Inshore Topwater Fishing: Our Two Top Tactics
Feb 28, 2020 | 4 minute read
Reading Time: 4 minutes

Topwater fishing is some of the most exciting inshore angling you could ask for. Nothing beats the thrill of a monster exploding out of nowhere and demolishing your lure. See it once, and you’re hooked for life. Everyone has that one fishing buddy who refuses to use anything else. And let’s be honest, they have a lot of fun.

Whether you’re chasing Trout around Cape Coral or searching for Stripers on Cape Cod, you can’t go wrong with topwater lures. As long as you know what you’re doing, that is. But that’s where things get more complicated. There are a ton of different lures out there and they all have their perks. Let’s take a look at a couple of very different tactics and how and when to use them.

An angler with a fishing rod in his mouth holding a large Striped Bass caught while topwater fishing

You can’t beat catching big Striped Bass on topwater lures.

Easy Does It: Walk the Dog Fishing

The “walk the dog” is one of the best retrieves you can ever learn. It gets results when nothing else is working and it’s a ton of fun to boot. How does it work? When should you use it? What has it got to do with dog walking? Here’s everything you need to know!

How to Walk the Dog

At its most basic, walk the dog fishing means zigzagging lures, like spooks, back towards you as you retrieve. You do this by twitching the lure in with the rod itself, angling the tip down slightly and only reeling in to collect the extra slack. You don’t want your line tight. The lure needs enough slack to jump and settle. This gives it that signature zigzag.

You need to get a feel for the rhythm as you walk in your lure. When you get in the flow, keep it up at the same pace until you finish your retrieve, then repeat. You can also try pausing and speeding up once you master the basics. This helps draw out stubborn fish.

When to Walk the Dog

Walking the dog is the go-to tactic for Seatrout and Redfish lovers all around the Gulf of Mexico and beyond. Louder, more aggressive retrieves can often spook these fish, especially when you’re fishing the skinny waters. It’s also a great technique for targeting Stripers. It can tempt them up from the bottom without causing too much commotion.

A Spotted Seatrout caught with a spook topwater lure

Trout just can’t resist a nicely-walked lure.

Walking-style lures can be productive in any light. It’s often down more to your target species than the technique itself. They don’t work too well when there’s a lot of wind, though. A light breeze is great, but any more than that and your lures can go unnoticed on the surface.

Fast & Loud: Popping

Some fish just aren’t interested in the soft side-to-side of walking lures. You can get your rhythm going perfectly but nothing is touching it. That’s when you need loud, splashy lures to grab the fish’s attention. Poppers and chuggers are just that.

How to work Poppers and Chuggers

Poppers and chuggers are designed to make noise on the surface. They look pretty much the same but get different names thanks to the noises they make. Poppers run along the surface creating a light splashing “pop.” Chuggers create more disturbance and dig in more, giving you more of a blooping “chug.”

A popper topwater fishing lure on a wooden background

It may not look like much, but that smile could tempt a thousand fish.

How you work your lures will depend on the fish you’re after. Bluefish like fast, steady retrieves while Tarpon go for more erratic movements. In general, the warmer the water, the faster you can work your retrieves. Keeping things loose and playing with your lures is the key to success. Be careful not to overdo it, though. Start too fast or aggressive and you might scare the fish off.

When to Pop

Popping works best for aggressive hunters that don’t scare easily. Bluefish and Spanish Mackerel demolish these lures. They can also draw Trout and Redfish to the surface when the sun is high and the fish are feeding lower down. They may not take the popper itself but it sure helps to get their attention.

The best time to use these louder topwater lures is when fish are competing for food. Whether it’s a school of Striped Bass on the surface or a troupe of Tarpon rolling in the shallows, fish are more aggressive when they’re around in groups. Making a splash will usually bring the bigger, more dominant fish onto your hook.

A large Bluefish with a popping lure in its mouth held by an angler in a black shirt

Basic fishing math: large poppers plus steady retrieves equals trophy Blues.

Switch Things Up

The great thing about fishing is that two people can work one spot in completely different ways and both land trophies. Even after you factor in water temperature, weather, tides, and seasons, fish just aren’t in the mood for a certain style sometimes. Never be afraid to experiment with your lures or your retrieves.

What’s your favorite style of inshore topwater fishing? Do you have any tips for bringing in stubborn Stripers or spooky Specks? Do you use hybrid or custom setups? Drop us a comment below and let us know!

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