15 Killer Topwater Bass Fishing Lures
As a bass angler, there is nothing like it, something we wait all spring for… the topwater bite. If I had to fish one lure for the sheer enjoyment, it would be a topwater lure. You really cannot match the feeling of throwing a topwater lure over submerged cover, knowing that the water might shortly resemble the aftermath of a depth charge at any moment.
Here we break open the topwater tackle box, looking at the different categories of topwater bass fishing lures: poppers, stickbaits, frogs, spooks, and my favorite, buzzbaits. So, let’s jump into the best topwater lures for bass fishing.
Poppers may be the oldest category of topwater lure. These lures are the genesis of topwater fishing and continue to be heavily relied upon today.
A popper is a hard plastic or wooden lure with a minnow or frog profile. They come complete with treble hooks and a direct line tie sunk into the ever-present concave face.
This concave face makes the lure a popper and provides their distinct action. Using short downward chops of your rod, you can draw out the action of a popper, which will then chug, spit and pop on the water’s surface. These lures plain catch ’em.When it comes to areas to target, keep it simple. Most anglers find poppers at their best over visible cover, and the bass tend to agree. I recommend using them to target submerged cover, such as stumps or rocks. When the sun sits high in the sky, I like to target deeper structures such as a completely submerged rock pile.
It’s all about quick movements with abrupt stops and long pauses when fishing with poppers. I use a baitcasting setup paired with a monofilament line to assist in this retrieve style. I also use a short rod (6’6”-6’8”) to help with casting accuracy and to prevent the rod from hitting the water when using that downward chopping motion needed to impart the lure’s action.
The Rattlin’ Chug Bug, Gunfish, and Skitter Pop
Once the popper hits the water, pause for a few seconds. Then, using regular, short downstrokes with the rod tip pointed at the water, your lure will come alive with its own pops, chugs, and spits. Every lure has a different tone and action, and different fishing scenarios will call for different baits.
When a fish strikes a popper, most anglers will instinctively set the hook immediately, but this will lead to treble hooks flying back toward your face. Let the fish take the bait below the water and only set the hook when you physically feel the fish on the line.
Our Top 3 Poppers
This long, slender popper has a small concave face for subtle pops and splashes. You can also “walk the dog” with this lure.
- Size: 95 and 115mm (I recommend the 115)
- Colors: Citrus shad and American shad
- Cost: From $9.99
This is a large lure, but its small face allows for a subtle spit rather than an audacious pop or chug.
I suggest using a medium-heavy power rod to help impart action to this large lure. I also like to use a heavy 30-40 lb braided line. This low stretch option makes it easy to provide subtle movements to the lure with minimal direction required from the rod end.
This lure also has a weight transfer system that is great for casting long distances.
This lure has a different shape to most other poppers; it’s more ovular when looked at head-on, resulting in a unique chugging pop.
- Size: 3 ¼” and ⅜ ounce
- Colors: Bone, shad, Tennessee shad, and gizzard shad
- Cost: From $7.99
Available in 3 ¼” and ⅜ ounce, this lure is an absolute pleasure to cast out and large enough for long casts. The unique design of the Rattlin’ Chug Bug’s face is the main reason for its inclusion on this list. I find it has a different spitting, popping, and chugging action than any other popper out there.
I love the weighted tail section, which provides a unique tail-down appearance in the water. This is my go-to lure for targeting cover that breaks through the surface, such as wood laydowns or rock piles.
How can anyone go wrong with a Rapala lure? A super versatile topwater lure, the Skitter Pop will dive just below the surface on a long, hard jerk but will pop and roll with a faster, shorter twitch—a truly unique action for the category.
- Size: 2” – 3.5”
- Colors: Frog, shad, and silver
- Cost: From $10.69
This may be my all-time favorite popper and certainly one of the best topwater lures for bass fishing on this list. The Skitter Pop is built from balsa wood rather than molded plastic. This material change adds a little class to your tackle box and a different splish to the splash.
When selecting a rod to pair with this lure, go for a cranking rod or a rod with a moderate taper. A slow taper means you can get away with reduced reaction times.
When using this lure, a slower, more deliberate movement is optimal and leads to longer, slower pops, something unique to the Skitter Pop.
This lure is excellent for targeting pockets or gaps in weed and lily pad edges. It is also less likely to snag than the Chug Bug or Gunfish.
Stickbaits are a fantastic set of topwater bass fishing lures that are often overlooked. A stickbait is essentially a jerkbait or a minnow-shaped bait that is worked through the water with a consistent winding retrieve, or by twitching the lure with short rod jerks.
