Topwater Tactics: Best Topwater Rods

For all the brightly colored lures and prey-resembling bait in the world, without a decent topwater rod, you’re not likely to have a great day fishing. Usually used for catching bass, topwater bait is quite pretty to look at and engineered to entice the fish.

To help you do this, you need a good quality rod. You need to look for a strong rod with a moderate action and medium power, while also choosing something comfortable to work with.

We’ve prepared this handy guide to help you decide which topwater fishing rod is best for you. And we’ve also given you a breakdown of what you need to be looking for, along with some of the best models on the market today. We’ve given you a lowdown of our top five topwater rods, along with our expert summary to give you a little guidance on their best applications.

Read on to find out which topwater rod you need.

Best Topwater Rods Comparison Chart

Product

Our Rating

Price

​UglyStik Elite Casting Fishing Rod

Ugly Stik Elite Casting Rod

​Abu Garcia Veritas Spinning Rod

Abu Garcia 1430496 Veritas Spinning 1Piece Rod, 7' Length, 8-17 lb Line Rate, 1/4-5/8 oz Lure Rate, Medium Power/Moderate Action

​Cadence Fishing CR5 Spinning Rods

Cadence Fishing CR5 Spinning Rods | 30 Ton Carbon | Fuji Reel Seat | Stainless Steel Guides with SiC Inserts |CR5-481S-ULM

​Entsport Nostalgia 2-Piece Casting/Spinning Rod

Entsport Nostalgia 2-Piece Spinning Rod Graphite Portable Spinning Fishing Rod with 2 Different Top Pieces Inshore Spinning Pole Freshwater Spin Rod (Spinning Rod with 2 Top Pieces, 7-Feet)

​JEKOSEN Portable Travel Casting/Spinning Bass Fishing Rods with Tube Case

JEKOSEN Portable Travel Casting/Spinning Bass Fishing Rods with Tube Case,Lightweight Carbon Fiber Fishing Pole,Salt/Fresh Water,Medium Power,Smooth Guides&Durable Reel Seats,5.9ft-8.9ft

What is a Topwater Rod?

A topwater rod is a fishing pole designed to deal with topwater lures. Like their name, topwater lures are designed to sit on the surface of the water to lure a fish in to strike at the bait. These lures usually float on the top of the water, but some can bob just underneath to the tempt the fish. The lures are painted bright colors to represent smaller fish, insects, or frogs that your prey may eat. The lures tend to have more than one hook attached to them for security.

Topwater Rod Fishing (Source)

The reason that you need to have the correct rod for fishing topwater lures is that you need to have the correct ‘action’, as the topwater lures travel across the water. The path of the lure must resemble the creature in order to fool the fish. This journey is often down to the rod used to cast the lure.

Topwater rods tend to be around 6 feet 6 inches with a moderate action and medium power. You can use either a spinning or casting rod, this is up to you.

Qualities of our Favorite Topwater Rods

When we’re looking through the topwater rod selection on offer, we have a few key indicators we look for to determine whether each rod is worthy of being in our top five. Below is an outline of the criteria we consider important for our favorite topwater rods. When you’re shopping for your own pole, keep these qualities in mind.

Before we start, you need to remember that topwater lures are designed in a certain way which determines what you need in a rod. Typically used for bass fishing, topwater bait has 2-3 pairs of trebles to really hook the fish and to prevent it from escaping in a fight. Equally, the cadence of your rod is super important to the success of your fishing, so you need your rod to allow for this.

Length

You need to have a shorter fishing rod when fishing with topwater bait. The rod needs to be between 6 feet 6 inches and 7 feet, and no longer than that. The reason you need a shorter rod is to enable you to have a more direct effect on the line as this allows you to apply the rhythmic cadence necessary to lure the fish. A topwater fisher needs to twitch the line in a consistent rhythm and a long fishing pole makes this much harder to manage. Keep the pole short.

