For anglers, both fresh and salt water, that prefer fooling their quarry with plastic wood and feathers rather than Mother Nature's own goodies, all agree on one thing - the surface strike on a topwater presentation is one of the most thrilling sights.
My first five- pound bass slurped down a floating Tiny Torpedo from the millpond surface on a foggy morning after a dear departed friend got her excited with his plug. I can still hear his good natured ribbing, something about a rotten fish thief.
Years later in another nearby pond famous for outsized bluegills and largemouth bass I was fly casting tiny white rubber spiders on my pencil thin 5-wt fly rod at big bull bluegills patrolling their shoreline nests reigning down violence on any intruder that dared approach. My next cast produced a mini wall of water as a plate sized, mad as a hornet jumbo bullgill launched itself from the water and inhaled my spider on the back way down. It was such an impressive hit that I almost forgot to set the hook.
Capt. George Tunison
After a tense fight I won and put the old boy in the live well and took him for a ride down to the local tackle store where I found that I had broken the state record. A record that had stood, for decades. It wasn't a 200-pound tarpon or a record permit, but it was a state record and that was pretty cool. He weighed two pounds, colorfully marked with fire red eyes and as beautiful as any exotic tropical. I had beaten the decades old record by the required two ounces. I typically don't kill too many fish, but this big old bruiser gill soon found his way to my taxidermist then home where his royal self still glares menacingly at me.
I was now the Roland Martin of gill angling and my head swelled. I became secretive in my gill fishing, not wanting to share flies or locations. Two weeks after my catch I waited anxiously for my paperwork confirming state record status and my name to be forever etched in angling history when I got the call.
Did you hear? About what? Tom caught a 2-lb. 14-oz. gill in your spot!
Fame is fleeting. Rotten fish thief.
If you're new to the area and want to get your fill of top angling this weekend, take an assortment of floating plugs and head to the passes scanning for birds which point the way to nonstop topwater action on mackerel, ladyfish, bluefish, trout and jacks. Expect to get 50-100 strikes per angler when the bite is on. Jack strikes are explosive.
Like many of us I've witnessed tremendous topwater lure strikes from all manner of salt and fresh fish. Huge muskies in Canada, beautiful Florida sailfish, hog stripers in the Chesapeake, big snook. All in all my favorite topwater shows are usually provided by our local redfish.
The red is truly a fish with his mouth closer to his neck than his nose which makes grabbing surface lures a hit or miss proposition. To his credit a redfish that has his heart set on your Zara Spook will go to great lengths to eat it and give you multiple opportunities to hook him so don't get buck fever and snatch the plug away at his first try and miss.
Two schools of thought - stop the retrieve and twitch in place or continue the retrieve. For snook I speed up, for reds I'm a keep it rolling along guy further exciting them into striking again. Trout long pause then continue.
Tuesday's 11-pound red struck five times, literally climbing all over it before finally getting snagged on one of six sharp hooks. After all those tries he still never got it in his mouth although later with butter lemon and secret seasonings, he tasted pretty good in mine.