Just this past November, I fished with Gary in the Neuse and Trent rivers right out of New Bern, North Carolina. Our goal was to catch river-run striped bass on topwater plugs. Normally, given the amount of stripers in this system, that is an easy feat. On this trip, we found a lot of fish, but they were finicky; it was obvious we weren't going to set the world on fire without digging deep into the bag of topwater tricks we'd both acquired over the years.
Gary and I hit on a number of combinations that fooled the fish, and we went on to enjoy some fast light-tackle fishing. Most anglers understand the basics of choosing and fishing topwater plugs, like matching the size and color of a lure to that of the local forage, mimicking the action of the local baitfish (whether they're being ambushed or simply milling near the surface) and tweaking retrieves until the right one is found. But beyond these basics, the following "deeper" techniques can tip the odds in your favor when fish are reluctant to take part in the topwater game. Keep these in mind the next time you need a play called in from the sidelines.
1. Can You Hear Me Knocking?