Topwater baits offer some of the most exciting strikes known to bass fishing. I have found that when I introduce someone to bass fishing, I almost always have a spot on the lake where a topwater presentation will draw strikes and blowups, whether it be a floating frog across lilypads or casting a popper in a shallow bay. Kids and beginners will never forget that bass they caught when it jumped out of the water to attack the bait.
One of my favorite topwater lures is a Heddon Spook or Spook Jr. These types of surface baits will exhibit a "walking" motion, moving side to side, if presented correctly. The technique for manipulating this type of bait is called "walking the dog". Here are a few tips to help you "walk the dog" during the "dog days" of summer...
1. Tackle is just as important as the actual technique. I prefer to use a 7' rod, medium to medium heavy, with a fast action tip. A baitcaster or spinning reel will work, it's personal preference. I like a longer rod to make long casts with, and also I like some give in the tip and rod so I don't pull out the hooks when the bass strikes the lure.
2. Use Monofilament line. Mono line floats, and this is critical in the presentation of the bait. You want the nose of the lure to be slightly higher than the back of the lure. This will allow the bait to look more natural, like a struggling baitfish, and it will also allow the bait to move from side-to-side more efficiently, without nose diving below the surface.
3. Knot Selection: There are many knots available to the common fisherman. My suggestion for a "walk the dog" type lure is to utilize a Loop Knot. A Loop Knot allows one to maximize the action of these baits by allowing the bait to move freely along the loop created, thus resulting in a more natural presentation. There are many different loop knots to tie, so I would find a source for knots and find one that has strength and is fairly easy to tie. I would be more than happy to share the knot I tie if interested.
4. "Walking" your bait: To get the most out of these lures, one needs to practice "walking". Most of these lures are weighted so that they will exhibit the "walking" motion fairly easily, but it is up to the angler to perfect this technique. Just to be clear, when one "walks the dog", they are manipulating the bait so it moves side to side in a forward motion. Horizontally, it would look like this:
Start /\/\/\/\/\/\/\/ Finish
After the cast is made, I let the ripples caused by the lure landing to subside. I then proceed with my rod tip down, to jerk the bait with a regular cadence. A helpful hint is to have a little bit of slack in your line. When you jerk your rod tip away from the bait, try to bring your rod tip back to its starting position very quickly. This will allow the bait to dart from side to side because there will be slack line. A taut line will only move the bait forward, similar to a popper.
5. Once you are able to "walk the dog", try different speeds and cadences. Often I will walk the bait for three pulls quickly, let the bait rest for 3 seconds, then do another series of 3. Try out different patterns and see how you do! This is a fun technique, plus, if you are fishing with a beginner or your buddy who only fishes on occasion, you will look like a bass fishing pro! I hope this will help someone add another technique to their arsenal...