Let’s focus on two types of stickbaits – hard plastic stickbaits and soft plastic stickbaits.
Hard plastic stickbaits will usually imitate minnows and come armed with treble hooks. They typically also include a short plastic lip, which allows the lure to dive on retrieval.
The soft plastic stickbait, on the other hand, is likely to be rigged on a single worm hook and fished with a sweeping rod action and plenty of twitching.
The Salty Super Fluke, Rattlin’ Rogue, and Value Minnow
I target submerged rock piles, boulders, other submerged cover, and structures like isolated humps when using hard plastic baits. The secret to getting the most from this type of lure is to throw it in shifting light conditions, such as sunrise or sundown. Smallmouths can’t resist a hard plastic stickbait when presented over rock piles in the evening.
Soft plastic stickbaits can cover a vast amount of water in a relatively short amount of time and generally sink very slowly at rest. From a strictly topwater point of view, these lures can provide devasting results when used in areas with heavy vegetation.
Our Top 3 Stickbaits
With the 3 ½ inch Value Minnow coming in at 5/16 of an ounce, this lure is great on a casting setup. What’s not to love about a simple bait with a simple action? You can use a straight reel retrieve or twitch it and hold on.
This isn’t a fancy new-age lure, and it’s not as pretty as many modern lures. It is, however, a fish-catching machine that is highly underutilized. I recommend using a medium-action baitcasting rod with fluorocarbon line. Fluorocarbon sinks, so stickbaits are the only category of topwater lure I suggest pairing with fluorocarbon.
With rattles and erratic action, the Smithwick Rogue has plenty of draw. If that wasn’t enough, this topwater lure is highly durable, more so than balsa baits in the same class.
- Size: One size only – 4 ½” and ⅓ ounce
- Colors: Black & silver, blue & silver, and black & gold – orange belly options are also available
- Cost: From $7.79
When an angler from the northeast thinks about a floating stickbait, they usually picture the original Rapala bait. But for me, it’s the Rogue. This bait casts better than the OG Rapala, and on top of that, it rattles. Further increasing the disruption on the waterscape and drawing in bass.
When everyone around me is throwing the Rapala, I’m throwing a Rattlin’ Rogue, and under many circumstances, this differentiation leads to more bites.
The Rattlin’ Rogue is also the rare stickbait that can double as an effective search bait, great for fan casting big flats and creek channels.
At ⅓ of an ounce, go for a medium-heavy rod, paired again with fluorocarbon, and let the bites roll in.
This lure has been the established minnow-shaped soft stickbait for the last 20-plus years, and for good reason. The Super Fluke has the right buoyancy, the right salt content, and the perfect level of rigidity to make it the best soft plastic stickbait in my tackle box.
- Size: One size only – 5 ¼”
- Colors: Pearl, bubblegum, and watermelon are my favorites
- Cost: From $8.54 for a pack of 10 (you will need to add EWG hooks)
The magic of the Super Fluke was displayed to me during a session on Oneida Lake. The bass started to emerge from the woodwork in response to it. Yeah, the actual woodwork – they were holding in submerged timber.
The Super Fluke can be fished with baitcasting equipment, ideal because this lure is excellent around cover. From wood, rocks, weeds, pads, docks, anything. I have taken to throwing a Super Fluke in and around weeds and pads to search for aggressive fish during local tournaments.
It is a prime bait to skip under and into cover, and when Texas rigged weightless, it can go in and out of pretty much everything.
Spook Style Baits
Sometimes a brand is so synonymous with a product that people use the brand name for all products in the same category – think Kleenex instead of tissue. The same goes for a spook to a walking or twitch bait.A spook is a cigar-shaped lure that fishermen can use to “walk the dog” or that sashes from side to side when retrieved with a consistent rod twitch and reeling. These lures are big, bold, and simple.
No other topwater lure draws a strike like a spook style bait. On many occasions, I have seen a spook ejected from the water and propelled into the air after a missed strike.
The Spit’n Image, Sammy and Zara Spook
Spooks might not be the best baits from a consistency standpoint, but they generally draw big fish. Under certain circumstances, they can land a fish when nothing else can.
Moreover, spooks get bites from smallies, largemouths, and spotted bass. They are a must in every angler’s topwater box and a great way to learn that famous “walk the dog” retrieve. Check out our guide on the topic for more.
Our Top 3 Spook Style Baits
This lure spawned the entire category and has been drawing bites since 1939!
The Zara Spook has an old-school hook mounting system that helps prevent the bait from tangling up in the line and wasting a cast.