UglyStik Elite Casting Fishing Rod - 7' Medium Heavy - Fast

Short Butt

The butt section is very important in topwater fishing. While not considered so much in other styles of fishing, topwater fishing requires you to work in close quarters. As most of the action is done in front of you, close to your chest, a fishing rod with a long butt is going to get in the way and affect the steadiness of the rhythm you’re trying to impart. To give yourself a clear path for a smooth cadence, choose a model with a shorter butt length.


JEKOSEN Portable Travel Casting/Spinning Bass Fishing Rod has a short butt perfect for topwater fishing

Action

The action is the most important part of the rod for topwater anglers. The action is sometimes referred to the flex, or bend, of the rod. Fast action rods tend to bend toward the top and slow action bend toward the butt. Medium action rods, however, flex about a third of the way down the rod. Those fishing with topwater bait need to have a medium action fishing rod. Stay away from heavier action.

Quick Take - The Best Topwater Rods

Review of the Best Topwater Rods

Now that we've covered what to look for when shopping for a new topwater rod, let's take a look at some of the models that made our list. 

1.  UglyStik Elite Casting Fishing Rod

Ugly Stik Elite Casting Rod

Available in various lengths and actions, the 6 ‘6” or 7” medium action rods are the best in this range for topwater fishing. The Clear Tip design gives the user excellent strength, while the graphite construction is made to be lightweight and sensitive.

The exposed blank-style reel seat is cushioned with stainless steel hoods for durability, while the grips are made from premium cork. This one-piece model has a lure rating of 1/4-3/4.

Pros

  • High-Quality Graphite Makes the Rod Lightweight for Accuracy and Sensitivity
  • Guides are Made of Stainless Steel and Come as One Piece For Easy Replacement
  • Has Varying Lengths, Allowing You to Choose One Best Suited to Your Environment and Height
  • Comment Check
    The Clear Top Design Enables the User to Hook Larger Fish Without Worrying About the End Snapping

Cons

  • Not for Deep Water Use
  • Cork is a Little Fragile and Breaks Off After Some Wear and Tear
  • While the Company is Quick to Replace Damaged Models, They Seem to Send Quite a Few Broken Ones

Bottom Line

While not for deep water use, this model is a great starter. It’s a versatile rod with high-quality materials to resist corrosion and general degradation after use. The guides are easy to replace and the graphite makes this super-sensitive. The cork could do with a little coating, however, to prevent it from crumbling so easily.

2. Abu Garcia Veritas Spinning Rod

Abu Garcia 1430496 Veritas Spinning 1Piece Rod, 7' Length, 8-17 lb Line Rate, 1/4-5/8 oz Lure Rate, Medium Power/Moderate Action

This 7-foot, medium action rod is made from graphite for a lightweight design. The rod has titanium frame guides, EVA split handles, and a ratcheted reel seat. The zirconia inserts increase accuracy and casting distance, while the Carbon Core Blank Technology makes this very strong. With medium-heavy power, this rod flexes in the top 1/3 for perfect action with topwater lures.

Pros

  • Ratcheted Reel Seat is Easy to Use and Very Secure
  • Titanium Frame Guides Add to Durability and Longevity and are Easy to Replace
  • Medium to Heavy Power Make this a Great Choice for Open Water Fishing as Well as Large Bass Fishing
  • Comment Check
    Spiral Carbon Core Technology Helps Strengthen the Rod by 25% While Increasing Tip Strength by Up to 30%
  • Comment Check
    Zirconia Inserts Help the Accuracy of Casting as Well as Distance by Providing Smooth Guidance, While Also Being Highly Durable

Cons

  • Guides on This Rod are Oversized Which Adds More Weight Than Necessary
  • Some Customers Have Complained That This Can’t Take as Much Weight as it Says

Bottom Line

A great model for people looking to fish bass, this topwater rod has durable components made from high-grade materials. The Spiral Carbon Core Technology means that this rod is very strong and less likely to break when lifting large fish, while also being lightweight. Ideally, the guides would be smaller, but in general, this is a great, affordable model.

