Hot News

"Click-on " the monthly links below for helpful fishing and fresh-water boating information.


"Please release your catch today ,so others may enjoy the thrill tomorrow"

Al Winco

June 2006 Newsletter





Walking-the-Dog is a top-water technique using a cigar shaped surface plug that moves side to side on the retrieve. It is a deadly technique for smallmouth and largemouth bass. Many anglers try the technique but become easily frustrated when the plug won’t go side to side w/a constant cadence. I became fascinated w/the technique 20 years ago and quickly found that all plugs are not created equal and many fail miserably in moving water. Here are some tips to help you master this technique.

How I walk the Dog

Standing in a stream, I work the spook type plugs with the rod tip @ the 10 of 12 or 10 after 12 position. Remember, walking the dog is performed on SLACK line. For every turn of the reel handle your lure should complete 2 to 4 complete left to right maneuvers. Simply, walk the lure …. Left-right and then take up some of the slack. Repeat. Always cast slightly upstream and work you plug across the current and down. There comes a point working downstream where the lure WILL NOT walk due to current pull and the swing - which remove all of your slack line. When this happens and/or you wish to work a tail-out section of the river, simply raise your rod quickly, pulling up 5-7 feet of line and start walking with quick wrist flicks. DO NOT TURN THE REEL HANDLE. Repeat when the SLACK GOES OUT.

Practice in a Quiet Pond / Drifting a slow section in a boat/canoe

Go to a pond with NO wind or current and practice until you can co-ordinate 4, left to right walking maneuvers first and 1 reel turn next. In a lake situation, never try to walk the dog with a strong wind blowing from the side. It takes the slack out of your line and inhibits the side to side action. Drifting a slow section of a river in a canoe or boat is the easiest way to learn. Since you’re drifting with the current, you don’t have to reel the slack-up and can concentrate on your wrist movements to create an appealing, injured baitfish, side-to-side type of retrieve.

Water Temps/Retrieve Speeds/Tackle

I do best in water temps above 70 in rivers and streams. Spring–time water temperature of 62-64 degrees can provide fast and furious top-water action BEFORE the spawn. Usually a constant retrieve works best. Folks would be astonished if they witnessed my aggressive retrieves with a 4 1/2 -5″ spook-type plug and watched how savagely smallmouth bass attacked them during weather frontal periods of light winds and overcast conditions. I make up to 8 complete L to R maneuvers in a 5 second period when they are really turned on. That being said, there a many times when the fish want a more subtle retrieve with pauses between the left to right “walks.” I.M.O., when a bass hits your plug with their tail, they are either a small fish or the plug is being retrieved too quickly for their “mood- of- the day.” However, I have experienced many times when 4 deliberate left to right walks (in a 5 second period) followed by a 15 second pause was the “match that lit the fuse”!

A 6′- 6 ½’ Med. light spinning outfit w/8-10 lb test works best on these plugs in the 3-3/12″ size. I personally prefer 10 lb. Sufix Performance Braid for creeks/rivers) with a 8-10 lb. mono leader joined to the braided line w/a double Uni-knot. The plug is joined to the monofilament line with a Palomar knot. Do not use a fluorocarbon leader w/top-water lures – it will inhibit the walking action with the sinking leader. Casting tackle is recommended for the 3 3/4′- 5″ models. Practice and perfect the technique and you’ll enjoy some of the most exciting and explosive smallmouth fishing of your life

The thrill of summer-time top-water smallmouth bass

Rattles / Tail feathers/Missed Strikes

Rattles will create attracting noise in plastic, hollow models. The pointed nose models are usually poor for creating a spitting, popping noise in wind and wave conditions. Under these conditions, it has been my experience that models with a nose cup do have the advantage of drawing the attention of aggressive smallmouth bass. I believe the addition of any tail feathers to create a target are not necessary and the feathers would interfere with the walking action. If you get just the smallest piece of weed on the tail hook, the walking action is greatly reduced. There are going to be times when fish miss or boil under the plug. When the bass are really turned on to the top-water W-T-D- bite, multiple passes (attacks) are normal when they strike at a lure going side to side. That’s the nature of the beast -so to speak. When they boil or slash and miss you plug, keep your retrieve in motion and don’t stop the routine. If they didn’t feel the hooks on a previous pass, cast out again to the same rock or pool and another strike may result .I once hooked and landed 4 Smallmouth bass (from 16-18″) on 7 casts to the same 4×4 boulder in a 3 1/2′ deep, slow-moving riff in the Susquehanna River. I’ve also had some monstrous smallmouth bass come completely out of the water and miss the plug and refuse to give me another pass @ the plug. Frustrating but that’s the reality of top-water lure fishing.

