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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
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.
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.
medium size plugs- 3 - 3 1/2” are the most popular w/anglers
WORLD RECORD LARGEMOUTH BASS
World-record bass boated in California
RELEASING GUT- HOOKED BASS w/PICTORIAL
BASS CAN'T FIND THEIR WAY HOME