Recently I had the pleasure of spending a spring day on Hilltop Lake. Hilltop is located just outside of the town of George in Washington State.

Access is managed through Red's Fly Shop (509-933-2300) with both a DIY option and a guided option. For this day I would be doing the DIY option. It's easy to find with a gate off the main road and a short drive in. I was alone all day with the exception of some cattle and a large variety of shore bird and waterfowl.

Hilltop is a quintessential bass pond of around 34 acres. It has all the habitat you look for in a bass pond with cattails, overhanging Russian olives and rocky points. It has shallow back bays and classic underwater structure.



The feel when you roll up is that of an old duck hunting club you would see in a Ducks Unlimited magazine from the 90's with old blind frames silhouetting the shore line and old camouflage metal boats lining the launch area.

I got on the water around 7 am. This lake being totally new to me I started out along the south shoreline throwing large articulated poppers to cover. In the first 15 minutes or so I missed 2 large swirls. Or they missed me. I told myself to calm down. The next blow up I didn't miss and was fast into a quality largemouth.


Often you want to give a pause and let them eat the popper before laying the hammer to them. A short while later and I was into another.


This was looking like it was going to be a fun day. I worked my way around the lake picking up fish here and there. When fishing top water I like to throw to any cover and work my way out of it. Or throw past the cover, like a brushy point and pop the fly back to me along the area I think the fish are. I cover water like a mad man.

At one point in the NE corner I set the popper rod down and picked up my second rod with a fly jig tied on. This style of fishing is not much different then gear fishing with a jig. A short flip or lob cast and you wait for the jig to sink. If it takes too long to reach bottom, set the hook. If the line thumps, set the hook. If the line moves, set the hook. I think you get the point. The line thumped and I was fast into a great battle literally at my feet with a 5 pound largemouth.


Purists may not approve, but this style of fishing is fun and deadly. I jokingly call it, "Euro-Nymphing for big bass."

Spring bass can be very moody with weather shifts and as different stages of the spawn happen. You can sometimes go a hundred yards without a thing and then find a bay where everything is perfect and it's loaded with shallow fish. Such was the case on Hilltop as I continued working my way around the lake.


I reached a bay on the north side that had serious activity going on with swirls and even some bait fish boils. Cast after cast with the popper produced wakes and top water flushes as 3-5 pound bass slammed my fly over and over again. My rotator cuff screamed out for a break. I couldn't stop laughing. That particular bay was LOADED!


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Around the middle of the day the wind picked up as cloud fronts passed by. The top water bite seemed to slow. I picked up the jig rod again and made my way around the lake for the second time. Flip, feel the thump and set the hook was repeated over and over again.


This is not delicate fishing. Or for the faint of heart. I use a straight shot of 25 pound flouro to the jig. The wind became strong at times but this seemed to only help the jig bite. I focused on the shoreline that the wind was blowing into.


This is a lake technique that I often employ. My belief is the wind blows the bugs in, turns the minnows on and the big fish follow. Also the wind and waves help to camouflage my approach. One rocky point I found I was able to sight fish several more big bass as they were stacked on the windswept shoreline. They were not shy about inhaling my fly.


Towards the end of the day, I focused on the area around the island, as I bobbed in the wind. Again simply flipping the jig fly out and monitoring for a strike but this time in some deeper water. The fight after the hook set would take place almost directly under my tube and the fish were all very strong and difficult to lift off the bottom in several feet of water.


I hated to call to it a day but the storms were coming in and the light of the day would soon be over.


I really look forward to trying the lake again. I caught so many 2-5 pound largemouth I thought my arm was going to fall off. If you are looking for a quality DIY or guided option where you don't have to deal with crowds, and the unknown of public lands I highly recommend giving Hilltop a try. If you are not a seasoned bass angler I would also strongly recommend considering the guided option. Although I did quite well this day, make no mistake that largemouth can become quite moody and get lockjaw. An experienced guide would help figure out the bites.



Thanks for reading and as always feel free to comment with any questions🍻