Summer-time, top-water smallmouth bass

Smallmouth bass are funny and picky fish at times. It has been my experience during the summer months on the Susquehanna River, that smallmouth’s will respond better to a smaller (3-3 1/2″ ) W-T-D- type bait under stable weather conditions. They only seem to give the bait one shot and will not pursue them with multiple strikes. Now when you have an approaching weather front or thunderstorms with a falling barometer taking place, that’s the time to put away the small surface plugs and bring out the big guns. Now the bigger bass will aggressively attack plugs in the 4 1/2 - 5″ sizes that are splashing, popping and walking 6-12″ side to side in an aggressive manner. The strikes are absolutely vicious, heart-stopping attacks with multiple strikes the “norm” until hook-up. Many times I’ve purposely worked the plugs extra fast to entice multiple, savage strikes. All smallmouth bass anglers should have the thrill & excitement of experiencing this type of fishing.

My younger son Brian w/a Susquehanna “football” smallmouth bass

Custom Wooden W-T-D- plugs

I have manufactured my own type of wooden Walk-the-Dog plugs for the past 20 years. I became very frustrated with the available, commercial plastic models. Their inconsistent action and inability to attract strikes during windy conditions gave me the need to create my own type of W-T-D surface plugs. The special angle and depth of the nose cup is similar too but different then a popper. This creates more fish-attracting splashing sounds on the zigzag retrieve. They also have a fixed, internal tail weight and are balanced to sit on a precise angle in the water (they do not stand straight up). I make 4 basic colors in 2 sizes- all have pear colored bellies.

These medium size plugs- 3 - 3 1/2” are the most popular w/anglers




World-record bass boated in California
Largemouth tips scale to 25.1 pounds, then is released back into Dixon Lake By Brett Pauly

He may have released her, but his intentions were good. Now the senior editor — March 20, 2006
• board. question beckons: Will Mac Weakley be rewarded with a world record for this 25.1-pound largemouth bass he boated early Monday. That's Mike Winn holding the Dixon Lake denizen.
CARLSBAD, Calif. — "Chaos has broken out."
Well, what do you expect when you notify the media that you boated a potential world-record bass?
That was the story at the home of Mac Weakley, who early Monday caught a mammoth largemouth on tiny Dixon Lake in southern California that he and his long-time fishing partners Mike Winn and Jed Dickerson weighed out at 25.1 pounds on a hand-held digital scale.
If that weight stands up it would shatter what is considered to be the granddaddy of angling records — the 22¼-pound largemouth bass taken in 1932 at Georgia's Montgomery Lake by George Washington Perry.
"I feel good, awesome, in fact," said Weakley, 32, of Carlsbad, Calif, who used a white jig with a skirt and rattle on 15-pound line to boat the brute. "I'm just stoked to see a fish that big."
Claimed by many to be a mark that could never be eclipsed, the largemouth-bass record has become the thing of legends. It's the Joe DiMaggio 56-game hitting streak of the angling world.
"It's simply because there are people who are out there who didn't think a bass can grow to more than 22.25 pounds," said James Hall, editor of Bassmaster magazine. "It's because of how elusive the record has been for so many years."

Fortunately for the naysayers, the fish was documented by anglers with impressive resumes — Weakley and Dickerson each already are officially recognized for boating top-15 bass of all-time at Dixon Lake — and they claim to have witnesses, photo evidence of the catch and video documentation of Monday's behemoth on the scale.
"There is no smoke and mirrors," Hall said.

Dickerson believes the 25.1-pounder is the exact same fish that vaulted him to the No. 4 spot on The Bassmaster Top 25 list when he caught her on a swimbait May 31, 2003, at Dixon Lake — a drop-in-the-bucket, 70-acre impoundment in San Diego County. He knows this because she has the same distinguishing black dot under her right gill plate. Back then she weighed 21.7 pounds, and quite clearly she still is a big fish in a small lake.
"It's the same fish I caught three years ago," said Dickerson, 33, a casino-industry employee from Oceanside, Calif. "I knew this was a world record before we even weighed it. It's the biggest, most ferocious bass in that lake, guaranteed."
But, like any good fishing story, this one comes with several sidebars. There's the fact that the fish was foul-hooked. That it wasn't weighed on a certified scale. And, ultimately, that it was released.
All of which will no doubt conspire to make Monday's catch much more difficult to be recognized as a world record.
Weakley, Winn and Dickerson, who fish Dixon Lake as often as five days a week, said they decided to release the spawning fish because they were under the impression it wouldn't qualify as a record since it was foul-hooked.

