Swings – and misses – on lake

Sometimes the ultimate fishing experience and other times the most perplexing, topwater action is never for the faint of heart.

This season has served up a variety of opportunities to toss topwaters to largemouth and smallmouth bass throughout Northeast Ohio and western Pennsylvania. As expected, I’ve won some and I’ve lost some.

While the work of a topwater lure might seem pretty obvious based on the terminology, the category itself is about as diverse as, say, “SUV” is in the car business. We have big ones and little. A few with propellers and a few with fins. Some gurgle. Some pop. They all work, but some are better than others.

Regardless of how it looks and functions, a topwater dances on the surface of the water to mimic food that appears to be vulnerable to attack. The intent is for a predator fish to become provoked enough to strike.

That’s all well and good, of course, but the intent and the outcome don’t always mesh.

That brings me to two moments last weekend that inspired this column. In baseball terms, the two moments were swings and misses.

Whiffs are not uncommon in fishing. Anglers often feel the “bump” of a fish that is interested in a lure but for some reason fails to commit.

When those ordinary misses happen, most of us just shrug our shoulders and continue fishing. We’re content that something happened and not often aware just how close to a big payday we had been.

But when a big bass makes a pass at my topwater lure, it often is the magnitude of the miss itself that is etched in my brain.

Such was the case last weekend.

The sun still had not burned over the eastern horizon as I chunked and wound a buzzbait over the grassbed where I hoped to find a few morning largemouths. The lure works just as its name implies – the cupped propeller at the front of the bait churns the water as it is pulled forward, making a sound much like your mother’s eggbeater.

Fishing a buzzbait can put an angler in a trance. As the angler focuses on working the lure, the steady clatter becomes hypnotic.

Then, a blast of froth and splash of noise shatters the calm. Many times, the strike actually connects with the hook. Too often, however, the fish whiffs. The angler is then left to wonder why, what if, how come?

So I was zero for one on topwater strikes as my fishing day continued. Sometime later, in a completely different part of the lake with an entirely different topwater lure, another bass pulled a swing and miss.

Zero for two is not as bad as it gets. I’ve had days with 10 misses or more.

But anglers who fish topwater lures keep coming back for more. We will trade 10 whiffs for the ultimate thrill of a big bass – or musky, pike, trout or tarpon – blowing up and crashing down on a surface offering.

So we keep fishing the surface for thrills and chills, even when the result is a heaping portion of near misses. Eternal optimists, we anglers know sooner or later all those whiffs will be rewarded by the strike of a lifetime.


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