With the onset of college football season in the South, it can be prime time to knock the dust off the topwater boxes. Georgia pro Josh Weaver knows a thing or two about grinding shallow in the fall, and his advice is applicable for anyone that isn’t planning on putting up their sticks in favor of the dove fields and deer woods.
Fishing around home, one of Weaver’s favorite late summer game plans is to lock a topwater in hand and hunt for a handful of quality bites.
“This time of the year in the South, the oxygen in the water isn’t very much, so either the fish are going to be really deep, or extremely shallow,” he said. “Obviously, I like to catch them shallow. And, leading into the fall, the fish are going to be moving back shallow. I love to throw a walking bait, a toad or a buzzbait, it’s a great time of year for topwater. Now it’s good the first few hours of the morning, as we get into the fall more, shoot, I’ll throw it all day.”
Weaver’s topwater strategy isn’t necessarily designed for dozens of bites and fast action, but it can result in some solid weight.
“As tough as the bite is, if you can catch two or three or four in the morning, and then throw it the rest of the day, you’re going to get a couple more bites in these tough summer tournaments,” he said. “Any herring lake you can do good throwing a topwater around – you can catch spots throwing walking baits and largemouth on the bank throwing toads. Then, Sinclair, Lake Oconee, those lakes are great for that this time of year. It’s like that from Georgia to Arkansas, you saw that when we used to go to Hamilton and Ouachita.”
According to Weaver, there’s no hard and fast location plan for burning bank with a topwater. Sure, a cool-looking laydown in the water probably deserves a cast, but those sort of high-percentage areas get hit by everyone.
“It’s about covering water, they won’t be in one certain place or another,” he said. “A lot of the fish are going down the bank in wolf packs, so, you might catch one around a patch of water willow, but if you were there 30 minutes later you’d catch it 100 yards down the bank on nothing.
“In the fall, when we start getting cooler mornings, that’s when I like to start going into the pockets. Now, I like to stay near the main lake, not necessarily on points, but more main lake banks and areas. You need to learn your fish for the day, it’s amazing how much largemouth in the South change day to day.”
Weaver has three main weapons for topwater time: a walking bait, a buzzbait with a toad and a Googan Explode Toad.
He uses pretty much the same tackle for all of them, going with 40- or 50-pound braid, a high-speed Favorite Soleus XCS, and a 7-foot, 3-inch, heavy Favorite Pro Series stick for the toad and a 7-foot, 2-inch medium heavy Favorite Hex for the buzzer and walking bait. On lakes with spotted bass and blueback herring, the walking bait gets a ton of play. Other places, Weaver likes a buzzbait or the toad.
Weaver has a few subtle tackle preferences that you might want to incorporate. The first is his choice of a Zoom Horny Toad as his buzzbait trailer. According to Weaver, putting a bait with “fat leg action” on a buzzbait is a no-no – the heavy action will mess up the package.
His second tweak is how he rigs his Explode Toad. Threading it on a Gamakatsu SuperLine Offset EWG is nothing wild, but he always adds a Gambler Hollow Point with a bobber stop above the bait to add durability.
“It honestly makes the bait last so much longer, it is by far the best setup I have found,” Weaver said.
So, if you can stand the heat, get out and roll a topwater around. According to Weaver, it’s the way to win right now.
“When I’m fishing around the house, if I’m not going for the win, I’m not going fishing,” he said. “You’re fishing for five to eight bites, and if you land all of them you’re going to win.”