By Chris Funk
There is very little that is exciting as a fish demolishing a topwater bait. Whether it is a buzzbait blazing a trail across the surface or slowly walking hard bait it doesn't matter. Once that bait disappears in a fountain of froth it is like being struck by a small bolt of lightning!
It still amazes me how fish can strike with such ferocity and still miss a face full of hooks. I mean come on, if I get a hook NEAR a branch, bungee or my own hide it impales 100 percent of the time. It is a lot smaller percentage when it comes to finned critters though.
There are tips to help with hook sets on topwater baits like be patient and wait till you feel the fish load up, or pause and give him time to eat. Trying to remember that when a fish strikes is like giving me a box of hot donuts and telling me to wait before eating one. It just goes against human nature.
While I can't help you very much with how to keep from missing fish on topwater baits, I can help you capitalize on the situation. When I fish any type of surface running bait I keep a second rod rigged with a weightless soft plastic ready for action. If a fish takes a swing and a miss often it is sitting right near the swirl trying to figure out where the prey went. It expended the energy to eat something and if you can get a second bait in the water quickly it will get mashed more often than not.
My two favorite back up lures for this would be a trick worm or Senko style bait and a fluke style bait. For the trick worm just drop it in the center of where the miss was and twitch a few times as it sinks. Make sure to watch your line as it falls; this will help to see when the fish makes a subtle hit. This tactic mimics stunned or dying bait and works great as a quick second chance. When throwing the fluke, try to skip it into the target zone. This presentation looks just like a shad or other baitfish as it is evading a predator. If the fish is still looking for the missed bait it will often hit before you get the slack out of your line.
I have had luck making a second cast with the same topwater that was missed, but not even close to the same success from throwing a totally different lure. As much as I love to fish a surface lure, you better believe I will have a second bait to quickly recover if a fish misses my first offering. It is really helpful if fishing with a friend who doesn't read Kayak Fish magazine; if they miss a fish, you can take it right out from under them!
Jackson Kayak pro staffer Chris Funk is a proud self-proclaimed redneck outdoorsman. He swings a mean camera, particularly when any of his beloved critters are around. Funk is a Kayak Fish Magazine contributing editor.