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Topwater Tips from MLF Pro Matt Lee

It’s probably safe to assume that every bass angler loves topwater fishing. The excitement of the blow up is unmatched, and early November is one of the best times to get in on the action.

MLF pro Matt Lee fishes a wide range of topwater baits that includes off-the-shelf top sellers from multiple brands, a few discontinued lures and some unique Japanese imports. They all have a time and place – part of the puzzle, according to Lee, is deciphering which bait will work best each day.

Experimentation, Willingness to Change

Common thinking with fall fishing is that locating baitfish is priority number one. It’s undoubtedly important, but there’s more to it than that.

“They always say ‘find the bait and find the fish,’ but that’s not always the case,” Lee advises. “There could be too much bait and fish aren’t interested in your lure. Or they’re keying on tiny baitfish and not wanting your big topwater. You have to experiment with different baits until you figure out the best way to catch them that day.”

Even after he’s identified one bait that fish are biting on a given day, Lee will still try multiple different topwaters in the same areas.

“One thing I’ll do when I start to catch a few is to switch to a different bait, especially when prefishing for a tournament,” he admits. “You already know they’ll eat ‘Topwater X,’ but they might eat something else even better. It’s hard to experiment and try something new when they’re biting, but it’ll help you figure out the best topwater, or lure in general, to use that day. I do that with every style of lure.”

When searching for locations, Lee stresses not to overlook the obvious.

“I’ll start on a main lake point and work my way back in,” he says. “It’s nothing secret and fishing isn’t that hard – anyone can go down a bank and catch them – but the little details will help catch more fish. Sometimes (bass) will be out there on the point, sometimes they’ll be midway back. It’s all ‘guess and test’ for me until I start to get some clues about depth, cover and where the fish will be. Each bite will give you a little more detail about where you should be fishing.”

When Details Matter

With so many different types of topwater products hanging on tackle store pegs – poppers, walkers, buzzbaits, etc. – there are countless variations in the actions of baits. Some days, the smallest variations in action matter, according to Lee.

“I’ve seen days where two of us were throwing a buzzbait side by side and the loud buzzbait with a clacker could hardly get bit and one with no clacker was 3-to-1 in the number of bites,” Lee says “Then, there are days when it doesn’t matter and they’ll eat anything. That’s why it pays to experiment with different topwaters.”

This is is why Lee also experiments with different colors.

“As a general rule, I like to throw a bone color bait on cloudy days and something flashy when the sun is out,” Lee says. “In clear water conditions, I want something more transparent. This is how I start, but I’ll still experiment with different colors if I’m not getting bit.”


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