The downside to this is it allows the fish to have extra leverage against the treble hooks, which can help them throw the lure.
- Size: 3 ½” – 5”
- Colors: Natural leopard frog, black shore minnow, and G-Finish blue shad are my preferred colors
- Cost: From $7.99
This is a category-defining lure; what else needs to be said? I love the ‘black shore minnow’ color in low-light situations. That jet black just imprints so well.
I recommend the larger sizes and suggest using medium-heavy tackle with braided line. Mono is also a good choice because it floats.
The Lucky Craft Sammy casts like a dream, “walks the dog” with little effort, has an awesome side-to-side action, and importantly, has caught plenty of fish for me.
- Size: 3 ¼” – 5”
- Colors: Ghost minnow, crack, crack blue, and chartreuse shad are my all-time favorites
- Cost: From $15.99
In 2001 I was on a boat with my best friend. I pulled out a very expensive, very flashy Sammy 115. At the time, you had to get Lucky Craft lures direct from Japan, which wasn’t cheap after shipping.
As I cast that lure out for the first time, I almost spooled all the line off my reel, and at the end of it, a four-pound smallmouth smashed the Sammy. Safe to say, after one cast, the fish and I were hooked!
Use them inside creek bends and over bottom structures like humps or points extending into the main lake. This is my favorite walking bait because it does everything so well.
This is one of the smallest topwater bass fishing lures I use regularly, and it’s my preferred option when I need a bit of finesse. I love this lure in summer when shad match the size of the lure and are starting to school up.
If birds are busting baitfish on the surface, this is a great lure to try and extract some bites from that bait ball.
- Size: One size only – 3 ¼” and 7/16th of an ounce
- Colors: Emerald shiner, gizzard shad, threadfin shad, and Tennessee shad
- Cost: From $7.49
The Spit’n Image shines when bites are coming on schooling shad, and I use it wherever baitfish are visible. This is an absolute must-have on smallmouth waters.
At almost half an ounce, this is best thrown on baitcasting gear, but I lean on a medium-action rod, usually shorter than 7 ft. Work this one fast and erratically, especially when the water has a bit of a chop to it.
Frog fishing holds some of the best topwater lures for bass fishing. This is combat fishing. You’re throwing a lure into the thick stuff and using big tackle to winch fish out of the slop. Topwater frog fishing tests your tackle, your casting ability, and your nerves.
Topwater frogs are hollow bodied, rubber-based baits with upward-turned hooks. They specialize in being fished over lily pads, matted grass, or even around docks and other man-made forms of cover.
Frogs are best thrown on heavy to extra heavy casting rods. Pair these rods with heavy drag, high-speed reels (8.1:1 or higher), and braided line.
Do not treat frogs like they are irreplaceable; they need to be thrown into areas where you’re afraid to throw other lures.
The Spro Bronzeye Poppin Frog, Booyah Pad Crasher, and Googan Squad Filthy Frog
Use twitching motions to walk a frog over matted grass and lily pads. Pause the lure when you hit gaps in the pads/grass. These gaps are likely to be under watch from a lurking bass, waiting for an opportunity to ambush its prey.Once a bass has gone for a frog, it will quickly retreat back into cover. Wait until you feel them before setting the hook, and then reel very fast. If the fish ball up in the grass or pads, you have a greater chance of losing them.
You need to be able to pull that fish out – I’ve seen fish emerge covered in grass and other debris. This is why you need such stout gear. If you’re looking for the perfect frog rod, check out our guide to frog rods.
This would be a prime place to throw a frog. Rest it on the pads and swim it across the holes or gaps in them.
Our Top 3 Frogs
I love this frog primarily because of the strong hookups I’ve had with it. The body composition combined with the more upward-facing hook angle means that fish remain pinned after the initial hook up.
- Size: Junior size – 2″ (1/4 ounce). Full-size – 2 ½” (1/2 ounce).
- Color: Bullfrog, leopard frog, dart frog, or albino frog are my favorites – two natural presentations and two for high contrast
- Cost: From $7.29
The Pad Crasher is the first frog I throw as soon as I pull up to a grass flat or lily pad field; it’s produced so many times for me. The hook angle is fantastic, and the head-up action keeps it weedless.
This is a highly durable lure. This matters when the job is to get beat up in the harshest style of fishing available to bass anglers.
This lure is heavy for its size, leading to distance and accuracy. The Googan Squad easily cuts through weed and other debris due to its streamlined profile.
