By Jonathan LePera
Special to BassFan

When conditions are right for a topwater bite, Jimmy Reese can’t reach for a surface bait fast enough, especially one that walks.

Timing is everything, though, when it comes to combing the surface, Reese says.

Regardless of what part of the country he’s fishing, as soon as the spawn starts, he’ll have a walking bait tied on. It’ll also produce when fish are schooling or chasing bait up in the water column. Smallmouth that are spawning will come out of 20 feet of water knock the paint off it as well as those up shallow.

Back home in a California, it’s a key bait for him on Clear Lake and Lake Mead for largemouth while spotted bass on Lake Shasta and Lake Oroville just can’t resist the side-to-side meandering of the bait.

Cadence is Key

Ultimately, Reese lets the mood of the fish tell him what they want. More often than not, he will fish the bait at a good clip. Other times, he’ll start off with the typical retrieve and work it erratically at the end. To get his bait to work just right, he’ll add a split-ring to the line tie to allow the bait a freer range of motion.

Any time a fish is following his bait, Reese will work the bait violently to trigger a bite.

“Sometimes, if you just make a movement and they feel like they have the advantage and they’ll go after it,” he said.

Key No. 2: Confidence

While there are a lot of great walking baits on the market, Reese is partial to Boing Lures’ Boinger walking bait. He points to its unique sound chamber, custom paint finish and unique horizontal line tie that adds to better hooking power. Better yet, the baits are hand-made in the U.S. They are lighter than most 4-inch walking baits (0.6 ounces), but they offer a unique action that other baits don’t.

In clear water, iridescent colours are key. Shad patterns, black, and Reese’s signature Clear Hitch are important baits to have. In darker water, he’ll fish solid colored baits.

Seal the Deal

Reese uses a brisk sweep-set to drive the hooks home without pulling the bait away from the fish.

Along the way he’s experimented with a variety of lines and learned valuable lessons along the way.

“A couple of years ago, I was fishing a Costa tournament on Clear Lake and decided to switch to braid,” he said. “I started slamming the hookset and lost 3 fish in a row. It cost me big time. I’d used mono the day before and because I wanted to make sure I got the fish in the boat, I thought braid was the better choice. It was a good lesson learned.”

Fluorocarbon will work, but only if the bait is worked extremely fast without any pauses. Because fluorocarbon sinks, any time the bait is paused, there is a good chance the line will get tangled with the front hooks of the bait.

In clear water, his mainstay is 12- to 15-pound P-Line CXX monofilament, using the lighter of the two when needing super long casts. When colored water is in play, 20-pound line gets the nod.

He locks the drag down, but he’s quick to hit free spool on a fish charging hard at the side of the boat.

Follow-Up Tool

Reese will sometimes use the bait when he’s looking for fish to show themselves even when it’s not prime topwater conditions. If he sees a fish follow the bait, Reese will set it aside and reach for his dropshot rod or fish a grub to put those fish in the boat.

A topwater is also great as a search bait. The fish might not commit to a topwater, but they will give up their bed or their location where you can follow up with a finesse presentation or a 5-inch Gary Yamamoto Custom Baits single tail grub on ¼-ounce jig head.

Geared Up
> Reese’s topwater gear: 7’1” heavy-action Douglas Outdoors DXC casting rod, Abu Garcia Revo casting reel (7:1 ratio), 12- to 20-pound P-Line CXX monofilament line, Boing Lures Boinger.