Any topwater artificial will work. But this answer should help you hone in on which will work better.
I would carry a selection of them because they all have a specific action or sound that excels in different conditions. Lets start with poppers like the Storm Chug Bug, MirrOlure Popa Dog or Rapala Skitter Pop. These are really good to use to attract fish from a distance. The sound which is that "POP," sounds similar to other fish feeding which can turn them on to feed, since fish are always in a competitive mode when it comes to food.
These lures move water, pop, spit and make noise. They are pretty easy to work and the hook-up ratio is usually higher with a popper especially with redfish. The poppers stay in a tight, straight-line pattern making it easier for the redfish to track it down. Redfish are inferior feeders, having a shorter lower mouth and jaw, making it harder for them to grab a topwater than a zig-zag. Artificials that zig-zag such as Heddon Zara Spooks, Rapala Skitter Walks and Mirrolure Top Dog are all "Walk the Dog (zig-zag)" baits and fall in this category. These are great for trout. It’s not that redfish won’t try and eat them, but it is much harder for them to hone in on the target lure that has a moving back-and-forth action. With that small inferior mouth making it even harder, I use smaller sized poppers when the water is very calm and clear, and larger poppers when the water has some ripples, is dirty, not so clear or there is a little breeze .
The Walk the Dog action lures that zig-zag are lures such as Heddon Zara Spooks, Rapala Skitter Walks and MirrolureTop Dogs. I like to use them for trout. Trout when feeding will take in the bait, the water and any air around it. They have no problem tracking down the rhythm of the lure that zig-zags. Again, I use smaller sized Walk the Dog baits when the water is very calm and clear, and larger walk the dog baits when the water has some ripples, is dirty, not so clear or there is a little breeze.
Whether using a popper or Walk the Dog bait it is important to change the tempo or cadence of the lure to see which way the fish will strike it. I always start with a 3 pop or twitch cadence and pause. I will do this for about 10 minuets in the same target area. Then I will change the cadence to a 1 pop or twitch and pause. Lastly before I change lures or leave the target area, I finish with a fast pop or twitch cadence all the way back to my rod without any pause. If I am getting redfish and trout to react and strike at my topwaters and unable to put a hookup because they are short striking my lure, I will remove the rear treble hook and add a short leader to the rear eye of the bait. I will then tie a fly to the end of my leader. Now when they short strike the topwater and turn away they see the fly floating down in front of them. Works great! The leader should be about 12 inches long and can be adjusted according to the water depth your fishing.
Sometimes if I am fishing in heavy grass or floating grass, I will remove all the treble hooks from the topwater lure and add a single hook to just the rear of the topwater lure. This will let you work the topwater bait more effectively through the grass. As far as the color of your topwaters, I like to use colors that will show well in the type of water I am fishing. As an overall color, Bone is one of my all around favorites in most conditions. Many live baits are white underneath, so topwaters with white on the underside are good. In dark tannin colored waters like rivers, I like the underside to be gold, orange and sometimes silver with black tops side like a bull minnow or mullet.
You will hear as a general rule that topwater lures should be used in low light conditions, like early morning as the sun is just coming up or late in the day as the sun is going down. Or on any cloudy or overcast day. But I have found them to be very effective on bright sunshine days. On these days I use a silver or chrome mirror colored topwater bait. The way the sun flashes on the silver or chrome creates a unique flash. When using topwaters, I tend to stick with braided line as my main line and use a 14 inch fluorocarbon leader of 20 lbs. or less. Braided line floats, so the performance of the topwater is better. Monofilament sinks some and fluorocarbon is the most dense and sinks the most. Fluorocarbon is the least visible and the most abrasion resistant, so that is why I use it as my leader. But if you notice, I only use a short piece of leader 14 inches or less as not to weight the front of my topwater, so it can be worked properly. I also don’t use more then 20 lb. test leader. Using a very long fluorocarbon leader of lets say 40 lb. test will hamper the performance of your topwater baits action. Also use a loop knot to the lure, unless it has a split ring to tie on to. The split ring and loop knot will give the topwater lure its natural action.
Your rod should be at least a fast-action rod in order to work your topwaters more effectively. Lastly don’t set the hook until you feel the fish and the rod is bent. We all get excited when we see the blowup and immediately react quickly with a hookset, many times missing the fish. At least that’s what I do!
Thank you for sending in your question to The Online Fisherman.
Captain David M Rieumont
The Online Fisherman Inc.