3. Entsport Nostalgia 2-Piece Casting/Spinning Rod

Cadence Fishing CR5 Spinning Rods | 30 Ton Carbon | Fuji Reel Seat | Stainless Steel Guides with SiC Inserts |CR5-481S-ULM

Ranging in size from 6 feet to 7 feet, this model comes with the perfect medium action for topwater lures. Made from 30-ton graphite, it features stainless steel guides and SiC inserts.

Complete with an adjustable Fuji reel seat, this model is designed for smooth cadence.  You can choose from a split or full grip, made from superior quality cork.

Pros

  • 30-Ton Graphite Rod is Very Lightweight, Increasing Casting Precision
  • Handle is Made From EVA Cork and is Very Durable Without Crumbling
  • Comes in a Choice of Length, Action, and Handle Style for Your Ideal Preferences
  • Comment Check
    Very Versatile Rod, Which Can be Used for Bass, Walleye, Trout, Flounder, Redfish, and Many More
  • Comment Check
    Guides and Inserts are Made from High-Quality Durable Materials, Designed to Withstand the Elements Without Corroding

Cons

  • Reel Seat Doesn’t Seem to Stay Tight
  • Handle is a Little Narrow so Not a Good Choice for People With Big Hands

Bottom Line

As long as you make sure to keep that reel seat tight, this lightweight graphite spinning rod is a great choice for fishing a whole range of larger fish. Perhaps suited to those with smaller hands, this rod is made of very durable materials and has a whole host of positive reviews.

4. Entsport Nostalgia 2-Piece Casting/Spinning Rod

Entsport Nostalgia 2-Piece Spinning Rod Graphite Portable Spinning Fishing Rod with 2 Different Top Pieces Inshore Spinning Pole Freshwater Spin Rod (Spinning Rod with 2 Top Pieces, 7-Feet)

At 7-foot long, this graphite-constructed spinning rod comes in two pieces. The handles are made from top quality cork, while the top section is changeable, allowing for either medium or medium-heavy action.

The guides are made of stainless steels, while the ceramic inserts enable the line to glide smoothly. The reel seat is engineered with corrosion-resistant hoods, while the rod comes with a carry case to protect it.

Pros

  • The Handle is Made of Top Quality Cork Surrounding Willow for a Soft, Comfortable Design
  • Ceramic Line Inserts are Not Only Very Durable But Also Reduce Friction, Giving a Smoother Cast
  • You Can Change the Top Section, Depending on Whether You Want Medium or Medium-Heavy Action
  • Comment Check
    Very Durable Components, Including the Stainless Steel Guides, and the Reel Deat, Due to its Corrosive-Resistant Hoods
  • Comment Check
    Made for Sensitivity Using Technology Based on High-Tensile Strength, Which Enables the Rod to Stay Strong, While Not Compromising on Flexibility or Adding Extra Weight

Cons

  • Handle is a Little Thin
  • Rod is a Little Floppy, Making it Swing in the Wind
  • Seat Butt is a Little Long, Making it Hard to Get a Smooth Cadence

Bottom Line

Quite a slight rod, this model has two different tips for versatile fishing. The reel seat is engineered to prevent corrosion, as are the guides and inserts. While the butt is a little long, the ceramic inserts enable the line to glide smoothly. The graphite makes this lightweight and flexible, while the willow/cork handle is comfortable, but a little slim.

5. JEKOSEN Portable Travel Casting/Spinning Bass Fishing Rods with Tube Case

JEKOSEN Portable Travel Casting/Spinning Bass Fishing Rods with Tube Case,Lightweight Carbon Fiber Fishing Pole,Salt/Fresh Water,Medium Power,Smooth Guides&Durable Reel Seats,5.9ft-8.9ft

Complete with tube case, this topwater spinning rod is designed for portability as well as sensitivity. At 7’9”, this rod is quite long for topwater fishing, but the carbon fiber construction means that it is both strong and sensitive enough to handle the job. The rod features high-quality ceramic guide sets, while the handle is made from EVA foam with an anti-wear protective pad.

