by Chris Martin
Every time I tell someone that the month of May is one of my favorite times of the year, they often look at me as if I'm a stranger to the Gulf coast area. One reason this happens, I believe, is because they don't understand why I would choose such a windy month for being one of my favorite months of the year. Well, they're right. May is generally a very windy month. But tossing the subject of heavy winds aside, May also normally indicates to those of us in-the-know that there is some truly spectacular top water action headed our way in the immediate or very near future. And where do I want to be once the action has turned-on up top? Well, there's no place I'd rather be than right here in the San Antonio Bay region. Although my top water results varied somewhat in March and April, the bite on top should only grow in significance and consistency with each passing day and week as we progress through May. It's only a matter of time now that those of us who live for the thrill of surface casting will be able to reap the rewards of doing so on an almost daily basis in most all of our coastal bay systems. The strong winds of May will primarily be out of the south, and this southerly influence will bring with it higher tides, additional daylight, warmer water, and distinct pods of bait fish among the flats and shallows – all of which are precursors to a successful top water bite.
My recent schedule has treated me with the rare delight of me being able to scout areas the day before entertaining many of my fishing parties. On these scouting expeditions, like I said earlier, I'm still finding that the top water bite remains irregular as we near the end of April. Here recently, I've experience days where I'll toss cast after cast with little to attention being paid to my lure. Then, the very next day I'll stumble upon an aggressive bite on top that lasts a short while and then suddenly declines without warning. I did have a couple days of notable top water action this month, but nothing like what should be in store for us next month. So, until the bite on top turns on strong, you'll find me continuing to alternate my baits between that of soft plastics and that of surface-walkers. However, I'm more than ready to stop using plastics at a moment's notice. The time to do so should come any day now.
In order for me to be ready to take full advantage of all of the upcoming fun, I need to be prepared. The first thing on my list of things to do is to inspect some of the top water baits that I use on a more regular basis – the ones that have consistently produced for me and that are the ones I have the utmost confidence in. I look for rust on the hooks, the split-rings, and on the nose loops, often replacing any or all of these pieces. The body of hard baits can often take on a stain or two of their own, but can often be easily cleaned with a little elbow grease and the proper cleanser for the job. Following inspection, I make sure to give each plug a thorough rinsing with freshwater. In fact, I often rinse all my lures that I carry on my trips on a daily basis, regardless of whether I used them that day, or not. It's a good habit to get into, and one that you'll only benefit from in the future, especially given the ever increasing cost of lures these days.
So, which top water baits are best, and which ones should you use? Well, I'm not going to tell you which lures you have to use, or which ones are best for you. There's a wide variety of manufacturers making many different sizes and colors that are readily available today, with more being introduced all the time. All I can do is tell you about the ones that I've chosen to use in the past and that I have been very pleased with. In recent years, some of my all-time favorites have included the Top Dogs, the She Dogs, the Super Spooks, the Spook Juniors, and the Skitter Walks and the Skitter Walk Juniors. However, there are some new ones out there made by Texas Tackle Factory that I've now rapidly grown fond of – TTF's GunDog series. The GunDog series consists of three top water baits, the Flush, the Dummy, and the Little Dummy. The largest in the series is the Flush (5 in., 7/8 oz.) which is enhanced with a dual rattle system – one loud clicking ball, and multi-BB rattles in the belly. What the Flush brings to the table is a top water presentation never before seen by fish. Instead of the standard side-to-side walk-the-dog action produced by other top water baits, the Flush retrieves in a smooth "S" pattern allowing you to work the bait really slow or really fast. The two smaller baits, the Dummy (4-3/8 in., 5/8oz), and the Little Dummy (3-1/2 in., ½ oz), each have bumps along the side of the bait giving it more presence in the water – a bigger wake, an enhanced sound profile, and a unique hook presentation.
When it comes to the discussion of which colors you should use, I have to admit that I'm of the old-school way of thinking when it comes to this topic. I've always chosen the use of dark colors on dark, overcast days and at night, and have always saved bright colors for bright daylight hours in clean, clear water conditions. You'll find some folks that'll tell you that because of the pronounced silhouette they establish in any water or light condition, dark-colored baits can be used effectively year-round in any and all conditions. And I have a close friend that will throw nothing but bone-colored top waters, all year long. Until I become a fish myself, I may not be able to tell you what colors work best, and for what reasons. The simple trend I've stuck with to-date that seems to work for me is my use of the top water baits that have consistently produced for me in the past and, consequently, that I've developed a certain level of confidence in. You'll need to decide for yourself based upon your own experiences and confidences. Remember to practice CPR, "Catch, Photo, and Release", whenever possible on trophy Trout and Reds…Guide Chris Martin, Port O'Connor/Seadrift region.