Sound matters

We’re all going to be throwing topwater baits for the next few weeks. There’s no better way to catch a bass. But to be successful at it, it’s important to understand the role that sound makes in attracting smallies, and in running them off.

They’re curious creatures. That means that sound will attract them. They’ll travel long distances to see what’s making a noise. They’re not stupid, though. They survive by being careful and not getting eaten by some other fish. If the sound is too loud, or completely out of place, they head for the hills.

So, if we’re fishing relatively shallow backwater areas we need to be careful. A tiny pop with a Rebel Pop-R will likely bring them in. A loud, deep bloop with the same bait will scare them to the point that the last thing on their mind is getting something to eat.

The same thing is true with walking sticks. If you’re in shallow, or especially clear, water you need to snake them along without making a lot of noise or splash. If you’re over deep water learn to jerk them from side-to-side with hard, quick snaps of your rod tip. That’ll create lots of splash, and splash creates noise.

It’s not much different with humans. If we hear a light scratch or a soft strange sound, we investigate it. If we hear a loud noise right next to us we jump out of our skins.

Besides lots and lots of practice — snap your rod tip down hard for more noise and splash, keep it level with light twitches for less noise and splash — one of the easiest ways to control the amount of sound and ruckus you make with any topwater lure is to work with the right line.

Generally speaking, if you want less noise make your line float. You can do that with a little lip balm. Ordinary ChapStick works great, and it’s cheap. Put a little on your fingers and pull the first 10 feet or so of your line through them. If you want to go upscale you can always use one of the commercial fly dressings that are available.

Leave that stuff off, and it’s more likely that your line will sink. That’ll help make for more noise and splash, especially with poppers.

Line choice is another effective way to control noise. Monofilament tends to float. That means less noise. Fluorocarbon tends to sink. That means more noise. (I know that some anglers think that fluorocarbon is all the rage. They won’t fish with anything else. As an angler with almost 40 years of experience, however, I’ll tell you flat-out that monofilament has its place. Don’t throw yours away just yet.)

The noise factor that we’re talking about applies to crankbaits and jigs, too. Think before you automatically reach for one with a rattle. Ask yourself if the noise is going to help or hurt. Then make the best choice you can for the conditions you’re fishing.

I like to think about noise as a tool, like everything else in my boat. It’s something that I can use to help me catch more smallmouth. But, just like all my tools it isn’t right for every job.