next several weeks. Bass will then enter their post spawn phase. During this period they will rest from the rigors of spawning and recover some depleted strength. Shortly thereafter the fun will really begin. The feed will then swing into high gear and bass will begin to aggressively feed on schools of baitfish.
During the several weeks following the post spawn phase fisherman can experience the excitement of a topwater bonanza. There is no more exciting action than to have a hungry bass explode on your topwater bait. It’s like watching a scary movie just waiting for the villain to jump out from behind the next corner. With great anticipation you’ll work you’re bait over a weed patch knowing that any second a giant smallmouth is going to blast your lure. Ki- whoosh - the water explodes and you about jump out of your skin and jerk like crazy.
There are several topwater techniques a fisherman can use on the North Country’s lakes. Some are easy to master, others require greater skill. My favorite tactic is using a Zara spook to walk the dog. This technique requires a modest degree of coordination. Make a long cast, wind up the slack and make a rhythmic half turn of the reel and a quick snap of the wrist. Keep the action going with a steady cadence. Keep your rod tip at just about shoe top level. If you are doing this correctly, you will notice the lure “walks” from side to side with each snap of the wrist. This action will drive bass crazy and the return is a heart-stopping explosion. The tackle needed is a 6-foot medium action bait caster, 12-pound test mono line and a Heddon Zara spook lure.
Probably the easiest topwater to master is the “PopR,” which is another lure produced by the famous Heddon Company. The Pop-R has a cupped face that spits water and pops when retrieved. Using a 7-foot spinning rod and reel and 8-pound mono line, make a cast as long as possible. Wind up the slack and make a little jerk, just enough to cause the lure to spit a little water. Repeat the action but pause the lure between jerks. Vary the jerks and pauses as this imitates a dying bait fish.
For those of you that by now have decided these are a little complex, I have a technique that will have sure fire success, simple to master and still have heart stopping explosions. Buzz baits. Using the same rod and reel as for the PopR, tie one on and make a long cast. When the buzz bait hits the water start winding, just fast enough so the lures runs on top of the water. The turning action of the winged blades will keep it on top of the water and will make a gurgling sound that will make bass go nuts.
Lake Champlain is very unique when it comes to topwater. Most topwater baits are used when there is overcast skies and a little ripple on the water. While this is a prime time to use topwater tactics, an even better time on Lake Champlain is following a front when the skies are high and blue, no wind and a slick surface. When the major tournament pros first started invading the North Country they found to their surprise that topwater baits worked on Champlain during what otherwise would be tough conditions. I’m not a fish and therefore can’t tell you why these techniques work, but believe me the first time you have a big-ole bass explode on your lure you’ll be hooked just like the fish!
While I don’t personally believe it’s in the best interest of the species to interfere with the bedding cycle, if you do fish for bass during this time please handle with care and return to the water immediately. Practice CPR: Catch, Photograph and Release.
Howard Hammonds is a guide and experienced bass fisherman living in Westport. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.