- Size: One size – 2 ½” (⅝ ounce)
- Colors: Leopard frog, white, and nightclub are my personal favorites
- Cost: From $14.97
The Googan Squad has lovers and haters, but I fall firmly into the former category. This frog has a stiffer plastic body compared to other frogs, but if you’re using the correct tackle for the job, you’ll hook and catch fish.
This lure is short and stout, making it great for casting into the wind and getting through cover. I use it when I need to make long casts over large weed-choked flats or when targeting smaller areas with accurate casts.
This is the only popping frog on the list because, in my opinion, this is the only popping frog you need.
This is the frog I throw in open water when trying to give a different presentation after the fish have seen too many other topwater lures. This is also a great option to throw around docks, boats, and other man-made cover.
Lily pads, no problem. Standing timber, perfect. Now let’s skip this thing up under that pontoon boat. This hollow body frog is where it’s at.
- Size: 2 ⅜” long and ½ an ounce
- Colors: Tropical white, navy seal, sunfish, and natural close out my color preferences
- Cost: From $11.13
Dean Rojas was the harbinger of modern-day frog fishing in the early 2000s. Since then, it has erupted into an everyday favorite for tournament-level anglers and recreational fishermen alike.
This is an excellent option for the angler who needs to pack a lot of bait into a small space. You can use this in any popper situation, but it is also more than capable when walking through lily pads. Are there other lures that are better in either situation? Yes. Is there another lure that does both as well as the Bronzeye Poppin’ Frog? NO!
Buzzbaits are the topwater equivalent to a spinnerbait. They are made up of an R bend wire, lead head, single hook, skirt (or sometimes a soft plastic trailer), and notably a blade.
It is the inclusion of this flat, paddle-style blade that makes the difference, as it lifts the lure to the surface and generates an audible ‘plop plop plop’ sound.
The Lunker Lure, Mini Pro Buzz, and Lazer Eye Buzz Master
Some buzzbaits even include clackers or a metal insert that hits the blade as it turns, further boosting the level of sound produced.
Buzzbaits can be used as a search bait and are excellent for fan casting the shoreline. Alternatively, they can target areas of cover, such as weed patches or standing timber. In these situations, start by casting the lure just past the target. Next, get the lure to the surface by cranking fast. Once the lure is on the water’s surface, slowly roll it over the cover.
This is the only type of topwater lure that works with a simple, straight retrieve.
Our Top 3 Buzzbaits
This one is as simple as it gets. Again, this lure is older than me and has been catching fish since its inception. I love the squeak that this bait makes. It’s nothing flashy, just a solid, well-built, no-frills buzzbait.
- Size: Available in ¼, ⅜, and ½ ounce
- Colors: My favorite is the black buzzbait, but black/blue flash and chartreuse with a copper blade are both worth a look at
- Cost: From $5.19
The effectiveness of this lure is all in the squeak. I throw this when searching for fish and when others are throwing bladed jigs or spinnerbaits. Anywhere you can throw those other types of lure, you can throw a buzzbait, and this one is a great choice.
Just cast it out and reel it back. Oh yeah, and don’t forget to set the hook when they crush it.
The Mini Pro Buzz is a situational lure. I use it when fishing river systems with submerged wood cover and throw it with spinning tackle. This is a great lure for general shallow cover fishing and when targeting wood laydowns.
- Size: One size only – ⅛ ounce
- Colors: Black, chartreuse & white, fire tiger and white
- Cost: From $3.99
The Mini Pro Buzz is a fantastic option when fishing rivers for smallmouth bass. I’ve used this to place in tournaments by getting a limit of fish when bites were hard to come by with bigger baits.
This is a wonderful all-round buzzbait. It’s available in all the colors you’re likely to need and includes a great blade to boot. This has the potential to be the only buzzbait you ever need to buy, getting the job done on every element you need from a buzzbait.
- Size: ⅛, ¼, ⅜, and ½ ounce
- Colors: I like black and red, hot chartreuse, and white
- Cost: From $5.99
If the fish are short striking, or rolling your lure and not getting hooked, try tying on one of these for a different presentation. There are a few more color options than the other lures listed, and this lure’s general build quality is fantastic. Cast this to visible cover and be ready to have fun playing a bronzeback on spinning tackle.
- Bass Fishing Lures: A Complete Breakdown
- Pro Bass Fishing Techniques: Walk the Dog
- Frog Fishing for Bass: Everything You Need to Know
- Frog Fishing: What Is the Best Frog Rod for Bass Fishing?
- The 9 Best Bass Fishing Frog Lures You Need To Know About
- The Complete Bass Fishing Lure Color Selection Guide
- The Top 10 Best Bass Fishing Lures You Need To Know About