Fly Fishing Topwater for Musky and Bass


If you are a fly-guy…you know there is just something special about seeing a topwater bug get smashed by a fish. I don’t care if it is the local pond for panfish or in this case, a musky trolling his territory and boiling up under your big baitfish popper. Probably the hardest part for the beginning fly person is to resist the urge to yank the fly too soon, before the fish can actually get the bug in its mouth.

Sometimes a day on the water can be just what ‘the doctor ordered’ and such was the case these past couple of days as my 34th school year had come to a blurry halt…leaving me some down time to cruise a couple of good topwater lakes. I must admit that I have hooked musky on top before but until this episode I hadn’t actually landed the fish. Even better for me, from my seat in the float tube…was the fact that I could see 75 percent of the fish in the air as it came from below to snatch my popper; that was one of those indelible memories that I won’t soon forget.

Bass on the other hand are notorious topwater eaters. I will add that some lakes, for I am sure a variety of reasons, just are better than others. The particular lake in the attached video is for sure the number one destination for me locally as the fish, at least for the first couple of hours, seem to eat better on top than below the surface. I have through the years learned a few tricks; one of, if not the most important trick…to be patient. I try and ‘read’ the lake or the water at any given time to get a sense of how the fish are feeding, what kind of mood are they in. More often than not, I find that they want a slow, methodical presentation. I know that folks put a lot of time into various patterns…for me I like two distinct poppers.

First is a ‘boogle-popper’. You can find the specific popper online or at most fly shops…but these poppers just work better than others. I love the ‘bloop’ sound you get when you make one actually pop and do its thing. If I were to buy only one color…black for sure. Especially knowing that here in Indiana, in two years, we are going to have the 21 year locusts’ explosion and friend let me tell you that when this happens, every fish below the surface is looking for a big, black meal!

Second on the popper list is the one shown in the attached video; I call it a baitfish popper. Simply put, it looks like a dead or dying baitfish to the fish lying below. I also fish it that way…I want the fish to think this 4 inch fish is on its last leg, when you do, you will find that it becomes almost irresistible to them. One last tip, I have offered this up before, but you can take the baitfish popper and turn it 90 degrees, so that it floats on its side; I often cast this popper in moving water and allow it to basically dead-man float into a pool with minimal movement, maybe a twitch here and there…then hold on. Some of the most violent topwater takes I have had have been with big, hungry smallmouth as they snarf up this bug.

So, get out there and start popping. This is for sure a great time of the year to give it a try and hone your skills. When the ‘big-one’ comes up for a morning snack…and your eyes get big, just remember to slow down a bit ad give the fish a moment to for sure get the bug into its mouth. Best of luck this spring and if you have any questions you can email me at

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