Topwater Fishing, Why I Love It

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I don’t think this will come as much of a shock to anyone that knows me, but my favourite presentation for Smallmouth Bass is topwater. Now here’s something that you might not know: I use it as much in deep water as I do shallow. Shallow and deep are relative terms, of course, but let’s use ten feet as our benchmark to distinguish one from the other. Once you understand that all fish—but especially ambush predators such as bass—rely on the element of surprise to capture their prey, you soon realize that the surface is one of the best ambush points in the water column. That’s why I love topwater fishing!

Think of the surface as one big weed edge, meaning that anything below is in cover and anything above is in the open. In most cases, the unsuspecting prey is oblivious to the presence of danger lurking below or is totally powerless to alter the inevitable conclusion—a massive explosion and then lights out!


I first discovered the magic that is topwater fishing at the ripe old age of twelve, using one of the original topwater baits, the famous “Hula Popper.” But it wasn’t until almost thirty years later that I became totally fascinated by the fish-drawing power of the surface. It happened while I fishing with an old buddy of mine. (I don’t mean to be a name dropper, but it was none other than the bass fishing legend himself, Roland Martin.)

We got caught in an unusually thick patch fog one morning that kept us from navigating through a very treacherous stretch of Lake Temagami, so we had no choice but to hunker down until it cleared. The problem? We were at the mouth of a narrow sixty-feet wide gap between two massive granite cliffs towering one hundred feet on either side with forty-feet water depth—not exactly the ideal fishing grounds. Or so I thought.

Over the next forty-five minutes, we proceeded to boat twenty-one smallies over three pounds (with the biggest being a grotesquely plump 5 ¾ pound Lake Temagami bronze back). And you guessed it, we caught them all on topwater baits. This is when I started to truly understand and appreciate the dynamics of surface activity and a hungry bass.

Since then I have obsessed over it, no matter how much water there is below. My record to date is topwater fishing at forty-five-foot water depth. Today, I would never be caught Smallmouth Bass fishing without at least two rods rigged up with topwater baits.


Don’t be afraid to experiment with size, shape, colour, speed and, most importantly, the time of day. I’ve caught some of my biggest catches midafternoon—both shallow and deep.

I’ve been so captivated by this form of angling that I now design my own topwater baits. My biggest accomplishment to date is a magical furry little character called “Mighty Mo.” It is my go-to bait and has become my most productive topwater friend of all time.

Angelo Viola

Topwater fishing with Angelo’s baby, “The Mighty Mo”

Angelo Viola

ANGELO VIOLA is one of Canada’s most recognized and respected outdoor enthusiasts. His passion for the outdoors and skills as a creative director / producer have served him well crafting a broadcasting career in TELEVISION and RADIO that spans over 30 years. His relentless pursuit of the ultimate adventure and the ability to share the moment with audiences landed him the “best jobs in the world”, co host of The Fish’n Canada Show, The Outdoor Journal Television Show and Outdoor Journal Radio. In 2010 Angelo was inducted into the Canadian Angler Hall Of Fame making him a true fishing legend.

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