Jed Dickerson claims the 21.7-pounder he caught in 2003 (above) at California's Dixon Lake is the same 25.1-pounder taken Monday by his angling partner Mac Weakley.
Only later did they discover that may not be the case.
"It may still qualify," Hall said. "The IGFA (International Game Fish Association, the most-recognized keeper of angling records) has a pretty vague rule about foul-hooking, which states you cannot intentionally foul-hook a fish."
Weakley now plans to submit his catch — along with photos, video, the line and the scale — for verification by the International Game Fish Association.
"We didn't know" about the foul-hooking specifics, he said. "Now we are learning other things about it. If you accidentally foul-hook a fish and you instinctively set the hook, apparently it counts."
We'll certainly learn more about it, also, in the coming weeks as the world-record application is processed.
The International Game Fish Association does not comment on pending records. "It's not official until it's official," said Jason Schratwieser, Conservation director for the Dania Beach, Fla.-based organization and overseer of its World Records Department.
This much Schratwieser was able to share:
• The IGFA will consider certifying a scale after the fact.
• It will disqualify any fish determined to have been intentionally foul-hooked.
• A staff of three to five reviews all applications for record status. "We treat every record the same, whether it's a 1-pound bluegill or the all-tackle largemouth bass," he said.
• An official decision on record status usually is reached one month after the application is received.
"It's way too early; this one is really up in the air," Hall said. "Ideally it would have been caught in the mouth and ideally it would not have been released and ideally it would have been weighed on a certified scale.
"Ultimately, however, the fact that he boated a 25-pound largemouth needs to be recognized."
As for the catch itself, Dickerson explained that it was raining and dark early Monday when the anglers came across the bedding bass in 12 feet of water. A male — often much smaller than a female in the world of spawning bass — also was on the bed, and it made several stabs at the jig. The fishermen couldn't tell whether the male or female was hitting the jig when Weakley set the hook at about 6:40 a.m.
The fish surged to deeper water, and Winn, who said he was manning the boat, motored toward a nearby dock — where, Weakley explained, three people, including the dock attendant for the city-owned facility in Escondido, Calif., witnessed the action. There Winn fumbled on his initial attempt at netting the fish.
Yep, Winn swung and missed, which is surprising to anyone who saw him skillfully gaff saltwater fish on the fly when he was a second captain on a charter boat out of Santa Barbara, Calif., in an earlier career.
"My heart was in my throat," said Winn, 32, of Carlsbad, who now also works in the casino industry. "I was wondering which I would get next, a black eye or a bloody nose."
In the confusion and excitement that can at times underscore this level of fishing, Winn had picked up a net that wasn't his and was unfamiliar to him.
"I just grabbed for whatever was closest. I have never, ever missed a fish with my net," Winn explained. " But I got the fish halfway in and it freaked out and kicked out of this other net."
By this time it was quite apparent that it was the female at line's end, and one extremely large and displeased specimen. It again finned to deeper water, and the pursuers followed in their electric-powered rental boat (all that is permitted for use at this 80-foot-deep reservoir).

More evidence of big bass at Dixon Lake: Mike Long registered the largest largemouth in two decades when he boated this bubba in late April 2001.
But a few moments later and five minutes after it was hooked, the big mother was in Winn's net. To the anglers' great dismay, the fish had been hooked in its side. Soon after that sad discovery — and determining that its own weight might hurt the fish in the handling process — the bassers decided to release it.
Winn said he hoisted the fish out of the water and did most of the handling, while Dickerson weighed it — on the dock. (The IGFA will only consider for record status a fish weighed on land, Schratwieser said.) "This was so big, we thought we were going to break its neck," Weakley said. "But we were confident in the scale. It is without a doubt the world record, so we let it go."
Hall notes that there is the potential for a lot of cash to be associated with a world-record largemouth bass. It's been fabled by many that such a milestone could be worth $1 million or more to the lucky angler.
"Had they not released the fish alive — and I think releasing it is the right thing to do — I think they might have made quite a bit of money," Hall said. He surmised that there might be sponsorships from the manufacturers of the gear used to catch the bass and payments for guest appearances with the fish mount on display.
Hall said they still could get a plastic replica mount made, "But I don't know where in the hell they are going to get a mount that large."
Whatever happens, Mac Weakley no doubt will become the poster boy for catch and release and, refreshingly, he's all right with that, even if he doesn't break the record or make a dime.
"Would I be disappointed? Not at all," said Weakley, who is a supervisor at a casino in Oceanside. "I feel I'm very blessed; everything I care about is family and friends. I really don't care about money.
"To tell you the truth, I have a good job and I do all right, and I really don't give a (second thought) about it at all. We're more happy just to see that there is a 25-pound bass still living and in this lake."
Weakley sounded fairly calm at the time of this interview, but Winn said that wasn't exactly the case on the water. "He was kind of shaken up from the whole thing," Winn said.
Indeed, Weakley was so out of sorts that he insisted Winn hold up the big bass for the obligatory snapshots. Weakley deferred to his fellow basser for the photo op because of Winn's fish-handling experience as a charter-boat second captain, Winn said. Weakley obviously had regained confidence in his buddy after Winn's earlier netting troubles.
"He was afraid he was going to drop the fish," Winn said.
Weakley was adamant and didn't have to twist Winn's arm too terribly, as Winn explained: "'Grab it,' he said. 'Dude, I can't hold it; I'm afraid I might drop it. Just grab it, dude; I don't care.'"
Weakley then composed himself long enough to compose the photograph.
And so Winn gets of a share of the 15 minutes of fame. "People are going to start calling me Mac," he said.
But in this tight group of fishing friends, it's all in the family, especially when it comes to the pursuit of world-record bass.