The Safest F150 Ever


My first instance was many years ago, fishing a popular spot called Blondy’s with Doug Johnson on the Northwest Angle portion of Lake of the Woods. The spot is a saddle area between islands with a flat and a weedbed on one side. As we pulled into the area, before we could get a cast in, the fish surfaced 40 feet from the boat, its head out just beyond its gill covers. It proceeded to swim in a semi-circle for about 20 feet, it’s jaws clacking together several times as it went, before slipping back below the surface.

Johnson looked at me and said something like: “I won’t mention this to anyone if you don’t.” The fish did that several more times during that trip. The only seemingly “logical” explanation is that the fish had somehow learned to associate the noise of an incoming boat with the need to verify that it was indeed an incoming boat.


Other topwater connections are just remarkable. In a feat rivaling an antiballistic missile doing its job, a small largemouth bass timed perfectly a dragonfly moving swiftly and erratically about a foot above the surface, catching it in mid air. Amazingly, the same thing was happening all around the shallow bay that morning—small bass jumping in an attempt to take dragonflies out of the air, this after a big hatch of the insects.

Consider what a bass has to do to have a chance at catching a speeding, knuckle-balling insect. It has to be at the right depth to see the approaching target. Then to get enough speed to clear the water with enough height to make the catch, the bass surely has to have a running start of a certain distance at just the right depth to then turn upwards at just the right time to gain enough speed to break through and clear the surface by at least a foot, all the while timing everything perfectly in order to have a chance at connecting. I only saw that one bass actually connect in a half hour of observation. Were they mostly just having a good time? A bass equivalent of a Saturday morning of skeet shooting?

As I’ve noted, though, most topwater connections are a matter of fish making learned associative links to getting food. Longtime In-Fisherman writer Ralph Manns has a home on a small Texas lake where he can watch his “pet” bass every day. He says it’s common for some of the fish to learn to push minnows right up onto shore, where the bass beach themselves to get their prey, realizing they can then flip and flop their way back into deeper water.

Largemouth bass (smallmouths and other fish, too) learn to eat frogs, the topic of Senior Editor Steve Quinn’s article in this issue. Again, there’s something particularly memorable about feeding on top. A fish that’s learned to eat frogs can probably be tempted with a topwater even though it hasn’t seen a frog in years.

Most importantly, at times, tempting fish on top is the best possible way to trick them. Topwater tactics drive them crazy when nothing else can.

>>> Shoes Or Worms?

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