On a summer afternoon 10 years ago, fishing with her husband in one of her first-ever club bass tournaments, Anderson's Lesley Childers got a wild introduction to the ways of the topwater lure.

"He told me it was going to be a topwater bite that day, but I didn't really know what he meant," Childers said.

She soon found out.

Both were fishing with Zara Spooks when a big bass hit her husband's Super Spook and knocked it into the air. It came back for a second attempt and was hooked briefly before breaking off.

Shortly after, he had another bass on and yelled to his wife to net his catch.

"It was before I knew how to net," she said, laughing.

Lesley Childers miscalculated her sweep of the net, and the big bass - estimated at between six and seven pounds - was lost at the boat.

They changed locations, and Lesley Childers promptly hooked and lost her first bass. Randy Childers followed that up by missing a bass on a Fluke, then tossed his rod onto the floor of the boat in disgust.

"He said, 'We might as well go put it on the trailer,'" she remembered. "I told him to put his big-boy britches on and let's go fishing."

That was prophetic, if not matter-of-fact advice, even for a veteran angler like Randy Childers.

Lesley Childers went on to catch her first topwater bass - a fish weighing better than five pounds that anchored their winning weight of 18 pounds.

Already somewhat smitten by bass fishing in general, she considers that the day she became enamored with the topwater lure - specifically, the classic Zara Spook.

"Oh my gosh, I love them," she said.

Lesley Childers has also become somewhat smitten by tournament fishing since that fateful outing 10 years ago, and she has emerged as a serious contender on the FLW's Bass Fishing League circuit, where she's won three tournaments in the past two seasons as a co-angler. She also cast her way to a fourth-place co-angler finish at the Women's Bassmaster Tournament championship event in 2008.

By necessity, she's had to expand her lure selection beyond her typical array of topwater plugs, but she has done so begrudgingly.

By the time autumn around, and the summer topwater season reaches its unofficial end in South Carolina, most fishermen have relegated their topwater lures to winter storage.

Not Lesley.

"She'll have a Zara Spook in her tackle box if it's 10 degrees outside," Randy Childers said.

Indeed, there are very few months when Lesley Childers feels like she has no chance with a topwater plug.

"I think that's what got her hooked on them, too: in this area, you can fish topwater pretty much six months out of the year," Randy Childers said.

That may be true, but Lesley Childers butters her topwater toast in May, June and July, particularly on her favorite topwater water, Clarks Hill Reservoir.

Clarks Hill, or Lake Thurmond, is a 71,000-acre impoundment that straddles the South Carolina-Georgia border just upstream from Augusta, Ga. The largest U.S. Army Corps of Engineers body of water east of the Mississippi River, Clarks Hill has healthy populations of striped bass, crappie, white perch and flathead catfish, but the prime attraction is largemouth bass, especially when the topwater light flashes on beginning around mid-May.

"It's probably the best topwater lake I've ever fished," said Jeff Kriet, a Bassmaster Elite Series pro, before that series' 2008 visit to Clarks Hill. "When they get on it, that's all you throw - big topwaters like Pencil Poppers and Zara Spooks. But the lake's got to be right to do that."

And "right" at Clarks Hill primarily involves water temperature and the spawn of the lake's most-abundant baitfish, blueback herring. By mid-May, largemouth have begun to shake their postspawn doldrums, and their sudden urge to feed coincides nicely with baitfish availability.

"Herring are moving out of the creeks and into main lake, ganging up and starting to spawn themselves," Lesley Childers said.

Childers pays close attention to the bait, pulling into the shallows to get an up-close look at what the bass are chasing.

"I base which topwater lure I'm going to throw on the size of the bait," she said.

Since 95 percent of Childers' topwater lures are members of the Zara Spook family, her choices range from the Super Spook Junior, which is 3½ inches long and weighs a half-ounce, to the Super Spook, which is five inches long and weighs a shade under one ounce.

Water conditions also have an impact on her selections.

"If there's a ton of boat traffic or it's windy with 2- to 3-foot swells, I'll go bigger or go with one with a rattle," she said. "You want something that's making some kind of noise. A lot of people will drill holes in the original Spooks and put rattles in them, and Randy does it, too."

Clarks Hill features plenty of structure to attract baitfish and in turn, largemouth bass, including red-clay banks, shoals, points, rocks and blowthroughs.

"If I'm fishing a tournament at Clarks Hill in May or June, I'm keying on the clay banks and the points on the main-lake body most of the time," she said.

Childers also uses buzzbaits and Lucky Craft Sammys, but whatever her choice, she admits the root of her affinity for topwater stems from the action and potential for excitement involved.

"That's probably the most greatest thing about it - you don't have to really finesse the bass into biting," she said. "It's a reaction bite."

Although the topwater bite tends to improve later in the day, particularly later in the summer, Childers has no qualms about throwing her topwater from sunrise to sunset.

"It can be an all-day bite, especially at Clarks Hill," she said. "In one of the (Bassmaster) Weekend Series tournaments that I won, I threw it from the time I blasted off until the weigh-in. It will wear you out, but if you believe in it, that's what you're going to do. If I think I'm going to get bit with it, I won't hesitate to throw it all day."

Her husband often is left shaking his head.

"There are a couple of things she's really good at, and topwater is one of them," he said. "She can throw a topwater plug all day long. I can't do that, and I don't know how she does it."

Lesley Childers is convinced that her efforts are worth the reward.

"On some days, you might only get five bites, but they're going to be quality bites," she said. "A lot of times my wrist feels like it's going to fall off, so I'll occasionally pick up something else just to let my arm rest. But I go back to the topwater pretty quickly. There's nothing like it."