Pros

  • The foam handle has an anti-wear pad to increase the longevity.
  • The rod is medium power and fast action, making it ideal for topwater fishing.
  • The carbon fiber construction adds durability, making this a great rod for a first timer.
  • Comment Check
    Ceramic Guide Sets are Spaced in Such a Way to Completely Reduce Friction Along the Rod

Cons

  • Instructions Don’t Come in English.
  • Handle isn’t Made From Cork and Hurts Your Hand After a While

Bottom Line

While you’ll need to decipher the instructions to get going with this, the rod is a great beginners tool. The medium power rod is a little long though, which may be hard to handle, so bear that in mind. Despite this, it has a good flex on it and is made from high-quality, long-lasting materials.

How to Fish Using a Topwater Rod

The video below covers some great techniques on how to fish using topwater bait. Here are a few key types of bait to use and the fishing techniques that match them. Find out more in the video below.

  • Popper Bait – This is one of the easiest baits to fish with and can be used for beginners learning to topwater fish. You can use this in murky waters or grassy areas. This bait got its name due to the movement it invokes with its weight distribution. You can bob the bait and it ‘pops’ up and down. Do this for a few seconds and then let it sit for five to ten seconds before popping it again.
  • Buzz Bait – This bait is for fishing big bass and other big fish, especially in stained water and on grassy banks. To get a reaction from the fish, you use a fast-drawing retrieve technique, where you drag the bait through the water. The little tendrils flap about, catching the bass’ eye.
  • Walking Style Bait – Excellent bait for fishing in clear water, this style of bait is great for working inside schools of fish. You ‘walk’ the bait with this type of lure by pointing the tip of your rod down toward the water’s surface and popping the bait by slacking the line – a little slower to popping bait. This action makes the bait look like its walking or swimming near the top of the water by moving side to side.
  • Hollow Body Frog – This bait looks a little like a frog, with a round body and some trailing tendrils that replicate frog legs in the water. It is a great choice for stained to clear water and dense cover. You can use a fast-retrieve in open water, whereas subtle twitches work better under coverage.

How to Maintain Topwater Rods

Keeping your rod clean is essential to its longevity. Debris, sand, dirt, and salt can really damage your rod. Making sure that you pay special attention to maintaining it will help extend its lifespan. Moreover, maintain your rod allows you to notice abrasions, scratches, or damaged components, enabling you to repair them instantly before they compromise the whole rod.

The video below gives you detailed coverage of how to maintain your rod and reel after each use, but here a few pointers to get you started.

  • Damp Rag – The first stage is to simply wipe the rod down with a damp rag. Start at the tip and work toward the butt. You need to ensure that you remove all debris and dirt as this compromises the material.
  • Pay Attention to the Guides – You want your lines to run smoothly through the guides, but as the line is exposed to the water, the guides often get clogged with dirt if not cleaned. Make sure to wipe away all debris with a damp cloth. You can use a soft brush if the debris sticks
  • Work on the Reel Seat – The reel seat is integral to ensuring your reel locks on to your rod evenly and securely. With this in mind, when cleaning, pay special attention to the thread where the reel locks in. You can use soapy water if the dirt is a little stubborn.

Conclusion

Fishing with topwater lures can really reel in some big fish. Designed to look just like your prey’s prey, they appear to be a tasty lunch for whatever fish you’re after – most likely bass.

However, the lure is only as good as its rod, and the right topwater rod will ensure you get a good cadence on your line. This will help you to mimic the action of the creatures to lure in your big juicy fish.

Make sure to go for a shorter rod with a medium action and look for rods with high-quality materials, durable non-corrosive components, and maybe even a carry case for convenience in portability!

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